-Geoffrey Chaucer, The Miller’s Tale
While my shopping cart at the bottle shop is most often filled to the brim with the standard IPAs and Stouts (Imperial and otherwise) that Aleheads love, it’s also enjoyable to peruse BA and RB to learn about lesser-known styles that give our hobby such breadth; styles with peculiar names and origins like Oud Bruin (Flemish Sour), Sahti (Finnish Farmhouse Ale), and Altbier (German Brown Ale). Each year Weyerbacher Brewing of Easton, PA brews a one-off anniversary beer to celebrate their founding, often choosing unusual styles with which to express their brewing prowess. Previous incarnation have included a Smoked Imperial Stout (Fifteen) Wheat Wine (Fourteen) and a Rye Barleywine (Twelve). This year, I was pleased to see that they chose to brew a Braggot to commemorate the occasion.
Braggot is a marrying of beer and mead. It is made either by adding malted barley to standard mead during production or by mixing separate batches of beer and mead together… the result is a style whose potential is limited only by the imaginations of brewers. Braggots can be made with any style of honey, and with any base beer. As we’ve seen with the proliferation of barrel-aging, Imperialization, and hybridization of popular beer styles, perhaps the naturally sweetening and balancing properties of honey and Mead will become a more popular tool for creative brewers going forward.
The Weyerbacher Sixteen is dark Braggot-style ale that poured an attractive chestnut with ruby flecks. The head dissipated quickly with no lacing and minimal carbonation. One whiff had me thinking Skittles- a veritable rainbow of fruit flavors. On first sip the Alewife detected pears, but halfway through our snifters we were picking our fruit of every sort: pineapple, cherry, tangerine, etc. If you were drinking this blindfolded and I whispered a fruit, any fruit, in your ear, you would be able to pick out that flavor in this beer. It’s a fruit bomb (not a bad thing) and almost like a beer version of Sangria (if Sangria didn’t taste like ass). The finish is complete with a tangy, hoppy bite that balances the brew out nicely.
So ignore the fact that I likened the Weyerbacher Sixteen to Skittles and Sangria, and pick this one up if you get the chance. Remarkably drinkable and smooth for such a sweet, high-gravity offering, this beer is a testament to the remarkable capacity of barley and yeast to produce vivid, fruity flavors (with a little help from fermented honey). I would love to see more brewers riff on Braggot-style ales to see what honey and beer can do… hey, if it’s good enough for Bell’s HopSlam, then it’s good enough for me.
3.5 Hops for the Weyebacher Sixteen. Get it before it’s gone, because they won’t be making any more. Better yet, lay some down for a few months and let me know how this one tastes after some aging; I lack the patience.