Braggots are often described as a happy marriage of beer and mead — the harmonious synthesis of malt and honey. But they are more than simply beers with some honey, or meads with a little malt. Instead, they are something unique where those flavors are fully integrated with one another.

Braggots have ancient origins, as well as a diverse array of modern takes. In this article, we’ll take a look at the history of braggots, what goes into them, and how to make one.

A Brief History of Braggots

Depending on how broad your definition of braggot, the earliest mention may be the Hymn to Ninkasi, the 3,800-year-old Sumerian song praising the goddess of beer.1 The Hymn describes a beverage made with malted grain, honey (though possibly date syrup), and wine.

Fast forward to 700 BCE, when Midas, King of Phrygia (in modern Turkey), was entombed with drinking vessels that contained evidence of a similar elixir.2 The evidence? Tartaric acid (a chemical fingerprint for wine and grape juice), calcium oxalate (indicating a barley beer), and the “long-chained, saturated carbon compounds of beeswax” (pointing to honey, and thus to mead).

The inclusion of grapes in these ancient examples raises questions about whether they were truly braggots as we know them today. Nevertheless, the most salient point remains: Brewers have been blending wort and honey to make an intoxicating beverage for thousands of years.

Braggots emerge as a distinct entity in post-Renaissance Europe, appearing in writings that date to the 14th century. They show up under numerous names including brach, bracket, bragaut, bragawd, bragget, and bragot, among others. The formulae for these braggots vary nearly as much as their names, differing from region to region and era to era. A particularly interesting observation is how 16th and 17th century brewers would use honey to fortify beers made from the second runnings, raising gravities above what would otherwise result in small or table beers.3

Braggots, like mead, ale, gruit, and other beverages of this era, were almost certainly not hopped. Instead they would have been bittered and flavored, much like a gruit, with spices and herbs.4 These braggots would have had complex flavors, but would also have finished quite sweet.

As a style, braggot is said to have held on until the mid-19th century in the Lancashire region of northwest England. They largely went extinct after that until homebrewers began reviving the style in the late 20th century.4

Finding ourselves in the 21st century, it’s worth considering what modern braggots look like. The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) style guidelines give us this description: “A harmonious blend of mead and beer, with the distinctive characteristics of both. A wide range of results are possible, depending on the base style of beer, variety of honey and overall sweetness and strength.” This allows for the full range of colors (from palest straw to darkest black), honey varietals, malts, hops, bitterness levels, spices, and carbonation levels. Regardless of this practically wide-open field, we can borrow from the BJCP’s description of imperial stout for our guiding principle: “the components need to meld together to create a complex, harmonious [braggot], not a hot mess.”

Braggot Ingredients

A braggot’s essential ingredients are honey, malt, and yeast. Any hops or spices are at the discretion of the brewer and depend on their vision of the finished product.

Brewers new to braggots commonly ask what proportions of honey and malt to use. I’ve seen braggot recipes where the original gravity contribution from honey ranges from as little as 15% to as high as 70%. Judging from these diverse recipes, there isn’t a consensus on a “floor” for either ingredient. The BJCP style guide doesn’t specify explicit numbers either, but it does say that “products with a relatively low proportion of honey should be entered as an Alternative Sugar Beer.” Given that braggot appears in the “Mead” section of the style guide, we can conclude that the honey contributions should be significant in terms of gravity, as well as the overall impression. To that end, 15% seems too low; in the absence of other guidance, I would suggest that at least 40% of the original gravity should come from honey.

Another common question is a bit of a chicken-and-egg scenerio: Do you select a base beer style to accommodate the honey varietal, or do you select the honey based on the beer? The short answer is that it doesn’t matter, as long as the result is balanced. You can take the visionary approach, crafting the formula and selecting ingredients guided by your imagination of the end product. Alternatively, you can approach it pragmatically, starting with a honey varietal that you happen to have on hand, or a base beer that you already like. Again, what matters most is creating a harmonious synthesis of the mead and beer elements.


Each honey varietal’s color, flavors, and aromas are derived from the nectar of the flowers visited by the bees that made it. According to the National Honey Board, there are over 300 unique honey varietals available in the United States alone, with colors ranging from water white (e.g., fireweed) to dark amber (e.g., buckwheat), and aromas/flavors covering the full spectrum of complexities and intensities. Given the sheer number of them, we can’t go into details about the varietals here. That said, orange blossom and tupelo honey show up often as community favorites. I’ve developed a fondness for blackberry and raspberry honey; and raw wildflower honey is often available from local apiaries in many regions. I tend to check Ken Schramm’s list in The Compleat Meadmaker (pp. 94–99) for a sensory profile during my own selection process.

With braggots, honey selection should be made with the malt component in mind. First, find a honey that you like, one that has interesting aromatics and flavors, and use the best honey you can get your hands on. Raw, unfiltered, unpasteurized honey is critical to success. Next, consider what malt flavors would combine well with it, thinking about complementary and contrasting flavors. Lastly, evaluate the components for balance, making sure to use enough honey so that it will stand as a peer to the malt character. A common recommendation is to use one pound (0.45 kg) of honey per gallon (4 L) of wort.


As with designing a beer, start with a large proportion of base malt, layering in the character malts to achieve the color, flavor, aroma, and mouthfeel that you’re after in the finished product. Consider using a light touch when incorporating roasted malts, darker crystal malts, or anything else with an intense character (e.g., melanoidin malts or smoked malts). This is not to say that you cannot build a braggot atop a bold beer, just that you may need to lower the malt proportions to achieve the proper balance. 

Malt Extract

Extract brewers have most  of the same considerations; the extract-based beer still needs to be in balance with the honey, and the proportions can be modified to achieve that. The main difference is that, with both dry and liquid extracts, the malt choices are already locked into the product and so the main knob you have to turn is the overall quantity.

When making a braggot with malt extracts, try to get as much information as you can about the extract. Some manufacturers can provide a data sheet that will give you the details on the malts used to make it, specifying the types and their proportions. This will help give you an idea of the aroma/flavor profiles you’ll get in the finished braggot.

Like with many extract recipes, you can also use steeping grains (e.g., crystal and roasted malts) to help modulate the color and flavor of the wort that will go into the braggot.


While braggots of yore would have added bitterness and additional flavors through herbs and spices (which we will discuss under the “Spices” heading later in this article), the inclusion of hops is a modern innovation to the style. Although not strictly required, omission of a bittering agent is likely to result in a too-sweet beverage. To that end, when formulating a braggot, you’re faced with a decision about whether to apply hops primarily for bitterness, or if they should also contribute to the overall aromas and flavors. 

First, consider how the bitterness balances with the acidity, tannins, sweetness, and alcohol of the finished braggot. The bitterness should offset any residual sweetness without also clashing with the acidity. You don’t want it to overwhelm the mead character.

If starting the formulation from a base beer, use its hopping rate as your baseline, but you’ll likely need to reduce the overall quantity to achieve the balance you’re after.

If instead you’re layering the beer characteristics onto the mead, consider 20–25 IBUs as a starting place, adjusting up or down depending on characteristics like gravity, residual sweetness, acidity, and the resulting flavor profile.

The specific choice of hops will depend on the braggot’s beer elements. As stated earlier, if the base beer provides your braggot’s foundation, stick with the hops already in that recipe. Otherwise, consider how much hop character you want to add, and what kind. Generally speaking, stick to “gentler” low-alpha hops such as Fuggle, Tettnang, or Willamette; you’ll probably want to avoid the more modern high-oil, high-alpha hops. Again: The key is not to overwhelm the honey character.


Braggots make a fine environment for many yeast strains, and there are just as many recipes out there that use wine yeast as beer yeast. When designing your braggot recipe, consider the character you’re after in the finished product, and let that guide your yeast selection. Look at the strain’s nutrient requirements, its temperature range, and its typical ester and phenol profile. Ask what those elements will contribute to the braggot and how they will enhance (or distract from) the rest of the impression.

If your recipe leans more to the malt, look first to ale yeasts; if it leans more toward honey, look at wine yeasts. That said, there is a lot of room for interpretation, and you shouldn’t feel constrained by such a simplistic rubric.

Longtime award-winning home meadmaker Jason Phelps, who opened Ancient Fire Mead and Cider in Manchester, New Hampshire last year, says the base beer style can guide yeast selection.  “Is that style typically defined to a good degree by the yeast used? If so, using a yeast made for the style will ensure the yeast character is present,” he advises.

While wine yeast is common, it does have its drawbacks and Phelps suggests avoiding them because they typically have an inability to break down the more complex malt sugars, which may lead to a sweeter braggot. That said, a sweeter braggot may be exactly what you want, and if it is, a wine yeast may be beneficial. Blending ale and wine yeast strains, or using them in stages, is also a consideration that Phelps suggests, but there are yeast interaction concerns (killer factor) to be aware of.

There really are a lot of good options — I took first place in a competition with a braggot fermented with a saison yeast (find the recipe at the end of this article).


As we touched on earlier, braggot recipes with historical inspirations often eschew hops for bittering, instead relying on a gruit-like spice combination. Such herbs and spices would have included meadowsweet, heather, cloves, ginger, pepper, galingale, mace, and nutmeg.4 The inclusion of such ingredients in those historical recipes was largely influenced by what was available to those ancient brewers; our modern pantries typically have many more options, most of which make suitable contributions. Once again though, consider the overall impression of your finished product and use moderation. You want those spices to complement the other flavors of the braggot and avoid  creating clashes.

Adding the Honey

One of the most important decisions when making a braggot is when to add the honey. It’s possible to add it during the boil, but this is not recommended; the boiling action will drive off many of the aromatic compounds. If you feel the need to pasteurize the honey, then consider adding it immediately after turning off the heat or during the chilling. Depending on the chilling method, the honey should be above 150 ºF (65.5 ºC) long enough to pasteurize it. There is also another benefit to hot-side honey additions. Honey contains enzymes, so any dextrins from a high temperature mash will likely be chewed up from the honey enzymes when added late in the hot process. Furthermore, the heat should aid with combining the honey into the wort. However, as with the boil, the primary risk of adding the honey at this stage is losing aromatics to volatilization.

The most common method for integrating the honey is adding it in the fermenter. Waiting until the wort is cool eliminates the risk of losing the honey’s aromatics, though mixing may be more difficult. If going this route, consider softening the honey (especially raw honey) in a hot water bath prior to this step to aid in mixing.

It’s helpful to calculate the honey’s volume ahead of time. Plan your kettle volume such that you leave sufficient space in the fermenter for what the honey will displace — you don’t want an overflowing carboy like I had my first time! On average, 12 pounds (5.4 kg) has a volume of approximately one gallon (4 L). You can calculate your target wort volume with this equation:

BV – (H / 12) = WV

Where BV is the target batch volume in gallons, H is the quantity of honey in pounds, and WV is the wort volume (in gallons) you should transfer from the kettle to the fermenter.

Another common method for adding the honey is to “feed the yeast” during active fermentation. In this case, you prepare the wort and pitch yeast as usual, then after some period of active fermentation you add the honey directly to the fermenter. This effectively treats the base beer like a large yeast starter. This method can be particularly useful for high-gravity braggots, especially if you do not have the equipment to prepare a yeast starter or to oxygenate the wort.

When and how to add the honey is largely up to the brewer, but here are a few points to consider. Given that most of honey’s sugars are simpler than the wort’s, you may want to wait until fermentation slows down (a sign that the majority of the complex sugars have been consumed) before adding the honey to avoid stalled yeast. This should be anywhere from 5–7 days after pitching. Another useful aspect of waiting until this point is that it ensures a large and viable yeast colony.

The simplest method of combining the honey during fermentation is to open the fermenter and pour it in. If you decide not to stir, this will help minimize oxygen ingress and potential oxidation, but also means the honey will collect at the bottom with the sediment, potentially preventing the yeast from accessing all of the sugars. Stirring with a sanitized long-handled spoon or wine whip will encourage complete mixing, but may draw in more oxygen and increase the risk of oxidation prior to packaging.

A variation on this method involves adding the honey in stages. For example, add the first pound (0.45 kg) of honey 24–48 hours after pitching the yeast; then add the second pound (0.45 kg) 24–48 hours later, repeating until all of the honey has been added. The primary advantage of this method is that it increases the gravity gradually, minimizing the risk of yeast shock; however, you’re also opening the fermenter more frequently, increasing the risks of contamination and oxidation from oxygen ingress.


After reaching terminal gravity, it’s time to rack the braggot off the sediment. If the formulation calls for bulk aging, do so at this time. Afterward, it’s time to prepare this braggot for serving!

Putting aside the kegging vs. bottling question, there are a couple of decisions that we need to make at this point. First, do we want to backsweeten the braggot? Second, do we want to carbonate it, and if so, to what level and using what method and/or priming sugar? As with most other elements of a braggot, consider how these decisions will interact with one another, and how they will impact the overall impression of the final packaged product.


If the braggot seems too dry or lacks honey character, consider backsweetening. Take a small sample of the braggot (using a syringe with milliliter markings) and mix in fixed amounts of honey to work out the proportions. When the flavor profile tastes right, scale up the amount needed and mix that into the finished braggot prior to packaging.

Note that if you are backsweetening, you will also need to stabilize the braggot with something like potassium sorbate or potassium metabisulfite to prevent the remaining yeast from fermenting this honey. Furthermore, stabilizing in this fashion will require you to force carbonate later if you want a sparkling braggot.

As an aside, it only makes sense to backsweeten a braggot if you must enhance the mead character. Given that many beer styles minimize residual sweetness, adding honey at this stage is likely to diminish the beer impressions in the finished product. If backsweetening seems necessary, do so judiciously.

Carbonation Level

Unlike most beer styles, braggots do not have a recommended carbonation level; how carbonated you’d like your braggot is up to the brewer.

Historically-inspired braggots will have little to no carbonation. While an uncarbonated braggot may be historically appropriate, they will likely be more successful at cask carbonation levels. In these cases, target somewhere between 1 and 1.5 volumes of CO2.

More modern examples benefit from moderate or higher levels of carbonation, in part because flat beer is seldom appetizing. A carbonation level between 2 and 2.5 volumes of CO2 will likely work well.

Carbonation Method

Having decided on a carbonation level, basically any carbonation method is acceptable.

First, if you backsweetened and stabilized the braggot, you must force carbonate if you want a carbonated product. To that end, you need to keg it, hook it up to CO2, and either serve it on draft or use a bottle filler.

If you want to bottle condition, then you have the usual choices of priming sugars. As with beer, you can carbonate with corn or table sugar, as these are reliable priming agents that impart no significant flavor. Another popular priming agent is honey. Note that honey may help to boost the honey impression in the finished product, though not by much. Also, expect the honey to take 1–2 weeks longer than simpler sugars to finish bottle conditioning. In either case, you can use one of the many priming calculators available online or in your brewing software.


Like many mead styles, braggots allow plenty of room for interpretation. Bringing together honey and malt and then matching them as complements presents some interesting challenges for brewers but, when well-executed, results in a delightfully complex beverage. From the still and gruit-spiced “ancient” braggots to sparkling and hop-bittered modern interpretations, balancing the elements is key. But with expressive honey and a steady brewing hand, you’ll be savoring yours.


1 Mark, Joshua J. “The Hymn to Ninkasi, Goddess of Beer.” Ancient History Encyclopedia, 1 Mar. 2011,

2 McGovern, Patrick E. 2000. “The Funerary Banquet of ‘King Midas.’” Expedition 42: 21-29.

3 Schramm, Ken. The Compleat Meadmaker: Home Production of Honey Wine from Your First Batch to Award-Winning Fruit and Herb Variations. Brewers Publications, 2003.

4 Mosher, Randy. Radical Brewing: Recipes, Tales, and World-Altering Meditations in a Glass. Brewers Publications, 2004. 272-277.

Diplomatic Mission Braggot

(5 gallons/19 L, all-grain)
OG = 1.061  FG = 1.003
IBU = 23  SRM = 12  ABV = 7.6%

3.5 lbs. (1.6 kg) rye malt
2 lbs. (0.91 kg) 2-row pale malt
8 oz. (227 g) caramel malt (120 ºL)
5 lbs. (2.3 kg) raw blackberry honey
3.5 AAU Columbus hops (60 min.)  (0.25 oz./7 g at 14% alpha acids)
3.5 AAU Columbus hops (30 min.) (0.25 oz./7 g at 14% alpha acids)
2.5 tsp. yeast nutrient (15 min.)
Wyeast 3711 (French Saison) or Imperial Yeast B64 (Napoleon) or White Labs WLP590 (French Saison Ale) or Lallemand Belle Saison
4.1 oz. (116 g) honey (if priming)

Step By Step
Mash the grains at 152 ºF (67 ºC) for 60 minutes. Once conversion is complete, recirculate for 15 minutes. Batch sparge with 168 ºF (76 ºC) water, collecting 6 gallons (23 L) of wort.

Boil the wort for 60 minutes, adding hops at the times indicated in the recipe. Add the yeast nutrient to the boil with 15 minutes remaining. A kettle fining can be added near the end of the boil, but this is optional.

While the wort is boiling, prepare a hot water bath and put the container of honey into it. This should help to soften the honey and make it easier to mix with the wort later.

Chill the wort to 64 ºF (18 ºC) and then mix in all of the honey. Aerate the wort with oxygen, pitch the yeast, and ferment until complete. Allow temperature to free-rise into the mid-70s ºF (low-20s ºC). When fermentation is complete, rack and package the braggot, or rack and clarify the braggot if desired with finings before packaging (prime and bottle condition, or keg and force carbonate).

Diplomatic Mission Braggot

(5 gallons/19 L, extract with grains)
OG = 1.062  FG = 1.004
IBU = 23  SRM = 12  ABV = 7.6%

8 oz. (227 g) caramel malt (120 ºL)
3.3 lbs. (1.5 kg) Briess rye liquid malt extract
5 lbs. (2.3 kg) raw blackberry honey
3.5 AAU Columbus hops (60 min.)  (0.25 oz./7 g at 14% alpha acids)
3.5 AAU Columbus hops (30 min.) (0.25 oz./7 g at 14% alpha acids)
2.5 tsp. yeast nutrient (15 min.)
Wyeast 3711 (French Saison) or Imperial Yeast B64 (Napoleon) or White Labs WLP590 (French Saison Ale) or Lallemand Belle Saison
4.1 oz. (116 g) honey (if priming)

Step By Step
Put the crushed caramel malt into a nylon mesh bag, and put the bag into the kettle with 3.1 gallons (11.7 L) of water. Remove the bag after the water reaches 170 ºF (77 ºC), allowing at least 30 minutes of steeping. Continue to heat the water until it reaches a boil. Turn off the heat and stir in the liquid malt extract. When completely dissolved, turn the heat back on and return the wort to a boil.

Boil the wort for 60 minutes, adding hops at the times indicated in the recipe. Add the yeast nutrient to the boil with 15 minutes remaining. A kettle fining can be added near the end of the boil, but this is optional.

While the wort is boiling, prepare a hot water bath and put the container of honey into it. This should help to soften the honey and make it easier to mix with the wort later.

Chill the wort to 64 ºF (18 ºC) and then mix in the honey. Aerate the wort with oxygen, pitch the yeast, and ferment until complete. Allow temperature to free-rise into the mid-70s ºF (low-20s ºC). When fermentation is complete, rack and package the braggot, or rack and clarify the braggot if desired with finings before packaging (prime and bottle condition, or keg and force carbonate).

Issue: March-April 2019