The Topic: Adventures in Braggotland, Part I
Ken Carman is a BJCP judge; homebrewer since 1979, club member at Escambia Bay, Salt City and Music City Homebrewers, who has been interviewing professional brewers all over the east coast for over 10 years.
My wife and I have been homebrewing since 1979. To be honest I started with what was probably close to a Russian Imperial, minus the roasted barley since I didn’t know any better, and did variations on that for quite a while. Then we stopped homebrewing for a few years: late 80s and early 90s, because of some physical problems, and returned in the mid-90s. By then homebrewing had gotten real serious with homebrewers owning equipment that would have made George Washington and Tom Jefferson jealous.
Yes, our forefathers were homebrewers.
And it seemed they were all out to brew the most perfect Pale, or IPA. Everything had gotten so tech-y and extract brewing, even with additions, was frowned upon. Of course we obediently followed their lead.
Just went all grain year before last, but even there we shrunk our brewery rather than trying to brew 10 plus gallons. Now we brew 2 to 2 1/2 gallons and can focus even more on wild and wacky recipes that seem to fit no style. Ciders? Yes, but blueberry, raspberry, and a few apple ciders/cysers. (Yes, I know there’s a difference when talking to the true cyserman, as one of our former club members called themselves.)
But I think we may have settled on a style, though we still traverse the different path brew-route. Not just braggots, but odd versions of braggots.
My first braggot has bananas, cherry cider, chocolate and about 3-4 styles of honey. I didn’t use a wine yeast, as many do, I used a beer yeast. That braggot has placed twice. Since then I started using both a wine yeast and a beer yeast.
We must admit: we’re more judges than competitors. Mostly because we have no interest in making the best Pale Ale, according to a highly subjective group of judges. All beer judges are subjective, just the best judges attempt to be as objective as possible.
We enter only occasionally because we have discovered judging skills seem to decrease in too many judges when you throw them even a slight curve, and we throw mostly curves. Big, wide, weird curves. In fact I recommend to people, before they enter a beer, try it and if you can’t taste or sense what you know is in there, don’t declare it. This works well if you tend to “do something stupid,” like add weird stuff at the end, as fellow homebrewer Jerry Buckley says about his own efforts.
Not mentioning what’s in there but you can’t taste is a bit of a fudge, yes, I admit, but I do believe no beer should be rated poorly if it’s a damn good beer, even though the orange juice you added to the secondary never quite ends up being squeezed onto most palates: even trained ones.
Our first braggot was an extract, though we use more grain than some all grain brewers use when we extract brew. We just didn’t mash in the official sense. Now we do. Of course we have always used incredible amounts of grain when doing extract, even in the early years.
Why braggots? Mead is a little like wine in abv and style. Beer is our passion: especially extreme and weird beer, and we love Barleywines, Russian Imperials:all the high grav stuff. One of our passions, and so far we’ve only missed the event one year, is Big Bob’s Barleywine Bash at The Emerald Coast Beer Festival, the weekend after Labor Day in Pensacola Beach. We supply some of the stash. Every year it seems to get bigger, last time I think we had well over 100.
Used to be called, “Last Man Standing.”
Braggot is a slightly different way to get your high abv passion on. I like my braggot almost Manischewitz sweet and strong, or “sack,” but I’ve had variations from almost dry to light wine-ish, and I love them all. What’s odd is I have no huge passion for Mead. Like it, just not my preferred quaff. But honey seems to add a complexity to beer that I enjoy.
In another edition of the Brew Biz, soon, I will talk more in depth about judging braggot conundrums and the BJCPs rather odd rule that makes it tough for braggots to get adequate judging, in my opinion. I may even provide a recipe for you to play with.
Brew Biz: Werts and All, is a column dedicated to reviewing, discussing and commenting on all things beer including, but not limited to: marketing, homebrewing and homebrew/beer related events, how society perceives all things beer. Also: reviews of beer related businesses, opinions about trends in the beer business, and all the various homebrew, judging and organizations related to beer. Essentially, all things “beer.”
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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