#16 Busy B (Honey Tripel / Braggot)

I can't recall where I first came across braggot. By that I don't mean to imply that it's some great secret I've been sitting on for decades. I discovered it pretty recently. Maybe as recently as last week. I just can't remember on which website I first read about it.

At it's simplest, braggot is half beer, half mead. The precise percentages are probably open to interpretation, but it's fair to say that if you're getting a head-turning proportion of your fermentable sugars from honey, you're in braggot territory.

Although I'm a keen admirer of King Herod's way of approaching the world, and was therefore initially inclined to go for a 50/50 malt/honey split, I've also been planning to brew a Belgian tripel, and it seems to me that this is the perfect opportunity to do two things at once. Fifty per cent honey is probably pushing it for a tripel, so I'm going to shoot for a 70/30 malt/honey fermentable split.

Before we can land on a recipe, however, we need to do a bit of math. This is because honey is about 95% fermentable as a proportion of its mass, whereas malt is about 60%. Humour me.

I want to make a Belgian tripel, so my ABV should be in the region of 8-9%. To get an ABV of 8%, we need the yeast to gobble up 61 gravity points (8000 / 131 ≈ 61). To get to 9%, we need the yeast to eat up 69 gravity points (9000 / 131 ≈ 69). So somewhere between those two will be about right. Let's shoot for 65. So we know what proportions of fermentables we want, and we know the attenuation we need in order to reach the desired ABV. Now let's calculate our Original Gravity ("OG").

As a general rule of thumb, I find that sugars from malted barley are about 75% attenuable, and sugar is abot 95% attenuable. From this we, arrive at the following formula:

(0.3 * 0.95 + 0.7 * 0.75) * OG = 65

And by the powers of algebra:

OG ≈ 80.24

Let's call that 80.

Typing an OG of 1.080 into the BIAB Calculator (my quick & easy, go-to brewing software) tells me I need 5900g of grain. But wait a minute! We already know that only 70%, or 4130g, of that is going to come from grain. That leaves the remaining 30% for the honey. But wait another minute! We already know that 95% of honey is as a proportion of its mass is fermentable, in contrast to barley, which is just 60%. For the tax lawyers among us (no one, I hope), the barley has been "grossed up" to account for its relative unfermentability. In other words, the mass of grain has been increased by 2/3 from the mass of sugar you would need if it were 100% fermentable:

1770g = 5/3 x

Which gives a mass of 1062g. But again, honey is only 95% fermentable, not 100%, so we need to compensate a little by "grossing up". What mass of honey, being 95% fermentable, would give us the equivalent of 1062g of 100% fermentable sugar?

y g = 100/95 * 1062 g

Answer: we need 1117g of honey. This is close enough to two 454g jars and one of those weird 340g jars (1134g) as to make me happily overlook the excess. The astute among you will also realise that we could have done that in a single step: 1770g * 60 / 95 = 1117g – but math is fun. Am I right? I'm not right. Let's get back to beer.

The Fermentables

33.9% Belgian pale malt (2kg)
17% Special 'B' malt (1kg)
10.6% English pale malt (630g)
8.5% Wheat malt (500g)
30% Honey (1117g)

The Hops

50g Tettnanger hops

The Yeast

1 packet of Wyeast 3787 Trappist high gravity yeast

Sciencey Bits

IBUs negligible
1.080 Target OG
15 L batch

You'll be thrilled to hear we're not quite done with the math. I usually don't bother reporting the volume of water I use, but those paying attention will remember a recent failure to hit my OG as a result of using a lot of sugar in my wort and failing to adjust the water absorption figure given by The Calculator to take account of the fact that sugar doesn't absorb any water. The Calculator is telling me that I need 26.46 L for this mash and boil. This is based, however, on 3.71 L being absorbed by grain. I'm going to deduct 30% of this to account for the fact that I'm using 30% honey, which gives me the following volume of water:

26.46 L - 0.3 * 3.71 L = 25.347 L

Mash on.