Fearful Symmetries

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01 May, 2016

Swarming With Flavor: Honey Queen Braggot by Boston Beer Company

My brackett mini-marathon continues today with a braggot from Sam Adams - Honey Queen. It's part of their Small Batch Collection which comes in bombers. I've really enjoyed a few of the Small Batch brews including a rauch bock and a sahti so of course I've not seen them since those first highly pleasurable dates. I'm not sure if this is because they're no longer being brewed or they just aren't available in Madison or if I am simply looking in all the wrong places.

My previous brackett review was of a c. 2009 brew and I was saddened to taste that it had gone south. My bottle of Honey Queen was of a much more recent vintage – 2014. The bottle explicitly says "Enjoy now or age it to further develop rich and unique flavors" and this, combined with the fact that the bottle had been away from light in my cellar, made me mildly hopeful that I'd have a drinkable beverage upon decanting.

Honey Queen pours a dark yellow. I was surprised to find that it was a touch hazy. I don't know why but such was the case. My pour produced a nice head that left my glass adorned with a brilliant white and very creamy head. It didn't last a particularly long time but long enough- perhaps 20 seconds or so. There were some scattered bubbles inside my glass going up.

I was a bit anxious putting the glass to my nose for the first time. However, I was greatly relieved when I smelled slightly sweet honey but, more importantly, a distinct absence of vermouth. There are hops and chamomile in this braggot and they came across as a pleasant mild herbal scent. Beneath this sweet, floral-herbal mélange was some crackery malt. A dramatic improvement over the senescent brackett from a few days earlier.

By no means am I a braggot expert. How much should one taste like mead? How much like beer? I suppose that as long as you have some of each, you're in like Flynn. Honey Queen had a rather big floral and slightly fruity honey flavor up front. However, it was only slightly sweet. Underneath it was a light, biscuity malt flavor. And tacking its way through the two was a mild herbal & floral flavor which was hops and chamomile in concert. The herbs gave a little bitterness.

That great semi-sweet honey flavor lingered at the finish and was then joined by a swelling of herbal flavor along with a modicum of bitterness that made for a pleasantly dry ending. Honey Queen left some nice lacing on my glass with a scattering of spots and a couple large patches.

I was quite relieved to find that my bottle of Honey Queen hadn't gone bad. Indeed it was a real treat. Sam Adams says that it was made with three kinds of honey – Clover, Orange Blossom, and Alfalfa – but the differences amongst these varieties is beyond my ken. (Any honey sommeliers out there?) But I can tell you that they made for a fine floral sweetness on my tongue. Honey Queen has a deceptively light body that feels a bit heavier when the honey sweetness is at its height. There are also three kinds of hops - East Kent Goldings, Strisselspalt, & Aramis – and they, along with the chamomile, add a pleasant, mellow bit of herbal flavor and just enough bitterness to make for a noticeable contrast to the honey.

Honey Queen is 7.5% A.B.V. so it's either a big beer or a small wine depending on your preference. Regardless, it is extremely tasty.

Junk food pairing: I like to pair braggots with foods that emphasize the honey. Try some of your favorite honey mustard pretzels with Honey Queen.

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|| Palmer, 4:37 PM


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