Mead Lover's Digest #0455 Tue 30 January 1996


Forum for Discussion of Mead Making and Consuming
Dick Dunn, Digest Janitor



Re: Mead Lover's Digest #454, 25 January 1996 (Jim Sims)
Hops in Braggot (Tidmarsh Major)
Braggot (Fred Hardy)
Re: Mead Lover's Digest #454, 25 January 1996 (susan barse)
Re: Braggot (Spencer W Thomas)
Ken Schramm: Historical Braggot with Hops -Reply (Spencer W Thomas)
coloring outside the lines (Dan McConnell)
Beginner help (Troy A. Karjala)
Re: Braggot (Fred Hardy)
Perrymel report (Douglas Thomas)
Re: Braggot (Dan McConnell)
Braggot: hops&color (Dan McConnell)
Re: medicinal tasting mead (Steve Dempsey)
Non-Beer Categories (Fred Hardy)


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Subject: Re: Mead Lover's Digest #454, 25 January 1996
From: (Jim Sims)
Date: Thu, 25 Jan 1996 11:09:44 -0500

Subject: must oxygenation/bacterial secondary fermentation
From: (Mark Roberson)
Date: Sat, 20 Jan 1996 16:46:46 -0700

Subject: Re: Making Magic: Brewing Mead, by Rich Webb, Mead and brewing Deity
From: (Jim Sims)

[ Let's keep this civil, folks: evidence seems to be far more
scarce than fiercely held opinion ]

I thought I was being civil. I apologize if it didn't come across
that way….


Subject: Hops in Braggot
From: Tidmarsh Major <>
Date: Thu, 25 Jan 1996 12:54:24 -0500 (EST)

On 25 Jan 1996 wrote:
> In MLD#452 Fred Hardy argues against allowing hops to be used in braggot:
> >a specialty beer. Braggot dates from pre-history in Britain, and probably
> >the Norse countries, and essentially dissappeared during the 15th
> >century. Hops did not become a common ingredient in malt-based brews
> >in Britain until the 17th century, and did not gain general acceptance
> >until around 1700.

However, just because hops were not common in in beer, ale, mead, or
braggot until the 17th C does not mean that they were never an ingredient
before that. The _Leechbook_, a 10th century Anglo-Saxon medical book
contains remedies the call for ale and some that call for hops, in
particular female hops ("eowehumulus"), indicating that hops were native
in Britiain well before the Norman conquest. Given that medieval
brewers tended to use any and all spices available (often for medicinal
purposes), it seems highly likely that hops found their way into all
kinds of fermented beverages, whether mead, beer, or braggot. While hops
should certainly not be necessary for braggot, historically niether
should they be prohibited.

Tidmarsh Major

Subject: Braggot
From: Fred Hardy <>
Date: Thu, 25 Jan 1996 15:25:48 -0500 (EST)

I have received a good bit of heat by suggesting that braggot should have
no hop bitterness, flavor or aroma. It has been pointed out that we have
come a long way since hops were illegal in English beer. An elegant
argument was made that 50% or more honey makes beer braggot, and less
than that makes it beer. This is supposedly accepted by the AHA and AMA.

It is not true that hops were illegal in England or in English beer. That
hops were resisted in English beer as late as the 16th century has often
been shown by documentation that a brewing guild partitioned the local
court to forbid hops in beer. That is a far cry from being illegal. Hops
were introduced to England during the first century BC and are still there.

The 50% rule is arbitrary and capricious with no sound basis. I suspect
it derives from a very cryptic recipe in Brewing Mead which calls for
roughly a 50/50 mix of malt (doesn't say what kind, just malt) and honey.
No mention of hops there. Sadly, that brief paragraph and the AHA/AMA
guidelines is about all most beer brewers know about braggot.

Digby offers no guidance since he implies that honey is added to the
running to achieve an alcoholic level, not some magical ratio.

Apparently the AHA guidelines for braggot are a waste of ink since I have
never seen any dissention about zero IBUs or a color range that is almost
impossible to achieve today, much less in the Middle Ages. I have yet to
be able to find the oft qouted AHA 50/50 guideline. The guideline says
"Made with malt… Honey flavors predominate." The profile implies that
it should be sparkling until the gravity is so high it kills the yeast,
then it can be still. Strength can vary from common beer up to sack mead,
and color can be as dark as American Cream Ale.

Taken as a whole, I believe this guideline reflects a complete (or near
complete) absence of knowledge of braggot. Those who point out that we no
longer live in the Middle Ages and therefore historical braggot is of no
interest apparently share in that ignorance. If guidelines are to be
accepted, then braggot is unhopped Pilsner with a bunch of processed
clover honey in it. I disagree.

We define today's beer guidelines in terms of today's commercial examples
which may have little to do with historical styles. Braggot does not lend
itself to that. The historical context is all that is available to define
this beverage.

An historical profile is a beverage made with malt and honey (so far, so
good). OG should be at least 19P (the honey was used to raise alcohol for
economic and preservative reasons). Color may vary widely depending on
malts and types of honey, but not opaque. May be sparkling or still. Malt
and honey must be detectable. May be spiced or contain other herbs. Hops
may be used, but should not be detectable. Alcoholic strength should be
noticeable, but not agressive. Flavor may range from sweet to very sweet.

Maybe two categories are needed (still and sparkling are silly, IMO).

Traditional braggot should not contain hops, but may be spiced.

Show braggot is sparkling and may contain detectable hops as well as
other herbs and spices. This category allows for beer with a bunch of
honey in it. Digby documents at least one braggot which had a tiny bit of
hops in it, and it was brewed after the Middle Ages, so maybe this latter
is "Modern" braggot.

Think about it.

We must invent the future, else it will | <Fred Hardy>
happen to us and we will not like it. |
[Stafford Beer, "Platform for Change"] | email:

Subject: Re: Mead Lover's Digest #454, 25 January 1996
From: susan barse <>
Date: Thu, 25 Jan 1996 11:27:28 -0500

Attention all mead makers. I am a mead lover, not a mead maker. I live in
the hells in West Virginia and have no access to fancy wine and beer stores
to buy mead. I know you can not sell me mead but remember what goes around
comes around. Susan Barse, Rt 2 Box 63, Keyser WV, 26726. Please suggest
where I can get me mead.

Subject: Re: Braggot 
From: Spencer W Thomas <>
Date: Fri, 26 Jan 1996 11:31:45 -0500

Fred> Maybe two categories are needed (still and sparkling are
Fred> silly, IMO).

Fred> Traditional braggot should not contain hops, but may be
Fred> spiced.

Fred> Show braggot is sparkling and may contain detectable hops as
Fred> well as other herbs and spices. This category allows for
Fred> beer with a bunch of honey in it. Digby documents at least
Fred> one braggot which had a tiny bit of hops in it, and it was
Fred> brewed after the Middle Ages, so maybe this latter is
Fred> "Modern" braggot.

The notion of separating "historical" from "modern" braggot has some
appeal to me. This lets us continue to evolve the style in a modern
idiom (and what is homebrewing about if not creativity?) while
recognizing the historical roots of the style.

Responding to some other issues that have been raised in this

I have trouble with the concept of "commercial" braggot from the 17c
and earlier, as distinguished from "homebrewed" braggot. Digby, for
example, was brewing for the royal court. Is this "homebrewing", or
"commercial"? Most "commercial" ale was produced by individuals for
sale in their alehouse. Many households brewed their own ales. I
have pages from an early "housewife's manual" (Gervase Markham,
1568-1637) describing making ale, starting with malting (including
instructions on building the malt house). In this
case, a "housewife" was maintaining a household consisting not just of
the family, but also the servants, laborers, etc. Strictly speaking,
this is homebrewing, but not in the way that most of us understand it

Unfortunately, we have few published examples to work from. I infer
from Digby's single braggot recipe, that braggot was viewed (to some
extent) as a way of "stretching" the malt to make a stronger beverage.
Thus, in an extreme view, braggot is a beer/ale with lots of honey.

The "50% rule," to my knowledge, was first invoked in the 2nd or 3rd
Mazer Cup competition, to prevent people from entering beers with a
little bit of honey as braggots. It was very clearly based on
experience in the earlier competitions, and a desire to make it clear
that the competition was for MEAD, not for BEER.

Finally, I have to assume that braggot was made in countries *other
than England*. Is there anybody out there who can comment on
historical mead making traditions in other countries?

=Spencer Thomas in Ann Arbor, MI (

Subject: Ken Schramm: Historical Braggot with Hops -Reply
From: Spencer W Thomas <>
Date: Fri, 26 Jan 1996 11:35:09 -0500

Ken Schramm, mead-maker extraordinaire (my opinion), and co-originator
of the Mazer Cup Mead Competition, comments on the Hops in Braggot
issue. (I am forwarding his message. Opinions expressed here are
his, not necessarily mine, although I tend to mostly agree with him.)


An equally debatable point might be that the Brits and Norse weren't
the only ones making fermented honey beverages. The Poles and Slavs
have long and storied mead making heritages, and since there is far
more evidence of the use of hops on the continent in 10th and 11th
century brewing, and since it appears that braggot originated as a
means of stoking up thye gravity when "mault" might not have been in
such abundant supply, it seems to bear investigation into whether the
mainlanders were at using hops and making bragots, and for that
matter, whether braggot was the idea of the Brits/Norse in the first
place. The belgians have a hstory of using honey and everyother d-mn
thing in their beer, and while they may not have called it braggot, we
don't call yeast "godisgood" anymore either.

The last thing I would question innthis whole debate is whether we
need to judge these bragots on historical example alone. We don't
judge vienna/oktoberfests based on Dreher vintage recipes and
standards. We judge them against a Platonic ideal which is an
amalgam of the best commercial examples available (freqently not even
in the condition which they should be assessed), on currently
available brewing materials and technology, and our own notions of
what the style should be like in the late 20th century. If we
applied the same standards to everything else we judge, we would be
judging really bad stuff, for the most part.If we all lived by what
the germans define as beer, there'd be no fruit, no spice, no
un-malted wheat, no corn, rice, rye, no honey, no Belgian fun at all.
We run the competitions, and we have the opportunity to develop
whatever standards we choose. Perhaps the sub-categories need to be
restrictive in some cases, and have a "freestyle" pressure valve to
deal with the slop. It's our job to work on this, but in the final
analysis, isn't the notion to help us all improve and to acknowledge
and reward the brewers who make things that are REALLY COOL?

"Let us not be shackled by early15th century restraints, lest we long
to lead our existences on the dark side of the Renaissance"

Ken Schramm (

Subject: coloring outside the lines
From: (Dan McConnell)
Date: Sun, 28 Jan 1996 00:06:47 -0500

I'm writing this as I am making a batch of mead. Here is the recipe:

2 lb Dark DME

bring to boil 15 min, than add

40 gr Corriander
40 gr Bitter Orange
48 gr Hallertau Hop Plugs

boil 15 min than add

1 gal Fruit Blossom Honey (cherry, peach, apricot)

kill heat, steep, cool and ferment

TV=6-7 gal
YCKCo W22 wine yeast
I want this to ferment to dryness, or off-dry.

I wasn't planning to add the hops, but the recent discussion *made* me do
it. It hurts too much to sit on the fence, besides the batch that I made
last weekend (almost identical but with Light DME, Grains-of-Paradise and
Star Anise in addition to the coriander and orange) tasted like it could
use a little hop when I racked it after the primary fermentation was

So, what have I got here? Braggot? Metheglyn? I think it's a braggot,
but I don't know, it depends on how it turns out. It will not be
carbonated, all my meads are still, almost always dry and cork finished. I
don't expect much hop flavor. I don't expect much malt flavor either (but
lots of color). If there is some malt character, I might call it a
braggot, if not I might call it *Mead*. In any case, I'll still be happy.
I won't HAVE to call it anything unless it is good enough to enter in a
competition, then I'll deal with it and force-fit it into some category.

What's my point? I'm making this to please myself and try something
different, a little wacked, something that I've never tasted before. I am
definately NOT making this with braggot competition guidelines in mind.
That is simply too restrictive and it's much more fun to color outside the

This mead may be great or it may be a dismal failure. It sure smells good
now (I think the hops were a good idea). See ya in about three years.


Subject: Beginner help
From: (Troy A. Karjala )
Date: Mon, 29 Jan 1996 05:05:35 -0800

back in Sep '95. I didn't know anyone in the local area here that
makes mead before I started so I was winging it on my own. The only
real reading I had about it was from Charlie Papazian's books.

The first batch is 15 lbs clover honey, 4 lbs Raspberrys, Wyeast

Liquid Sweet Mead Yeast, 5 gal batch. The second is 12 lbs clover
honey and the same yeast in a 6 gallon batch.

My status is as such. Both batches started off really well. I

racked the raspberry after 2 weeks, and it had dropped down to 1.054.
The plain I also racked after 2 weeks and it was down to 1.036. That
was in late Sep.

It is now late Jan and the Raspberry is @ 1.042 and the plain is at

1.022. I have racked each of them aproximately every 4 – 5 weeks. As
I sit here and type they each might bubble once an hour. I would like
to end up with a sweet taste to each of them.

Now for the questions. How much longer should I wait for each

batch to complete? What should my FG be for either? Should I repitch
with a more attenuative yeast? Any help would be great!

Troy Karjala

Subject: Re: Braggot 
From: Fred Hardy <>
Date: Mon, 29 Jan 1996 08:20:51 -0500 (EST)

Spencer Thomas asked if braggot was made in places other then the British
Isles and possibly Scandinavia. The answer is a definite maybe. This is
based on documentation from the 2nd century BC which described a Celtic
strong drink made from grain and honey. These particular Celts were from
Gaul, and, by implication, had knowledge and practices similar to Celts
throughout Europe.

Hops were indeed known and used in brewing on the European continent well
before the 11th century. Whether the brewing practices of the ancient
Celts (i.e., braggot) survived the early Middle Ages in Germany and the low
countries is less clear. At the time of the Norman invasion the drink of
the invaders was wine, but beer was the drink of countries above the vine

The practice of adding honey to malt beverages seems to have had the same
goal as adding it to sweet cider. The higher alcoholic content obtained
by adding the honey gave the fermented cider and beer a greater shelf
life in the absence of hops. I realize that is not a compelling argument
that there were no hops in braggot or cyser. There certainly could have
been even though it seems counterintuitive. There would have been no
economic, medical or taste (sweet was good) reason for doing so.

Clearly "modern" braggot as entered in homebrew competitions does contain
hops. I suspect most beer drinkers (judges?) are somewhat put off by
unhopped alcoholic beverages made with malt. I entered a Medieval beer
(very strong, but unhopped) as a specialty once, and judges' comments
said "why did you make this unhopped? It is unbalanced." Scores were
correspondingly low.

The AHA/AMA guidelines imply that braggot is unhopped. If judges expect
hops, the guidelines should be changed to provide guidance to those
brewers who rely on them to formulate beverages they subsequently enter
into competitions as barggot.

I find the 50% rule of the Mazer Cup competition to be rather amusing. It
seems arbitrary and capricious. Do the organizers check braggot entries
and disqualify them if they don't meet the rule? Is it 50% by weight of
raw materials or fermentables (excluding dextrines)? Pardon me, but I
really don't know. It seems simpler to me to exclude hopped braggot, thus
insuring that entries will be mead (if braggot is mead) and not beer with
an unacceptable honey content. If judges subsequently use the AHA's IBU
guideline of zero, any beers should be excluded from winning at the
judges' table rather than by the entry police.

Just a thought from someone who has never entered the Mazer Cup.

Cheers, Fred

We must invent the future, else it will | <Fred Hardy>
happen to us and we will not like it. |
[Stafford Beer, "Platform for Change"] | email:

Subject: Perrymel report
From: Douglas Thomas <>
Date: Mon, 29 Jan 1996 08:10:56 -0800 (PST)

I finally bottled the perrymel/pear mead/pear cider (whatever you want to
call pear cider sweetend with honey) last week. I let it settle for 4
monts, and it was still a little hazy. I thought to myself, "what the
hell, bottle it, I don't care if it is clear or not." Well in the one
week it has been in bottle it has almost completely cleared. Can any
guess the problem? Also, I would like to know the real name for this
recipe if anyone knows it. I know perry is pear cider and melomel is
mead fermented with fruit juice, so is perrymel accurate?
My next batch is going to be strawberries, but I want something on the
off-dry side with more towards a red style than a white style. A fellow
winemaking friend suggested red plums pitted and frozen to burst the
cells. Does this sound like a good fruit to add some roundness to
Well, this is just getting long and boring.
One last thing though, I went looking for some chaucers mead and found
that chaucers now has peach, olaliberry, raspberry, and a few other
wines. I think I will check one out. I like their mead, so why not
their wine.

Doug Thomas

Subject: Re: Braggot
From: (Dan McConnell)
Date: Mon, 29 Jan 1996 11:18:58 -0500

At 8:20 AM 1/29/96, Fred Hardy wrote:
>I find the 50% rule of the Mazer Cup competition to be rather amusing. It
>seems arbitrary and capricious. Do the organizers check braggot entries
>and disqualify them if they don't meet the rule? Is it 50% by weight of
>raw materials or fermentables (excluding dextrines)? Pardon me, but I
>really don't know. It seems simpler to me to exclude hopped braggot, thus
>insuring that entries will be mead (if braggot is mead) and not beer with
>an unacceptable honey content. If judges subsequently use the AHA's IBU
>guideline of zero, any beers should be excluded from winning at the
>judges' table rather than by the entry police.

Here is the section of the 1995 MCM announcement describing Braggot exactly
as posted.

*8. BRAGGOT (BRACKET): Honey and Malted barley (as much or more honey than



Please notice that there is no RULE that there must be 50% honey.

50% is not a rule, it is a guideline. Big difference. As one of the
'entry police' I assure you that we have never excluded a mead from the
competition based on the ingredient list. A honey *beer* entered in the
*braggot* category probably will not do well, but will not be banned from
the competition. You could enter a wine in the pyment category and do as
poorly. I think that would foolish and a waste of time, money, judges and

50% is arbitrary, yes, but seemed like a good *starting point* based on our
experience, to assist the meadmaker and increase the mead character of the
entries. As one of the organizers, I can change the guidelines. From my
standpoint the wording of 1995 worked and I see no need to change it for

It seems simpler to me to exclude braggot. An alternative is to exclude
the rules. Not a bad alternative.


Subject: Braggot: hops&color
From: (Dan McConnell)
Date: Mon, 29 Jan 1996 13:48:19 -0500

Here are those guidelines again….

*8. BRAGGOT (BRACKET): Honey and Malted barley (as much or more honey than



Please also notice that we do not discriminate based on race (outward
appearance of color) or religion (the presence or absence of hops).


caution, humor attempted in this post

Subject: Re: medicinal tasting mead
From: Steve Dempsey <>
Date: Tue, 30 Jan 1996 10:50:06 -0800

>Subject: medicinal tasting mead?
>From: "Warren A. Ransom" <>
>Date: Sat, 20 Jan 1996 17:16:16 -0500 (EST)
>first the background: i made a mead over a year ago, it was in the
>primary/secondary/tertiary for about 5 months, and then in the bottles
>for about 8 months. i tasted one about a month after bottling, not
>expecting it to be any good yet and it was awful! Listerine.

I believe this listerine-like quality comes from phenolic
compounds produced by the yeast. I once tried to brew a
mead using a german wheat beer yeast. I enjoy the spicy
clove/phenolic character of a good weissbier and thought
it might be interesting to see what mead would be like
with that flavor. The resulting mead was awful. I had
produced two cases of sparkling listerine. Three years
later it has improved, but still has not reached what I
would consider drinkable. Something is wrong when it
takes multiple years for a mead only to get over the
undrinkable stage. When it's that bad I'd rather just
chalk it up to experience and try again with something
new. Most meads are enjoyable between 6-12 months old
with most dramatic changes taking place early. Very
long aging just brings subtle refinement to any remaining
rough edges, does not erase major flaws.

Steve Dempsey Intel Corporation
<> 5200 Elam Young Pkwy
+1 503 642 0602 Hillsboro, OR 97124-6497
PTD CAD Pole: AL4-2-E2 MS: AL4-57

Subject: Non-Beer Categories
From: Fred Hardy <>
Date: Tue, 30 Jan 1996 15:04:32 -0500 (EST)

All this talk about braggot, hops, etc. made me rethink where braggot
really belongs. This led to closer examination of the whole non-beer
section of the AHA guidelines. The following, as usual, is opinion only:

Mead has a historical basis for Traditional, Melomel, Metheglin and
Hippocras. Pyment is marginal, but does fit the current melomel
description. Adding other styles just because they contain honey has no
real good rational.

Cyser is not mead, it is cider as it was made for centuries before
inexpensive sugar became widely available. Cyser belongs as a cider
sub-category. In fact, it meets the guidelines for specialty cider.

Pyment was probably not originally a fermented beverage made from both
grape juice and honey. It was likely a dry wine with honey added when it
was served. Other spices might also have been added to suit the tastes of
the Middle Ages. The practice became so common that the French began to
add honey before they shipped the wine to England. At that point it did
not become mead. It became, like Port, a sweet fortified wine. Still,
it's sort of mead made with fruit or fruit juice.

And back to the tired old saw – braggot should either be unhopped or
dropped as a category. Braggot judges do not seem to get beyond the
notion of malt and honey. If they are both there it is braggot. Anyone
making braggot to the AHA Style Chart guidelines will surely lose to an
Imperial stout that has several pounds of honey added. I am constantly
reminded that guidelines are just that, and the category is really
freestyle. As a judge I find that ludicrous, and propose that any style
with meaningless guidelines deserves to be dropped until it can be defined
in a manner that makes some sense. This loosy-goosy style already exists as
specialty beer. Specialty beer and hopped braggot as two categories makes
no more sense than cider and cyser being separated.

The 1996 Capitol District Open will move cyser to a cider subcategory
and drop pyment and braggot. Hopped braggot (an oxymoron) can still be
entered as specialty beer. Mead made with grapes or grape juice can still
be entered as a melomel. I hope other organizers follow.

Cheers, Fred

We must invent the future, else it will | <Fred Hardy>
happen to us and we will not like it. |
[Stafford Beer, "Platform for Change"] | email:

End of Mead Lover's Digest #455

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