The Philadelphia Daily News ran an article yesterday about a common winter problem: cold beer isn’t always the best drink after you’ve just shoveled the driveway. The solution? Warm beer. Apparently this was common back-when, though I think it’s worth pointing out that warm beer wasn’t a solvable problem — there was no electricity, and there were no refrigerators. Winter was probably the only time when you could actually enjoy a cold beer.
Anyone who has tried to untie frozen boot laces while his or her face is dripping with sweat will recognize the conundrum. Grab an ice cold pilsner, and you might be visiting the E.R. for frostbite. Suck down a heavy-duty barley wine, and they’ll be treating you for heatstroke.
For centuries, the solution was hot beer.
In the cold months, taverns commonly served warmed tankards. At home, a kettle of beer with mulling spices was always steaming. When the wind gusted and the firewood was scarce, at least you could warm up with a potent cup of heated ale.
“Not only did they prefer their beer hot,” writes beer historian Gregg Smith, “they were convinced it was good for them.”
I know a lot about beer and different types of beer, but I’ve never even heard of mulled beer. Mulled wine, yes; beer, no. The article mentions a Belgian, Liefmans Glühkriek, which is actually meant to be served hot.
After digging around a little more, it turns out this isn’t as crazy as I thought it was. The Japanese are already into it, though, in fairness, they’re into all sorts of weird food and drink that I wouldn’t touch. I found this recipe for mulled beer, which calls for a “decent-quality beer” and an egg, which has me questioning it from the start.
It’s gotten a little colder on the east coast, and spring is on it’s way, so I’ll try it on a couple of bottles and report back…probably without using an egg.
- 12-16 oz decent-quality beer (the contents of your average bottle or can of beer)
- 1 chicken egg, separated
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 pinch ground ginger, or 1 slice (sometimes called “coins”) of ginger 1/4″ long
- 1 pinch ground nutmeg
- 1-2 pinch(es) cinnamon, or 1″ section of a cinnamon stick
- 1 pinch ground cloves or 2-5 whole cloves
- 1 tablespoon honey
Thermometer photo from Veganbaking.net under a Creative Commons license. As a thank you, I’ll leave out the egg.