By Andy Phelps
Sometimes I come across a beer that seems really interesting to write about, but it's too high in alcohol to really take care of all by my lonesome. Usually these end up being split amongst friends and mention of them doesn't make it into Original Gravity; today, we'll be doing things differently, however! Enter Rogue Farms' Marionberry Braggot, which I will be splitting with my lovely girlfriend, who has graciously offered to help me review this beer! This is my first collaborative review for OG and I'm pretty excited for it, especially because the beer in question is sure to be unique. What's a braggot, though, you may ask? Well, it's really more of a cocktail than a "beer style." Braggots are an old European concoction made from mead, ale and spices. In fact, there is controversy over whether braggots are really "beer" -- they appear under the Beer Judge Certification Program's "mead" category for entry into competitions and the ratios of barley malt to honey can vary wildly. I'm not sure about this one, but I do know that Rogue makes their own mead from honey grown on their Northwestern US farms as well, so this should be a complex blend of styles, whether it's truly "beer" or not!
After pouring this dark reddish-brown colored beer into two separate glasses (it's 11.42 percent, I was definitely not soloing this bad boy!), we're greeted by a tannish head that rests nicely on top, eventually dissipating to a finger of foam over the next few minutes. This is certainly unfiltered, with a ruddy complexion and very little transparency, but there's just enough space for light to get through to show off slight tinges of the deep crimson color from the use of farm-grown marionberries. On the nose, we get a jammy, mixed berry scent, like blackberries and raspberries in concert, but below that there are sniffs of graham cracker pie crust, estery rubbing alcohol and faintly earthy tones.
I haven't had too many other braggots, mainly because not many exist... Brother Adam's Bragget from Bar Harbor/Atlantic Brewing in Maine is the only other I can really recall, and that is a similarly great example of how honey can fortify and bring out a lot of complexities in a beer; their example is pretty much a run-of-the-mill Belgian ale recipe but with 2,000 pounds of honey in the boil, making the beer stronger, fruitier and drier with barleywine-like intensity and complexity. I feel like this example would be great cellared for a year or two, but, fresh, the berry aspects come out of the gate quite strong and we both found it to be satisfying and tasty! Cheers!
The official breakdown:
- Style: Braggot (honey ale)
- ABV: 11.42%
- Appearance: Dark brownish red with a lot of haze and a tight, compact tan head that dissipates quite a bit over time; the low clarity obscures some color
- Scent: Bright berry with a lot of pie crust/graham cracker-like malt and estery sweetness/alcohol presence immediately in the nose; honey and earthy notes
- Taste: Sweet and complex berry presence; raspberry and blackberry jam, sweet and airy malt with a slight herbal/savory quality and a lot of honey sticking around
- Mouthfeel: Pretty slick and chewy with a dry and complex finish; carbonation is initially a bit pushy but calms down quickly; neatly put together
- Drinkability: This one sneaks up on you, which is why I split it with someone; that said, it's very easy to drink for its strength and has lots of great flavor!