I know that seasonal beers take center stage this time of year. How could they not? They’re only available for a short amount of time and for some of us—myself included—seasonals are on your list of all-time favorites. Which is why I was hesitant to approach even the idea of mulled beer. Warm beer? In Florida?! When we’re already blessed with seasonal beer bliss?? I relish the few cold days we get during the winter months and prefer to go the traditional route with hot chocolate and whiskey-spiked toddies. Until I tried mulled beer.
A more common winter drink, mulled wine, has a storied history—references are made to the spiced beverage throughout literature, including Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol in 1842. Gluhwein is the German name for it, and glogg the Swedish. The idea of a warmed red wine is completely accepted worldwide. So why not beer? After all, warm cider is certainly common, Dickens makes a reference to mulled beer in The Old Curiosity Shop in 1941, and it’s a common winter drink in Poland, where it is called grzaniec.
The difference between mulled wine and mulled beer is the base. While mulled wine should always be made with red wine, mulled beer can be made with either lager or ale. Mulling beer takes out all the carbonation, but heightens flavor and aromas—especially when you add spices and honey to the mix. Most recipes call for a lighter beer so that you can be willy-nilly when adding your spices. With a more flavorful base, you’ll have to be a bit more scientific and add spices that complement the beer’s innate flavor profile. The style you choose is totally up to you, as are the ingredients and the amount of each you add. Like any great recipe, this one is hard to mess up. Below is a basic recipe for mulled beer.
1 bottle Beer
6 tbsp Honey
1 Cinnamon Stick (more for garnish)
1 tbsp Ginger
Orange or Lemon Slices
Pour beer into a saucepan and add spices and honey. Heat slowly but do not boil. Add additional spices to taste.
Serve in mugs with a slice of citrus or an additional cinnamon stick.
For my initial experiment with mulled beer, I tried three styles: a basic lager, Brooklyn Sorachi Ace Saison and UFO Winter Blonde. With competing tastes on an already flavorful palate, UFO Winter Blonde was more a cacophony of flavors with the additional ingredients and was not ideal for mulling. It was the same for the Brooklyn Sorachi Ace. This saison is an incredibly made beer that shines alone.
The true favorite—and the style I’d recommend for mulled beer—was the basic lager. The beer had a very simplistic palate that could easily handle additional ingredients. When warmed with the honey and spices, it gave off aromas of baked apples. The palate showed each spice in turn. Because of that, you should be careful not to add too much of one so the flavors glide easily to the next.
If you like mulled wine or are looking for a warming winter drink, you’ll like mulled beer. In a taste-test of the three different styles, the biggest hang up for most people was the knowledge that they were drinking warm, flat beer. But mulled beer is so much more than that. It’s a cozy cup of winter flavor that can be enjoyed with friends and family on a chilly evening. This recipe can be seamlessly swapped for your usual hot apple cider. If you’ve never tried it before, mull it over. It may end up on your list of favorite seasonal beers.
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