Pulse Brew: Mead

RYAN CASHMAN

I need to start this month with an apology. For the second time in this series on new beers from local brewers, I’m writing about a beer you can no longer purchase. I’m sorry! But look at it from this perspective: I can’t have it again either. That is my penance, because what follows is a profile of the best beer I’ve had in a long time.

We begin in the 13th century, for that is when braggots first began appearing in the monastic hills of medieval Europe. Braggot – not to be confused with braggarts, who were as afoot in the Dark Ages as they are today in Washington D.C. – is part mead/part beer. For the unaware, mead is fermented honey and has been a popular alcoholic drink throughout history. In my nerdy head, mead conjures images of Sir John Falstaff causing drunken mischief across Shakespearean London. This is not a common thought, since Falstaff preferred sherry.

Anyway …

In modern America, mead sits in a niche market. It’s not produced in mass quantities chiefly because its main ingredient, honey, is expensive. And that is exactly the conundrum we find ourselves in with the 3Cross Balance Bike #3 – The Braggot.

Now reopened after a hiatus in which they renovated their taproom and dreamed up ideas for new beers, 3Cross Fermentation Cooperative of Worcester is brewing some of the city’s best, and most flavorful, beer. The Balance Bike Series is 3Cross’ experimentation list. Brewed specifically in small batches and tweaked until they become the beer the brewer wants it to be, you’re bound to encounter something curious, like the #1 – a cherry sour, or the #4 – a dark Belgian strong ale with a 9.2% abv. Then comes #5 – 3, sir! – #3!

3Cross’ braggot looks unassuming on first pour, though the closer you look the liquid begins to take on mild notes of crimson. This tint is due to the fact that the drink in your hand is 49% cranberry blossom honey and 51% beer. The first sip is a revelation of taste: cranberry notes combining with the light wort of the beer, and then the bite of the alcohol emerging from the sugars. It’s not a strong bite, like you’d find with an IPA. It’s mild. Everything about this beer is mild, except the flavor that comes through in the honey. The cranberry blossom emerges as the leading flavor. It’s floral, tart, crisp, and sweet without being overbearing. Balance Bike #3 is everything a honey beer should bee – pun and spelling intended.

It’s flavorful, light, and lets the honey sing, which is the whole point. It’s just a shame that beer like this is not economically feasible for a small brewing operation to make en masse. So, it’s with fleeting sadness that we bid a fond farewell to Balance Bike #3, with the hope that it makes its way into our glasses again someday.
Next month I promise I’ll write about a beer you can actually drink!