Beer Cocktail Recipe | Chaucer’s Braggot Cocktail IPA Challenge
Everyone has a favorite cocktail. Not just from the base recipe or primary ingredient, but it isn’t your cocktail unless it’s made with your favorite brand. So when you jump from the 10 major brands of whiskey to the hundreds of available pale ales in your state, the search becomes a massive task. That’s where I’ve taken the steps to help narrow down the best Braggot Cocktail that will get you started on the road to personal perfection.
A braggot is technically defined as a beer mixed with mead; however, the beverage can exist through traditionally brewed recipes. The Beer Judge Certification Program would list it as an Alternative Sugar Beer (31B) where honey is used as the primary ingredient. They can vary wildly in terms of flavor, weight and sweetness. You would think this style would appear more often in our age of experimentation, but finding a commercially available braggot has been very difficult lately.
What’s bizarre is that we’ve had an increase of commercially available mead to match with the rise of craft breweries and distilleries. Since so many other styles have gone through revivals, it feels strange that I haven’t seen a braggot on the shelves in years. I’ve only had Samuel Adams’ Honey Queen myself, and we’ve only covered one braggot here on PorchDrinking alone. I think the best thing we can do to experience this drink is to make it ourselves, this time busting out the cocktail kit instead of the homebrewing kettle.
The idea to make a braggot cocktail came thanks to Chaucer’s Mead, a nationally available brand that suggests the classic drink on an accompanying tag and their website. The only issue is that in our era of the craft beer boom, what kind of IPA do you use? The Pale Ale is the single most diverse beer there is ranging from the hundreds of different hops, yeast varieties and overall intensity. I reached out to Chaucer’s for their IPA choice in the cocktail.
Jim Vaughn, the brand manager of Chaucer’s Cellars responded saying they used Lagunitas IPA, which was their first and most preferred choice. He specifically noted “the level of hops and floral character of Lagunitas is a nice balance to our mead.” I also asked how the cocktail should be prepared as some cocktails are dependent on what glass they are served in. Jim clarified that I should aim for an 8 to 12 oz mug for consistency.
The first step in making the cocktail was trying out the mead on its own, of course! I prepared this experiment with a few friends of mine and some of them never even had mead before. Thankfully, Chaucer’s Mead left us with a good impression that it was a nice starter for this experiment. It is definitely on the sweeter, lighter side as some meads can be very drying. There’s a strong orange flavor upfront with a distinct woody herbalness note like thyme or sage in the back. What I really appreciated about this mead was that it still had the mouthfeel of strong mead without feeling too taxing.
Chaucer’s Braggot is a very simple cocktail as defined on the tag. Although Chaucer’s includes a bag of mulling spices with every bottle, I refrained from using any to keep the honey taste pure. We’d have to assess these cocktails in a much different way if we started with spiced mead. Both the mead and beers were all kept chilled at the time of serving. So let’s get on with the tastings!
Chaucer’s Braggot Recipe
- Fill your favorite mug/glass with 1/4th mead
- Top off the mead with your IPA of choice
- The ratio should be 3:1 beer to mead
Lagunitas IPA (West Coast IPA)
ABV: 6.2% | Hops: Horizon, Centennial, Williamette & Cascade
Lagunitas IPA is an institution to the American IPA for good reason. It’s one of the best starters to get people into the style. I decided to list the hops used and ABV of every beer on the list because Lagunitas’ in particular stands out in our current heavy-aroma hop environment. It’s easy to forget how good this beer is when you judge based on its humble appearance. I was curious to see how the light American hop balance would play off against the strong alcohol.
Presentation-wise, the cocktail looks like a clearer, shinier version of the original beer. What surprised me is how much the mead didn’t overpower the IPA but rather made the beer’s natural woodiness and bitterness up. The floral character is a lot stronger than the beer as the sweetness remains pertinent. This cocktail is more so in the vein of a brunch Mimosa that still goes down easy. Chaucer’s was on point when thinking that these two would be quite harmonious.
Three Notch’d Brewing’s The Ghost (East Coast APA)
ABV: 5.1% | Hops: Crystal, Simcoe, Citra & Cascade
When you include West Coast in an experiment, you know the East Coast has to follow. Three Notch’d Brewing Company’s The Ghost is a well-rounded, malt-forward pale ale that has a pleasant grassy undertone beneath sweet caramel malts. Since the standard APA tends to be less strong than the American IPA, I wanted to see how that same crisp, clean taste would be taken by the mead.
For the braggot, the sweetness of the mead dominates over the beer flavor, but in a good way. It’s even lighter than the first braggot where Honey has a gigantic spotlight put right on it. The Ghost comes across more malt-heavy than before and it pleasantly subtracts from that viscous mouthfeel of the mead. This APA has the lowest IBUs of all the beers in the panel at 35. So I would say this is a bit too light, but not a bad replacement for people who prefer sweeter cocktails.
Sierra Nevada’s Hazy Little Thing (New England IPA)
ABV: 6.7% | Hops: Magnum, Citra, Comet, Simcoe, El Dorado & Mosiac
I’m very thankful that breweries like Sierra Nevada with nationwide distribution have dived into the New England IPA game. This style can have wildly different alcohol and flavor profiles, so how the cocktail would taste would depend on what your local breweries decides to use. Hazy Little Thing is such a delicious beer that will convert people to this curious looking trend. The aroma and taste is just like a pineapple/orange push pop complete with a chewy mouthfeel.
I found this cocktail to be surprising because it was underwhelming. You’d think all the aroma and flavor would simply enhance the mead but the two actually strangely neutralize each other. At the most, you get more dank/resiny notes, which just make you notice more of the apple taste in the mead. Still, this braggot is refreshing and even looks like a pineapple soda. I think there will be some NE IPA that will work with this, but I could not recommend this even though Hazy Little Thing will be a beer to keep on hand.
Alewerks’ Bitter Valentine (Double IPA)
ABV: 8.3% | Hops: Citra & Simcoe
Alewerks’ Bitter Valentine has been a favorite of the Virginia Craft Beer scene for years. It would often appear on “Best Beer From Your State” articles from places such as GQ and Business Insider. I felt compelled to add it to my list from its quality and now the fact it appears in shiny, fresh cans. The taste is a very powerful dank pineapple that’s balanced out by brown sugar malts that finishes with a heavy stickiness on the tongue.
This braggot made this whole experiment worthwhile as it is easily my favorite. The jump to Double IPA has made this a proper sipping cocktail that you enjoy slowly and more thoroughly. Bitter Valentine brings a level of potent heft that balances perfectly against the sweet mead. The pungent hop flavor is subdued yet completely enhanced by the honey. If the idea of the Lagunitas blend appealed to you, then find a bigger beer to pair this mead with. Highly recommended.
Ninkasi Brewing’s Dawn of the Red (Red IPA)
ABV: 7% | Hops: Galena, Millennium, Ahtanum, El Dorado & Mosaic
Bringing a Red IPA to the table was the biggest question I had for this mead cocktail experiment. The style offers itself to a wide level of flavors because the hop/malt choice can go all over the place. Ninkasi Brewing made a very unique Red IPA because there’s more focus on a citrusy aroma than American bittering hops. The beer reminds me of a brûléed grapefruit with undertones of herbs.
Dawn of the Red made for a very fascinating braggot. It tastes like a fusion between mead and a Lime Rickey, where the floralness made this limey flavor from the El Dorado and Mosaic pop out. There’s an increase in bitterness, but like the Double IPA, the beer is easing out the alcohol. I would also rank this as highly as the previous one, but the profile might be better set depending on the season.
Brasserie d’Achouffe’s Houblon Chouffe (Belgian IPA)
ABV: 9% | Hops: Tomahawk, Amarillo & Saaz
Brasserie d’Achouffe’s Houblin Chouffe is a Triple IPA that caters to the floral, gentle nature you’d find on the bottle. The bittering hop caters directly to the spiciness of the yeast. Bubblegum and clover dominates with wispy notes of lemon. You get that biscuit, toasty body that delivers nothing but supremely pleasant herbal hoppiness. This beer can be difficult to find but it absolutely transcends the styles of IPA and Tripel.
I was looking forward to the Belgian braggot the most because I figured the flavor would work so well with the dry/sweet flavors of mead. I love how unique this combination is as it provides almost a mulled spice taste appropriate for Summer time. Houblon works really well in sync with Chaucer’s, but the booziness here is at it’s most intense. It can border on too much of a good thing where every note is amplified.
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As the range of what constitutes an IPA has increased, I can’t wait to try out this cocktail with more beers. We’re scratching the surface here just as the craft mead market is breaking into the mainstream. Heck, there’s even more ways to explore this cocktail from stirring the ingredients together to having it in a different glass.
Do you have any favorite meads or IPAs to suggest? Leave them below! Tell me if you enjoy the Braggot Cocktail!
All photos courtesy of Scott Johnson