Braggot is one part mead and one part beer being made with both honey and malted barley.
Braggot along with other ancient drinks has made a resurgence of late as a result of many of the craft breweries experimenting with brewing different alcoholic beverages that were popular in years gone by. Traditionally brewers would make braggot using a recipe that included mead and beer as well as many different herbs and spices, nowadays hops also form part of the recipe.
Braggot can be made by simply combining mead with a beer in a glass at home or in a pub, or it can be brewed from scratch. The aim is to create a drink with equal parts honey and malt characteristics resulting in a flavor profile that is not quite as sweet as mead but sweeter than beer.
What is Braggot?
Some will call this drink a braggot beer while others call it a braggot mead, it is neither, but rather a 50/50 merger of the two into a completely unique beverage.
Unlike beer or mead, there is no set criteria for making it and as a result, the tastes can vary significantly from one brewery’s version of it to another. Although some brewers add honey during the boiling process, the majority will add it during fermentation as the boil tends to destroy the honey’s characteristics. Some view Braggot as a mead that has a malt flavor to it, whereas others considered it to be a honey beer.
Although some brewers are recreating this beverage it can still be difficult to locate one to try for yourself. If you can not locate one then your best options are to either learn how to brew one yourself or simply mix a beer with mead as many taverns used to do. If you are going to try mixing it yourself be sure to get a traditional mead that is not flavored and for a beer go with an English-style pale ale such as a golden ale. Mix them 50/50.
What Does Braggot Taste Like?
The honey and malt are the primary focuses when it comes to the taste and aroma of a Braggot. Where a honey beer will have a slight honey flavor and a mead recipe that includes some malt will have hints of malt; with a Braggot, these flavors will both be equally prominent.
Other flavors present will typically be rich and sweet with a nice balance between the bitterness of beer and the sweetness of mead. Some consider it to be similar to a sweeter-tasting wine. Depending on the spices used you may also pick up notes of spices, and fruit as well as hints of tanginess and sourness. With some recipes, you will also taste chocolate and caramel.
Traditionally hops were not used in the making of a Braggot, nowadays they are very commonplace, however, this is not a hop-heavy beverage and the use of them should be minimal as they will overpower the primary flavors of the honey and malt.
The History of Braggot
Braggot is considered to be one of the original alcoholic beverages along with beer, mead, and wine. Although mentioned throughout history and especially during medieval times, its actual origins are not known. In Europe there are documented recipes for braggot dating back to the 1500s, to this day it is known for being popular in Wales. Other origin stories suggest it was a Celtic drink from the 12th century and like mead was also a drink enjoyed by the Vikings.
Color-wise it can range from pale to dark depending on the malts used when brewing it.
The bitterness level is nicely balanced between the malt sweetness and honey.
Like a beer, it will have head retention, with the head being an off-white color.
Due to the large amount of honey needed in the recipe to give it a honey flavor the alcohol percentage is typically relatively high for a malt beverage ranging from 6.5 – 15%.
Ingredients Used to Make Braggot
Unlike beer which has 4 main ingredients, Braggot has 5 main ingredients, malt, honey, yeast, hops, and water.
Malts – When deciding which style of malt to use a brewer must decide what flavor profile he wants from the grains. Most braggots will use grains that provide more bread or toast-like flavors, some will include crystal malts that provide caramel or toffee-like flavors. Dark roasted malts are typically not used as they will overpower the honey flavor.
Honey – Not all honey is created equal and considering half of the ingredients in a braggot recipe is honey the quality is very important. Most breweries use unpasteurized honey and will source local honey. There are many different types of honey with various flavors, starting out most breweries will stick with wildflower honey.
Hops – Although not a traditional ingredient most braggots brewed these days will use hops. Hopping needs to be on the low side, however, and dry hopping is usually never done as you do not want to overpower the braggot with hop flavors and aromas. The new world hop varieties that are very popular in NEIPAs are not recommended, typically most brewers will use noble hop varieties such as fuggle and east kent goldings. A slight amount will be used for bittering at the start of the boil and also later in the boil to add light flavor and aroma.
Yeast – There are many options a brewer can choose from when it comes to yeast. The yeast will have a significant impact on the flavor profile of the finished product so choosing the ideal yeast strain is an important part of the process. Brewers will use anything from beer yeast to yeast strains that are typically used for mead or wine.
How Braggot is Made?
Braggot is made in the same fashion as beer, except honey is added either during the boil or right before the fermentation stage. Most recommendations are not to add honey during the boil as it will drive off the honey flavors.
Grains are first soaked in hot water in order to have them release their fermentable sugars (starches), this is a process called mashing. After the mash, the liquid is transferred to a boil kettle where it is typically boiled for 60 – 90 minutes. Hops are added at the start of the boil for bittering purposes and towards the end of the boil for flavor and aroma.
The liquid now called wort is cooled down to an appropriate temperature for the yeast to be added. The honey can now be added also and mixed in. The liquid is now transferred to a fermenter and the yeast is pitched (added). The broggot is now allowed to ferment anywhere from 10 – 14 days.
If ever provided with the opportunity to try a braggot do so, the combination of half beer and half mead is an experience worth having. If you are unable to source one out from a brewery, mixing your own mead with a beer will give you a good idea of what this ancient drink was like and why it has been enjoyed for thousands of years.
P.S. If you are into making your own beer or want to start, be sure to pick up your gift of Big Robbs’s 5 favorite beer recipes from his brewpub. Details are on the side of the blog or at the bottom if you are on your phone. Cheers!