18 Oct Where Are the Braggots in Houston?
Where Are the Braggots in Houston?
You know what style you don’t hear much about around here? Braggots in Houston. Not a popular style down south. Maybe not even a style you’ve heard of.
What is a Braggot? According to Beer Advocate, it’s a style, going back to the 12th century, “historically made by blending spices and herbs with mead and beer.” The ideal beverage has a balance of beer and honey aspects (regardless of the mixture).
To some, it’s not the most approachable given its propensity to sweetness, more substantial body, and often higher ABV.
But honey tastes good, right? And not every beer needs to be light. So what gives?
To learn more about Braggots, I made it a point to visit Viking Braggot Company when I was in Eugene, OR, last month. What better place to get the real info than a brewery dedicated to the style?
I was decently familiar with them, despite not seeing many Braggots in Houston. Between local acquisitions and Viking bottles that I had been fortunate enough to get through beer mail, I felt like I knew enough to get by. (Apparently, I have 16 Braggots on my beer list, half of which are from Viking now). But I was FAR from an expert.
I had been to Eugene before but not Viking. I’m always excited to visit a brewery from which I’ve had a bunch of beers but never actually been to.
As soon as I sat down at the bar, I knew I was in the presence of experts. Every beer on the menu listed the variety of honey used in it, and the board covered a variety of styles, from ambers and IPAs to stouts and farmhouse ales.
Fortunately for me, they offered flights, so I was able to sample a lot of their menu and talk with the bartender about the brewery. He told me a lot about how the beer is made and how each type of honey influenced the beer’s taste and body.
It was such a memorable and successful experience for me that I left wanting to learn (a lot) more about Braggots.
To help me with that, I reached out to Dan McTavish, owner of Viking Braggot Company. He was kind enough to answer a few questions I had about the style and about his business.
So what even is a Braggot?
So, back to the introduction. What exactly is a Braggot, and why don’t we have any Braggots in Houston? Obviously, honey plays a significant role in the flavor profile. In more ways than you’d think too.
“The honey acts like the malt profile and adds complexity to the flavor with the various varieties of honey ranging from light & fruity wildflower or clover honey to the other end of the spectrum, super dark and roasty honey like buckwheat!” says Dan.
At this level of “adjuncting” though, are we still technically making beer? Although it’s a mix of honey and beer, the actual split of ingredients doesn’t matter. And it’s for reasons like this that Dan decided to focus on Braggots.
Dan went to college at the University of Oregon and, while there, explored the craft beer movement. His friend owned a meadery, and Dan really appreciated the niche approach.
As he began to develop his business plan, he realized that as a small brewery in Oregon, a very craft beer-heavy part of the country, his competition would be stiff. So how could he stand out?
Braggots were the answer.
“True mead is more in the wine realm, so I did some research and came across the Braggot style and was immediately hooked!” Dan explained. The combination of sweet mead and bold beer set him apart from the others.
In the Houston area, Lone Pint is just about the only brewery with any significant amount of offerings. Their Po-Cha-Na-Quar-Hip is a fall seasonal (and delicious!) Going further out of town, Independence Brewing, out of Austin, did their Brewluminati several years ago. A short Texas list for sure.
Beer Advocate lists well over 200 beers under the Braggot style, and Untappd has quite a few. But despite the burgeoning numbers online, we still don’t see many Braggots in Houston.
“Why isn’t it more popular?” I asked Dan.
According to him, it may come down to the real cost of honey. It’s pricey, especially on an experimental level.
“We are fortunate that we are in the Willamette Valley that is packed with apiaries and we have access to really good honey at reasonable prices,” says Dan. At the most, breweries will do one-off batches. “But nobody does it exclusively like us.”
According to the USDA, Texas is one of the top 10 honey-producing states in the country. In Houston, the demand for local honey is increasing, creating more opportunities for entrepreneurs.
Health trends are a big part of this increase in demand. As a natural sweetener, honey is preferred over artificial alternatives. It’s also touted for aiding weight loss and boosting your immunity. There are also significant manufacturing demands in applications such as baking and cosmetics.
Maybe it’s just not a Texas thing, then. For one, it’s pretty hot down here, and a sweet, dense beverage isn’t always the first thing people want. Not to mention, that haze craze is still going strong, stealing brewers’ attention.
While not the most popular style, it is undoubtedly a unique one and can be incorporated with any of your favorite styles of beers. I’d recommend trying a Braggot if you come across one in your area.
And if you ever find yourself in Eugene, be sure to stop at Viking and see how they’re done by a brewery dedicated to the style.
Brent is originally from Ohio but has been in Houston for over 10 years. As an Aggie, musician, animal advocate, and Lego collector, he always has something going on. If you have an imperial stout, come find him. He’ll want to add it to his insatiable beer spreadsheet.