The Cranberry Lifecycle

Posted on January 6th, 2011

As we all know by now the secret to a good winter  is a beer with more robust flavors, aged notes, and plenty of ABV to keep us feeling warm. So in keeping with the winter spirit, my roommate and I decided to brew up something unique and sweet for the coming winter storm.  Straight out of the book “Extreme Brewing” by Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head fame, we attempted to brew the “Crandaddy Braggot”, which, if you can’t deduce from the title, is a braggot.

A braggot, which is pronounced, “bracket” with a Welsh accent, is a hybrid beverage whose origins lie closer to mead. The original recipe was a simple variant of traditional mead by virtue of the addition of hops to the brew. Later on, this recipe was largely changed to include malt in the mix, thus, sparing any grains in the recipe, has it sitting on the edge of being a beer and a mead at the exact same time.

The addition of cranberries to the recipe adds, aside from the delicious flavour of cranberries, additional sugars to the brew, thereby targeting a higher alcohol content. However, all this sweetness comes at a price. The addition of numerous complex sugars to the brew requires a heartier yeast in order to break them down. For this, we use champagne yeast for its ability to survive longer, as well as digest more complex sugars than traditional ale yeasts.

The brew is currently fermenting and we expect to bottle it at the end of the month. That’s roughly a four week fermentation process; nearly double that of your basic pale ale. Bottle conditioning happens over the course of two weeks and soon it will be ready for enjoyment. I’ll report back then to tell you all how it came out. In the meantime, if you’re a home brewer yourself, tell us what you’re brewing up this winter to keep you warm on Twitter or in the comments below.