Monday, January 12, 2009

Brew Day: Buckwheat Honey Black Braggot

Not actually a brew day, more of a celebration. I put the last remainders of the keg of Buckwheat Honey Black Braggot on tap and it definitely deserves a mention. This is easily the most laborious, experimental, and otherwise extreme beer I've ever made. It took about a year, and tastes like no other beer I've ever had. It's a love/hate beer, some people scowl and twitch when they try it. But I'm very happy with it. It's won a fair amount of things, and the buckwheat beers do tend to be crowd favorites. On the right is the bronze it took in the 'Other Mead' category at the 2008 SAAZ competition, a very mead heavy competition in a state full of mead masters.

It begins with Buckwheat honey, which is quite unlike any other honey out there. It's jet black, looks like molasses, and has a honey-molasses sortof funk about it. I've made several batches of beer with it, most notably the annual Buckwheat Honey Stout for St. Patrick's day. But that only uses a pound or two. I wanted to see what happened when I used a lot of it.

So here's the recipe:

Buckwheat Honey Braggot

Type: All Grain

Date: August 06

Batch Size: 5.00 gal

Brewer: Russell Everett
Boil Size: 7.18 gal Asst Brewer:
Boil Time: 90 min Equipment: Brew Pot (15 Gal) and Igloo/Gott Cooler (10 Gal)
Taste Rating(out of 50):
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00
Taste Notes:


Amount Item Type % or IBU
7 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 46.64 %
10 oz Roasted Barley (300.0 SRM) Grain 4.20 %
6 oz Black (Patent) Malt (500.0 SRM) Grain 2.53 %
1.00 oz Summit [18.00 %] (90 min) Hops 52.7 IBU
7 lbs Buckwheat Honey (60.0 SRM) Sugar 46.64 %

Beer Profile

Est Original Gravity: 1.090 SG

Measured Original Gravity: 1.090 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.023 SG Measured Final Gravity: 1.020 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 8.84 % Actual Alcohol by Vol: 9.18 %
Bitterness: 52.7 IBU Calories: 417 cal/pint (mmmm...)
Est Color: 49.0 SRM Color:

Mash Profile

Mash Name: Single Infusion, Medium Body Total Grain Weight: 8.0 lb
Sparge Water: 5.04 gal Grain Temperature: 72.0 F
Sparge Temperature: 168.0 F TunTemperature: 72.0 F
Adjust Temp for Equipment: FALSE Mash PH: 5.4 PH

Single Infusion, Medium Body
Step Time Name Description Step Temp
60 min Mash In Add 2.50 gal of water at 165.9 F 154.0 F
10 min Mash Out Add 1.40 gal of water at 196.6 F 168.0 F

Here's the instructions for fermenting it:

So it was Mead Day about two years ago. The club was together making meads, teaching new folks, and so on. I was gearing up to make a braggot, which is a beer fortified with honey, or a mead fortified with beer, depending on how you look at it. (More the second sense, really). Though usually they are more traditional ale + clover or orange honey. This one was going out on a limb.

So while I was outside, in August, slaving over a hot burner, the rest of the club was inside in the airconditioning mixing honey and water. Which takes about as long as you would think. I spent about 4 hours outside making the braggot. So start by brewing outside in Miami in the height of Summer. Stir in the honey near the end, the last 5 minutes or so, to try to keep the aromas around.

Fermented initially with two packets of American Ale yeast. They took off and chugged for a while. Then stopped at 1.040. And stayed stopped. So I added some Wyeast Belgian Strong yeast. Which it killed. And some Champagne yeast. Which it killed. By this point it had been maybe three months. So I left it to see if something would keep going for another couple months. Nope. I also added some oak chips and left them in for a while, at least two months. Somewhere in the time I went away for a while and the airlock went dry. Ooops! So it oxidized a bit. Which I actually like, it took on a sherry aspect (rather than wet cardboard, whew!).

Eventually I discovered that Buckwheat honey has a very, very low pH for honey: 3.83. With all the dark grains, my hunch was the pH had dropped too low and the yeast couldn't take it. So a bit of Potassium Bicarbonate later and poof: it started up again! Eventually stopped at 1.020 which was fine, not cloying anymore. Kegged and bottled, then let sit for a few months.

In the glass it pours opaque black, with a tan head, garnet highlights. Aromas are port/sherry, some stone fruit (like sour cherries), just a hint of chocolate and roast, alcohol, and the sortof weird, musty, sour, honeyish aroma I now just associate with buckwheat honey. Body is a little thin for a stout (due to honey). Flavor hits you all at once, then tails off to a lingering warming finish. Honey, some tartness, alcohol is there, a bit of complex sugars, a bit of roastiness. Easily one of my best beers ever.

It just took a year to make!


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