British Braggot/Bees and Trees: Competition Beer

For the 3rd annual Make the Cut Homebrew competition of Vermont, I was able to scramble against the time crunch and produce two entries. One was a Strong British Ale, re-worked recipe from last year’s submission of a beer brewed with honey and fermented with French Saison yeast, and the other was an experimental beer using honey and a tree element.

British Braggot

British Braggot

I replaced the Saison yeast with London Ale yeast, used UK malts and stuck with the same hop profile of Northern Brewer, Fuggles, and EKG. Thus follows the list of fermentable ingredients:

  • UK Pale 2-row
  • UK Amber
  • UK Crystal 60L
  • Golden Promise
  • Roasted Barley
  • Chocolate
  • Raw Honey

My extract was not great, coming in 0.013 gravity points below the target, resulting in beer that finished with a final ABV of 4.73% and a bunch of residual sugars and dextrins. This was probably a good thing for my pitch rate, which was a mere smack pack. Despite these procedural flaws, I thought the final product was the second best beer I’ve brewed so far, behind my third Belgian effort. It’s quite roast-y, thick on the mouthfeel, and the addition of Golden Promise made a positive impact. However, to be called a braggot, the judges really wanted flavors of honey to shine through, so a reduction (or elimination) of roast and a lower mash temp to increase fermentability would greatly improve this beer.

Bees and Trees

Bees and Trees

In this beer, I exceeded the original gravity with a more finely ground grist, and a successful ~155 degree mash temperature. Primary fermentables consisted of:

  • UK Pale 2-row
  • American 2-row
  • Crystal 90L
  • Honey malt
  • Victory
  • Maple syrup
  • Honey

I added a teaspoon of gypsum to the mash and sparge water, intensely hopped and dry-hopped the beer with CTZ, Warrior, Simcoe, Chinook, and Mosaic hops, and fermented it with two packets of Safale-05 dry yeast.

I wanted Bees and Trees to be a Maple Honey Imperial IPA, but it ended up being too dark, sweet, and caramel-y for IPA. I should have labeled it as an American style hoppy Barley-wine, but its 7.6% ABV rating is too low for the ideal range. With some aging, I’d be curious to watch the hop bitterness fade to support the complex remaining sugars, and see if any beta acids persist over time.

I was thankful to receive great, useful feedback on the submissions, but unfortunately neither made it to the second round. Proper categorization of types + an increased level of wonderful competition really made it tough to move on, which ultimately is a great thing for the ever-evolving Vermont beer culture.

About: Esteban

Esteban is the Editor in Chief of RantingEsteban.com. Check out his page on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @RantingEsteban, or send him an email.

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