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Braggot Is What Happens When Honey Meets Beer

You've got beer in my honey. No, you've got honey in my beer.

Christina Perozzi

According to Urban Dictionary a "braggot" is a person that practices one-upmanship and name-dropping, but to craft beer drinkers, Braggot is actually a good thing. It's an ages-old beer style that never completely disappeared, and has been making a slow comeback amongst brewers. And, as craft beer drinkers continue to diversify their tastes and knowledge of ancient styles, this brew is finally hitting its stride.

Some say Braggot (also spelled throughout history and cultures as bragot, bragaut, bracket and bragawd) is a beer mixed with another ancient fermented beverage, mead, while others say that Braggot is a mead made with grains and hops.  Either way,  the style is an amalgam of mead (or honey wine), an alcoholic beverage that uses honey as the sugar source for fermentation, and beer, which uses malted grains as its sugar source and adds hops for a bittering balance.

Ultimately, a Braggot should taste balanced between the grains, the floral qualities of the honey and the spice notes, with any sweetness evened out by the bitter hops.

The history of this style is, like almost all beer history, disputed.  Some say that the word Braggot is of Welsh origins and that "brag" means "malt" and "got" means "honeycomb," while others say the style is Irish, and still others say that we have the English to thank for making Braggot a celebratory concoction during Lent.  But many historians believe that Braggot probably dates all the way back to the first millennium BCE to the Picts, a tribe that ruled Scotland with an iron fist until the ninth century.

Braggot, traditionally, should be made with 50 percent honey and 50 percent malt, although there is no set rule.  The honey can be blended into the beer during fermentation, or it can added to the brew kettle during the boil.  Some even say that a tavern can just make its own house blend of Braggot by mixing beer, mead and spices right at the bar. Herbs and spices like coriander, nutmeg, star anise, juniper berries and cloves may be added for depth of flavor. Ultimately, a Braggot should taste balanced between the grains, the floral qualities of the honey and the spice notes, with any sweetness evened out by the bitter hops.

But, because of the vague notions of what defines a Braggot, one can be quite different from another.  The types and flavors of honey can vary greatly, and the balance of malt and honey can fluctuate.  The style of base beer isn't always the same, either.  Braggot can have roasty toasty and chocolate notes with dark amber honey, or taste delicately flavored with light malts and mild honey. Even smoked malts, barrel-aging and wild yeasts can be used to further intensify the cacophony of flavors. Depending on the type of malt and honey incorporated, the color of a Braggot can swing from light straw to black.  As is evidenced in the variety of this beer, the alcohol content can clock in at about 6 percent ABV to a whopping 13 percent.

Braggots TO TRY

Miel Sauvage
Bayou Teche Brewery, Arnaudville, LA
This 9 percent ABV barrel-aged Braggot is inspired by the French farmhouse breweries who were also making honey beers for centuries. "Miel Sauvage" is Cajun French for "wild honey."  It’s brewed with local honey from their neighbors at Bernard’s Apiaries along with barley imported from France. The result is a mahogany-colored beer with honey aromatics and a smooth vanilla oakiness from the barrel-aging.

Photo: Bayou Teche Brewing

Kuhnhenn Braggot
Kuhnhenn Brewing Company, Warren, MI
Those lucky enough to live in Michigan, might have the change to taste one of Kuhnhenn’s occasional special Braggot releases.  Their flagship Braggot is brewed with wildflower honey and rich, dark specialty malts, giving this beer a Scottish ale quality with deep earthy flavors and notes of toffee and biscuit.  This 12.8 percent ABV beer is a sipper.

Photo: Kuhnhenn Brewing Co.

Rogue Farms Marionberry Braggot
Rogue Ales, Newport, OR
Rogue Farms beers only use ingredients the brewery grows on its farms in Independence and Tygh Valley, Oregon.  This 11.42 percent ABV Braggot uses wildflower honey from Rogue Farms honeybees, Rebel hops, free range coastal water and Rogue Farms Marionberries and juice.

Photo: Facebook / Rogue Ales