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Braggot Brewing brings an ancient beverage back to life in North Vancouver

The newest addition to North Van's brewery district offers braggot, an alcoholic beverage falling somewhere between beer and mead.

The latest addition to North Vancouver’s Brewery District is offering something new, which is also something very old, to the exploding Lower Lonsdale craft beer scene.

Braggot Brewing opened last month, and they specialize in an ancient alcoholic beverage that shares the name of the brewery. Brewery owner and driving force Enrico Bovero explains that braggot, also known as bracket or bragwad, is one of the oldest known forms of alcoholic beverage, made by fermenting honey and grains together.

The resulting brew is somewhere between mead and beer, a naturally carbonated drink with fine bubbles, thick foam, and a colour that can vary greatly depending on the type of honey and malt used. Braggot Brewing currently produces three varieties: golden, amber, and dark. The gold is made with light honey and malts, the dark with dark honey and malts, and the amber landing somewhere in between.

Bovero is a chemist by trade, so he knows a thing or two about perfecting a process, but he has deep roots in agriculture and brewing going back to his upbringing in Northern Italy. His family has been making wine for generations, he said, and he is equally passionate about his beverage of choice.

“This is a very ancient beverage,” he said. “It’s actually much older than both beer and mead. It dates back to a time when there were not enough grains to make pure beer, and not enough honey to make pure mead. And so people were mixing from multiple sources, and the obvious result was this drink called braggot. That's where the word brewing comes from.”

The alcohol percentage for Braggot’s three offerings ranges from 5.0 to 6.8, and the flavours matches the variety. The dark brings to mind a stout beer, featuring similar malts, while the golden and amber varieties offer lighter tastes still packed with interesting flavours.

The tastes are very much tied to the land due to the use of honey, harvested from Bovero’s own bee hives kept in Delta.

“Some people say that in wine you can taste the flavours of the land, because it's affected by the plants that are around,” he said. “This is even more true for something like braggot, because it's not just affected by the presence of plants – those plants are in the braggot, because the bees obviously go and collect nectar from clover, from dandelion, from cherries, and then those pollens and those nectars, the substances of those plants, end up in the honey, which we maintain unfiltered and unpasteurized in our braggot. Our braggot really has a flavour profile that is unique to the land, unique to this specific location.”

The bees that provide the honey for the braggot hold a special place in Bovero’s heart.

“The bees put in a lot of effort,” he said. “We want to do justice to the product, the honey, that comes naturally into the drink. We don’t want to have too many fancy recipes, we want to keep it pure with the taste of the honey and the taste of the malt.”

Bovero is equally passionate about running an environmentally friendly business. His spent grains, for instance, are sent to a farm in Langley where they are used as cow feed.

“One person’s trash is another person’s resource,” he said, adding that everything they do is geared towards keeping their products natural and minimizing their carbon footprint. “I’m a chemist, so I know how dangerous chemicals can be. I want to stay away from any dangerous chemicals and just utilize everything as natural as possible.”

The result of that effort is a truly unique business and beverage, a new addition to a neighbourhood that already boasts more than half a dozen craft breweries, a distillery, a winery and a cidery. And while Braggot Brewing is new to the neighbourhood, the beverage on tap, poured right out of the tanks, is older than anything else you’ll find in the Brewery District.

“We’ve lost the memory of what beer once was,” says Bovero, adding that he wants to reclaim those pure, ancient flavours. “We try to make it as authentic as possible.”

Braggot Brewing, which offers braggot and snacks in its tasting room and patio, is located at 370 Esplanade East in North Vancouver.