This is my preferred braggot making technique. You basically blend a mead with a beer, then age, serve, or bottle as you prefer. You still want to adjust your beer recipe to blend, but now you can do bench trials to figure out exactly what the final blend should be.
I’ll describe a few of the benefits to doing a braggot in this manner.
- You have the most control. You make the beer and the mead the best possible way.
- Beer yeast for beer, mead/wine yeast for mead.
- Proper nutrients for the mead, enough nutrients for the beer.
- Different fermentation kinetics. Most beer yeasts can eat a certain amount of maltotriose, but if there are too many simple sugars (from honey) and/or you need to finish with a stronger wine yeast, almost none of the maltotriose will get fermented. Doing separate ferments means that you can control that the longer chain sugars get eaten.
- You can blend more than one mead. I’ll often make two different traditional meads and figure out which goes better with the beer.
- If you make 10 gallon batches of beer, you get 15-25 gallons of braggot, depending on your blending.
- Honey aroma is easier to preserve as the wine yeasts tend to throw off a little less of the aromatics.
As no method is perfect, there are some cons to this method.
- You have to manage 2 or more fermentations (also a benefit).
- Need more fermentation space.
- Might need to ferment at different temperatures.
- Can take longer to get a final product as you often need to age longer after blending.
- More complicated, which makes it a little harder to reproduce.
Now here are a few tricks and notes to help minimize the cons. This isn’t entirely exhaustive, but hits the big ones.
- Make your beer and mead to be similar alcohol strength. This makes blending less likely to cause any re-fermentation.
- Make your residual sweetness similar, or be ok with a re-fermentation (usually from wine yeast) after blending.
- Unless both beer and mead are bone dry you will get some re-fermentation after blending, so leave a little head space in the blending vessel.
- Use extra hops in the beer, you’ll be blending with a certain percentage of mead. I generally aim for 50/50 blend and do a bit less than double for bittering, remember it’ll be drier with the honey.
- First Wort Hop if you want flavor hops. FWH seems to give some 20 minute equivalent flavor hop characteristic. Throwing in some hops in the flavor range is still a good idea.
- Mash a little higher and/or use some extra body malts (carapils, honey malt, etc) to balance the drier mead.
- If you want a sweeter final product do a beer with lots of unfermentables, mash near the top of the amylase range, do some kettle carmelization, and/or use more caramel/crystal malts.
- After blending it takes a few months to integrate, especially at higher alcohol strengths.
- You can blend anytime after most of the fermentation is done, just be aware that wine yeasts can kill beer yeasts because of the competitive factor. Pretty much all beer yeasts have a competitive factor of ‘sensitive’ so you can only co-ferment with a wine yeast that is also sensitive.
- After blending, you’ll notice some more clarification happening, it may take a while. Take that into account when packaging.
- Bottle conditioning will be more difficult, especially at higher alcohol percentages and after bulk-aging for months. You will want to consider bottle conditioning with a high alcohol tolerant yeast like DV10 or bottling from keg. Or a combination of partially carbonating in keg and finish the rest with yeast, this is particularly useful for high carb styles.
My typical process for a braggot like this is pretty straightforward. After I have all my ingredients for both mead and beer I’ll get set up for brewing. Then do my beer day like normal, and as soon as the mash is stabilized, I’ll start making mead. I’m generally done mixing my batch of mead by the time the mash is done. I’ll record all the vitals, and let them ferment, doing SNA and stirring the mead. I generally do the first racking without mixing, usually because the mead and beer finish at different times. Then after things start clearing, 2-4 weeks, I’ll do a bench trial, then blend. Then I’ll age, racking with CO2, whenever there’s a bit of sediment. After it seems to be done I’ll keg it, and age until I have room in the kegerator. After that I can bottle if I want, and as the ABV is usually double digit that’s a good idea.