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There are hundreds of different beers out in the world, as well a variety of beer styles to sample. You may have tried dozens of IPAs, pale ales, and maybe even more modern experiments like glittery beer. But have you heard of honey beer? A kind of specialty beer, more and more honeyed brews are popping up on store shelves throughout the beer-drinking universe. If you have never tried honey beer before and are curious to give it a go, then you are in the right spot.
What is Honey Beer?
When you first read “honey,” you may have thought that honey beer is a kind of mead. Well, the answer is yes and no. It is technically a specialty beer—either a lager or ale—that is brewed with a percentage of honey. You may even call it a kind of “braggot,” or beer mixed with mead.
However, braggot is not entirely true either. A honey beer is not a mixture of mead and beer, not if the honey is used only as an adjunct. It’s just beer with honey in it. Due to this, honey beers can be as unique in both ABV and IBUs as many other forms of beer. It depends on the kind of honey, as well as the amount.
In short, a honey beer may be a braggot, but a braggot is not always a honey beer!
Curious about the ingredients? Generally, this drink is made with the regular staples: some kind of grain (rye, wheat, barley, or corn), water, yeast, and hops. The honey is considered a part of the grain bill by some or as an adjunct among others.
Honey beer has no industry standard or classification. You can be as creative with it as you want.
There are many forms of honey available, as well. In the US, over 300 types of honey are available, but only 10 should be considered for beer. When shopping for honey to add to your brew, consider its source. Is it filtered? Unfiltered? Raw? A good rule of thumb to apply is that the darker the honey, the more flavorful and aromatic it is going to be. You can then also use less honey when brewing your beer, which can help limit the amount of sweetness that develops.
How Is Honey Beer Made?
There are a couple of ways to make this drink. You could add honey during the boiling stage, prior to fermentation, or even as a substitute for priming sugar when bottling your beer. The process you choose will alter the end result.
As such, you need to truly consider when you will be adding the honey.
For example, if you use the honey right when the wort begins to boil, you will find that most of the actual honey is gone by the time you pour the wort into the fermentor. The sugars will be left behind, but you will receive zero of the flavors and aromas of the honey. In other words, your beer will be boozy (because all that sugar means more alcohol), but you will not end up with honey beer.
If you instead opt to add some honey during the last few minutes of boiling or prior to fermentation, your beer will come out different. Not only will you get a good amount of sweetness from the sugar, you will also have a smoother texture and richer flavors. That said, the final characteristics are also dependent on the kind of beer you are making and which hop profile you selected.
This video teaches you how to make a Honey IPA:
Take a Dive into the Hive With These 5 Amazing Honey Beers
Give the bees a hand—they have created a substance that makes any kind of beer taste amazing. Here are our top 5 picks for honey beer:
1. Bhramari Brewery Flowable State of Being
You should expect no less from the innovative Bhramari Brewery from North Carolina. This 8.4% ABV Hazy DIPA is bitter yet sweet in all the right ways. Flavored with punchy hops like Ella, Comet, and Strata then aged in an American Oak barrel, this beer will make your lips pucker and your tongue dance. Your taste buds will delight in the meadowfoam honey, which is made by bees who have gathered pollen from meadowfoam flowers. The taste is reminiscent of toasted marshmallows.
The end result? A suspiciously spicy brew that is too smooth to be true.
2. 3 Floyds Brewing Skoll Imperial Porter
This beer has a fun backstory: it was inspired by “Skoll and Hati,” a song by Mighty Amon Amarth. With an IBU of 41 and 8.5% ABV, this is one beer that is sure to make your head bob. Brewed with honey then aged with chipotle and guajillo peppers, there is a touch of fire amid sweetness. Not going to lie, this beer might scare you initially, but it is the kind of surprise that sends most people over the moon. As you may expect, the finish is smoky and deep.
Even if porters aren’t your thing, you should give this one a try—for the experience.
3. New Belgium Honey Orange Tripel
Since Belgian tripels are already honey-colored, it seems to make sense that this one is brewed with honey. It has a smooth IBU of 25 and is 10% ABV. Made from superior ingredients, New Belgium’s Honey Orange Tripel feels a little decadent. The wild honey that flavors this delicious beer comes from the African Bronze Honey Company. Fresh orange peels are ground up then added into the beer for flavoring. There is also the tang of Nugget and Styrian Savinjski Goldings hops. Make sure to savor the flavors. You may even catch a hint of banana in there.
4. Indeed Brewing Mexican Honey Imperial Lager
The Mexican Honey Imperial Lager from Indeed Brewing is bound to have you dreaming of beaches and summer breezes. It’s a true treat for the tongue. Brewed with Amarillo hops and Mexican orange blossom honey, this beer is incredibly smooth. Golden orange when poured and satisfying carbonated, you are going to want to sip this thick-bodied brew, as the alcohol will sneak up on you! Indeed Brewing did such an incredible job with this beer that it has won awards, so get it while you can, as it is a limited release.
5. Jackie O’s Chomolungma Brown Ale
As a testament to the fact that honey beer can be almost anything, here we have a honey nut brown ale that tastes a bit like a wholesome (but boozy) Saturday breakfast. Available year-round or on top at Jackie O’s and other local Ohio pubs, this is a definite winner when it comes to honey beer. You go on an adventure consisting of seven malts, three kinds of hops, and a luscious honey that lends flavors like chocolate and muffins to this beer. Interestingly, coming in at 6.5% ABV, it is the least alcoholic of all the honey beers on this list.
Fun fact: Chomolungma is the Tibetan name for Mt. Everest. This beer seems aptly named, as it was a great undertaking to create.
Experiment With Honey Beer
Whether you have opted to try incorporating honey into your homebrew recipes or were simply curious what all the buzz (pun intended) was about, honey beer is here to stay. It is not a new concept; it is (sometimes) a braggot. Savor the bitterness of the hops and how they intermingle with the sweet floral notes of honey. Be sure to try our favorite honey beer picks. You are sure to find one you are going to want to brag about.
It is a kind of beer that is brewed with honey as an additional ingredient. No, that does not mean that honey beer is mead. Honey beer still uses water, yeast, hops, and malt to make the beer, but the honey is added for some sweetness.
A honey beer is often known as a braggot, which is a blend between mead and beer. In other words, honey beer is not exactly mead nor beer. But there are instances where it is also just beer flavored with honey.
Yes, honey beer is a thing. Look for bottles labeled either “braggot” or “honey beer,” depending on the ingredients and brewing method.
Yes, you can make beer with honey. Be sure to use raw, unfiltered honey, and add it in right before fermentation.