Fearful Symmetries

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03 May, 2016

Heorot Awaits It: Braggot by Sprecher Brewing Company



Three – three braggots!! Ah, ah, ah, ah!

Number three comes courtesy of Sprecher Brewing in Milwaukee.

Sprecher is one of the granddaddies of Wisconsin microbrewing having been around since 1985. Sadly, I've read that they make more soda than beer these days and lately they've been making hay with the hard soda trend. And even more recently they've released a bevy of radlers to jump on the shandy/radler bandwagon that Leinenkugel built.

This is a shame became Sprecher Amber is a fantastic bier and I used to drink it by the gallon (it seemed) back in the 1990s when I spent more time than was healthy at the Paradise Lounge. Black Bavarian is also extremely tasty and I enjoy their seasonals quite a bit too. Yet I feel that the brewery is perceived as something of a one- or two-trick pony. An Amber or Black Bavarian when taking a brief respite from hoppy pale ales but that's it and only occasionally.

Yet Sprecher introduced two gluten free brews back in 2006 or so and have a line of fresh hop beers; a Belgian quad for an anniversary brew and sundry ales. I just view Sprecher as being a very good brewery with many tasty offerings that has more going for it than Bavarian-style biers but just hasn't been able to find its beer niche in a world of IPAs, sours, and barrel aged brews. Perhaps they are doing better than I realize and just fly under the radar without a trendy beer that causes a brouhaha upon release. If I'm right, then hopefully moving to 12oz bottles and some new labels that shed much of the traditional German imagery will appeal to younger drinkers or simply drinkers who ignore them.

Anyway, onto the braggot!

Back in 2014 Sprecher released their first ever braggot. I picked some up and have finally gotten around to dragging one out of the cellar and busting it open. As with my previous two bracketts/braggots, Sam Adams' Honey Queen and Viking's HoneyMoon, Sprecher's extolls the virtue of aging right on the bottle: "This product can benefit from extended aging when properly stored." I aged mine about two years in my cellar away from light and in at least moderately cool temperatures. You will never hear me brag about my cellaring prowess but I feel that Sprecher's brew was treated well.

It poured a deep yellow that was as cloudy as all get-out. I don't know if this is normal but I'm not afraid of some haze. I did not get any head in my glass and the braggot was so turbid as to be opaque so I couldn't judge the brew's effervescence. At this point I was unsure if I completely ruined the braggot in my basement and was about to go 1 for 3 or if all was well and these were just the meady equivalent of crow's feet and laugh lines.

I felt relief when I got a billow of honeyed sweetness up my nose. Braggot had a very sweet aroma overall with some bread dough in addition to the honey. Considering that the bottle had been in my cellar for almost two years and the brew had been aging in Sprecher's vats for something like 18 months, I was quite surprised to smell what I thought were hops – floral hops – that were accented really nicely by all the syrupy sugars.

It wasn't surprising to find that this hazy honey-colored nectar had a fairly heavy body. While it was not a sticky, viscous liquid like honey itself, it was much more hefty than the other braggots that I'd had. There was a luscious honey flavor yet there wasn't a whole lot of sweetness. Braggot has an A.B.V. of 11% so most of the honey sugar was eaten by the yeast and turned into alcohol but I expected a bigger malt sweetness. There was some but it tasted like the malt added more body than flavor. I also caught a little carbonation as well as a not insignificant burst of peppery hops which added an unexpected bitterness. Then the bitterness melded into a big boozy sting.

While there was a little lingering sweetness at the end, I mostly tasted alcohol heat. I think all the booze in Braggot chased away the lacing because there was none.

Sam Adams' Honey Queen was a balanced and gentle libation in contrast to this highly potent potable. Sprecher has come up with something that I could imagine being consumed in Hrothgar's hall where the king and his fighters drank it to forget about Grendel for an evening. I found Braggot to be harsh and abrasive – the Sam Kinison of beverages. The alcohol cut through the really nice honey flavor easily and left my tongue afire. I am hoping that the rest of my stash of Braggot mellows out with more aging.

Junk food pairing: Get some Chicken in a Biskit crackers and slather on a generous portion of honey butter.

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|| Palmer, 5:45 AM

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