Monthly Archives: December 2015

’Tis the Season for a Mug of Mulled Beer

’Tis the season, once again. Chances are you’ve warmed yourself with a cup of mulled wine at some point, especially if you’ve been to Europe around this time of year. But mulled beer?

Last year I related the story about my first sip of Glühwein (mulled wine) in the western German city of Saarbrücken. Aromas of baking spice, roasted nuts, and pine boughs drifted fragrantly in the bracing winter air, leading me to the Christkindl market in the main square and setting me down the path of annual Glühwein parties and get-togethers.IMG_5371 A few decades on, I did what might well come naturally to a catholic imbiber like myself: I heated up a bunch o’ beer and spiced it. Turns out the whole endeavour isn’t without historical precedent.

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Mulled beer, Glühbier, call it what you want: It’s definitely not a tradition of contemporary vintage in any of the beer-consuming countries I’ve visited. The rather incredulous glances I encountered from my Austrian colleagues last week merely confirmed the fact when I brewed up 25 liters of the stuff for the Wien Museum’s annual holiday season party. But warm beer has a history –– and not just as a pejorative reference to twentieth-century British beer.

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“The earliest ale and beer songs were Christmas carols,” writes W.T. Marchant in his classic work, In Praise of Ale of 1888, and the drinks that inspired these Twelfth Night, Wassail, and New Year’s festivities were not untypically served warm.IMG_0283 Even if we now associate apple cider-based drinks with those who went a wassailing, Marchant’s encomium reminds us that not all these drinks were cider-based. Writes Marchant, “In some remote place, the yule-log still blazes in the chimney of the rustic at Christmas eve. […] The wassail was regularly carried from door to door fifty years ago in Cornwall; and even now, a measure of ale, *flip, porter, and sugar, or some such beverage, is handed round while the yule-log is burning.”

*A “flip,” for those who might be wondering, is a cocktail, warm or cold, to which egg has been added.

Before giving you a recipe for mulled beer, a toast! And what better way to celebrate the season than with an excerpt from a merry toast dating back to 1642: To “All You That Are Good Fellows” (and all you good women, too):

All you that are good fellows;

     Come hearken to my song;

I know you do not hate good cheer,

     Nor liquor that is strong.

I hope there is none here

     But soon will take my part,

Seeing my master and my dame

     Say welcome in their heart.

This is a time of joyfulness,

     And merry time of year,

When as the rich with plenty stor’d

   Do make the poor good cheer.

Plum-porridge, roast beef, and minc’d pies,

     Stand smoking on the board;

With other brave varieties

     Our master doth afford.

[…]

Come fill us of the strongest,

     Small drink is out of date;

Methinks I shall fare like a prince,

     And sit in gallant state:

This is no miser’s feast,

     Although that things be dear;

God grant the founder of this feast

     Each Christmas keep good cheer.

Cited in W.T. Marchant, In Praise of Ale (London, 1888), pp. 66-67.

Glühbier (serves 8-10)

Whether you’re making mulled wine, mulled beer, or wassail, the basic process is simple: heat it all up and let it simmer for a few hours so that the flavours meld. A number of the basic ingredients are similar, too: spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg; some form of citrus juice and/or peels; sugar or some other sweetener such as honey; and a spirit like brandy or rum. However you formulate your recipe, remember these simple tips. Don’t let the mixture boil. Add sugar or honey if your concoction is too acidic or tart. Add spirits to go the other way and dry things out. Beyond that, there are no rules. Spices give you a chance to get creative. Don’t shy away from spices like juniper berries, peppercorns, or cardamom. Ginger can also give your Glühbier or Glühwien a welcome zestiness.IMG_5423

Amounts for each ingredient will depend largely on how much Glühbier, Glühwein, or wassail you want to make, and how spicy you want it. The cooking process drives off plenty of the alcohol, so don’t worry about knocking your guests out –– unless, of course, you choose to spike your warmed drinks with a fresh shot before serving. And that’s not a bad thing to do.

  • 5 bottles (500ml each) of dunkles Weizenbier or similarly non-hoppy beer with a good malt presence. (Doppelbocks, Scotch ales, and Belgian dubbels are all good candidates.) I chose a dark wheat beer for its ester profile (cloves, bananas, and a hint of vanilla) and its brown sugar malt character.
  • 3 mandarin oranges (peel and pulp)
  • ½ cup honey
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 6 cloves
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 star anise
  • ¼ nutmeg ball, grated
  • 2 shots bourbon
  • 2 shots cherry juice

Combine the beer and honey in a kettle over medium heat, then grate the ginger into the mix. Wash the outsides of the oranges, and then peel them straight into the kettle. In a separate bowl, muddle the orange wedges with a wooden spoon, and then add it all to the kettle.

Add your spices as the mixture is heating up. With cinnamon sticks, crush them lightly before adding. Break up the star anise into pieces as you’re adding them to the kettle. In the case of whole nutmeg, grate it straight into the pot. If you’re pressed for time, you can also use ground spices.

Add 1 shot of the bourbon at the beginning of the simmer. Taste now, keeping in mind that cooking will drive off the harsher alcohol. Add the last shot near the end. (Be careful with hard liquor around an open flame, lest you end up with a more fiery version of your Glühbier than you bargained for.)

Give it all a good stir, and then bring the mix to just below boiling point before reducing the heat and simmering the mixture for a few hours. After about an hour-and-a-half, taste the mixture. If it’s too sweet, add more bourbon. If it’s not sweet enough, add more honey. Adjust any other spices. When it tastes fine to you, strain it before your guests arrive and keep it simmering over low heat on your stovetop.

And Bob’s your uncle. Now your home will smell like the market squares in Central European cities at this time of year!

Glühwein, not Glühbier. But the spices are similar.

Glühwein, not Glühbier. But the spices are similar.

Happy Holidays!

Related Tempest Articles

For those interested in mulled wine as well, check out the holiday article I wrote last year entitled Spreading Good Cheer with a Tankard of Mulled Beer.

When Once They Drank Beer Warm: Cocktails and Concoctions from Olde Albion

The Fonduementals of Beer and Cider: Recipes to Warm Your Weekend

Winter Nights and Warming Barleywines from Sussex, Texas, and Québec

All images by F.D. Hofer.

© 2015 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

Craft Beer Gift Ideas for the Last-Minute Holiday Shopper

With the popularity of craft beer at an all-time high this holiday season, it’s no surprise that all manner of purveyors have stepped up to offer you an array of beer-related wares. Need yet another item to add to your wish list? Still wondering what to buy for the craft beer imbiber in your life? Tempest’s annual holiday wish list has you covered with more holiday gift ideas than you can shake a tankard at. No beer-scented soap, though. (Just the thing you need when you wake up with a holiday hangover: a shower with beer-scented soap.)Drinktanks-Beer-Growler-with-Keg-Cap-TealGrowler Keg!

In case you missed out on one of DrinkTank’s sleek stainless steel growlers last year, fear not! You’ll have a chance to drop an even bigger chunk of change this year on this tappable 64-oz. growler that combines durability with rugged good looks. Sixty-four ounces not enough? DrinkTank also makes the 128-oz Juggernaut –– the “world’s largest growler and personal keg.” That’s a whole gallon, folks. Great for road trips, and perfect for the homebrewer who wants to pull some beer off his or her kegging system to bring to friends in far-flung places.

Beer ’n Bikes at Beerloved

How about a leather growler carrier for that fixie-riding hipster friend in your life? For those of your cycling friends who don’t ride fixies but still want to look hip, have ’em try a Beers and Gears T-shirt on for size.Beerloved - LeatherGrowlerCarrier Advantage: none of the thousands of North American breweries will feel left out because you didn’t get your special someone a tee from their brewery.

Something a Little Different from Beer Is OK

If each craft beer is a snowflake, so, too, are Brian Welzbacher’s inimitable designs for barware and accessories. Get your hands on his ever-popular jagged steel bottle opener forged in the shape of Oklahoma (which just so happens to lend itself perfectly to bottle openers), or opt for something a little less intimidating like a set of laser-engraved maple wood earrings in the shape of hops. Brian’s wares range from fire-side enamel mugs to wall hangings made from reclaimed wood.BeerIsOK - HopEarRings Check out his Etsy site for gift possibilities that might tickle your fancy and support one of the growing number of folks working to promote craft beer in Oklahoma.

Useful Accessories in One Gift Box

Craft Beer Hound carries many of the usual suspects you’ll see on other beer-related sites, such as insulated growlers, totes, beer candles and soap, and the like. They also cater to those with a fetish for collecting, stocking everything from “cap collector boxes” to coasters. If coasters and bottle caps aren’t quite your thing, Craft Beer Hound assembles reasonably priced gift boxes that include everything from glassware and bottle openers, to fridge magnets (Good to the Last Hop) and totes, to T-shirts and the ubiquitous beer soap.

Literature on Tap

Daniel Okrent. Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition (2011). Last Call is a page turner that touches upon an array of topics in American cultural and political history at the same time that it resists romanticizing the gangland violence of the era.Last Call (Amazon) In tracing the intricacies of how the demand for prohibition and the struggle for repeal brought together some unlikely constituencies, Okrent rescues one colourful figure after another from obscurity. With sustained force, he drives home the utter failure of Prohibition to stem the tide of alcohol flowing into and through the United States of the twenties and thirties. Ideal for any seasoned imbiber who wants to know more about what happened to his or her wine, beer, and spirits during the dark days of Prohibition.

Jeff Sparrow. Wild Brews: Beer Beyond the Influence of Brewer’s Yeast. Foreword by Peter Bouckaert (2005). Brett beers, wild-fermented beers, mixed fermentation: sour and funky beers are all the rage now, but if you’re a homebrewer, how do you brew these notoriously temperamental ales? Peter Bouckaert of New Belgium and Rodenbach fame sets the stage for a panoramic view of the lambics, gueuzes, faros, oud bruins, and Flanders reds of Belgium. Skip the chapter on history and book a ticket, instead, on Sparrow’s journey through the contemporary landscape of Belgian beer. After you’ve got your bearings, Sparrow explains which yeast and bacteria strains produce which kinds of acids and esters at each stage of fermentation. He then covers techniques such as the turbid mash favoured by lambic producers, and introduces topics such as barrel-aging and blending. Perfect for the homebrewers on your list who want to plunge into the deep end.Beerloved - 33BottlesBeer

Stocking Stuffers

The 33 Bottles of Beer Tasting Journal from Beerloved makes the perfect stocking stuffer for the budding beer judge, brewer, or beer sommelier in your life. It’s made with recycled materials and soy-based inks, so you get some environmental karma out of the act of gift-giving as well. The notebook even has a flavour wheel to help you key in on a beer’s profile. You can’t go wrong for a mere fiver.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

More Tempest Gift Ideas and Seasonal Posts

Holiday Gift Ideas for the Craft Beer Enthusiast

Gift Ideas for the Craft Beer-Drinking Bookworm

Accoutrements and Provisions for the Classy Imbiber

Spreading Good Cheer with a Tankard of Mulled Beer

The Fonduementals of Beer and Cider: Recipes to Warm Your Weekend

Dining Down the Holiday Stretch: Choucroute à la GueuzeDrinkTanks-Beer-Growler-128-Gloss-GreenImages

All images from the respective sites of merchants mentioned in this post.

© 2015 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

Tempest at Two Years: Raising My Tankard to You

The Chistkindl markets tucked into Vienna’s squares large and small foretell snowflakes and frosty windowpanes. The fragrance of the town has become decidedly seasonal. Cinnamon and clove announcing mulled wine (Glühwein) mingle with the sweet brown sugar aromas of roasted and spiced almonds (gebrannte Mandeln) and the smoky-woodsy notes of roasted chestnuts (heisse Maroni).IMG_5260 The leaves on the trees have long since flown south, and the seasoned imbibers have left the beer garden for the warmth and Gemütlichkeit of the pub or Beisl, some of them warming themselves up with that granddaddy of malty seasonal beers, the Doppelbock.

Doppelbock. What better way to toast two enjoyable years writing A Tempest in a Tankard? A recent trip to Bamberg turned up an entirely appropriate candidate – and it’s not the smoked Eiche Doppelbock from Aecht Schlenkerla, though that would be a perfect beer for the occasion.IMG_5171 No, this one from Hertl Braumanufaktur in the Franconian region of Bavaria is a little something else: a Doppelbock brewed with peated malt and aged in whisky barrels. Innovation meets tradition.

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If you’re one to pay attention to these things, you’ll have noticed that my posting rate has tapered off in the past half year or so. As some Tempest readers know, I took a two-year position at the Wien Museum in Vienna (come and visit!) as an ACLS Public Humanities fellow. Needless to say, the whole process of getting myself here has translated into less time at the keyboard. And then there’s the sheer fact of being in Vienna –– never a dull moment with all those museums, the Vienna Woods nearby, and plenty of opportunity for food and drink in the city’s Beisl and Heuriger.IMG_4209 But I have neither laid down my pen nor hung up my tankard, and will continue to traverse Vienna, Europe, and beyond to bring you a unique perspective on beer and culture.

Before I go any further, allow me to raise my glass to all you readers old and new who have kept up with my posts and articles over the past few years.

A tip o’ the ole tankard to ya!

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I’m extremely grateful to you, my readership for making this all worthwhile. But it’s always nice to have a few more readers. So help spread the word about Tempest by encouraging your craft beer-drinking friends to subscribe to the blog for email updates as I post new material. (See the side-bar to the right.) And don’t forget to tell them to like Tempest on Facebook or follow Tempest on Twitter (@TempestTankard). I’ve also been known to post the occasional beer-related photo to Instagram (@tempesttankard), and have recently set up a Pinterest account. Follow along!

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In Case You Missed Them: Highlights from the Past Year

In the Cool Shade of the Beer Garden — In this, one of my favourite articles, I trace the historical roots of all those chestnut trees shading beer gardens in Germanic lands. Cited in The Atlantic to boot.IMG_4483

The MaltHead Manifesto — Malt heads of the world, unite!

Returning for Another Sip of Terroir — The crux: How can a well-crafted “Munich Helles” from Austin and a helles Bier from München express “unique” terroirs when they can taste virtually the same in the hands of skilled brewers in different countries?

New York’s Finger Lakes Region: A Backroad Craft Beer Tour — Long a travel destination for connoisseurs of fine wine, hop farms and fields of barley now sway in the lakeshore breeze alongside row upon row of grapes. (Incidentally, this was Tempest’s most-viewed article of the past year.)

Craft Beer at Time’s Precipice: Cellaring Tips — About a year and a half back, I wrote a short article with some thoughts on aging Belgian sour beers. I followed it up recently with some more systematic thoughts on what styles of beers to age, how to age them, and what to expect a few years down the road.

Spreading Good Cheer with a Tankard of Mulled Beer — You’ve probably heard of mulled wine, but how about mulled beer? Glühbier: the next big thing. ’Tis the season!IMG_5356

Down the Rabbit Hole: Doppelbock-Braised Rabbit — Like duck and venison, rabbit traditionally evokes the autumn hunt and harvest, but this subtly smoky rabbit suits just about any season from early fall to late spring.

Tasting Against the Craft Beer Grain — What do we taste when we drink a glass of beer or wine? Are we imbibing the liquid itself? Or is there more to it? Are we consuming an aura? Hype? Marketing? A contribution to my occasional series on the critique of canons of taste.

Serving Up a New Tradition at the Finger Lakes Cider House — Cider’s in. And places like the Finger Lakes Cider House are perfect for sampling a broad range of styles from a number of producers. Great locally produced food, too.

Striking Craft Beer Gold at Boulder Breweries (The Front Range Series) — Park lands and cycling trails, winter sports, a college town vibe, the Flatirons, three hundred days of sunshine a year, and, of course, world-class craft beer. What’s not to like about Boulder, Colorado? Read the whole series before you visit the Northern Front Range.

About a year ago I inaugurated the first of my “Saturday 6-Pack” series. I’m now six six-packs in. More to come. A sampling:

  • Brown Beers Get No Luvin’––A whole six-pack of them. You’ll be happy you gave these overlooked beers a shot.
  • Let Us Now Praise Famous Lagers––The original inspiration for this piece was a January 2015 article on Boston Beer Co.’s founder, Jim Koch (of Sam Adams fame).
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Saisons––Saisons with elderberry flowers, bold and tropically inflected saisons, and surprisingly drinkable saisons with parsley, rosemary, and thyme. And Saison DuPont. Mais bien sûr!

I also updated Tempest’s annotated index in case you have a snowy Sunday afternoon and want to read any of the nearly one-hundred articles I’ve posted to date.IMG_5265

And now for that Hertl Doppelbock. (Click here for tasting notes.)

Prost!

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All images by F.D. Hofer.

© 2015 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

Of Whisky Casks and Doppelbocks: The New Wave of German Brewing

It was only a matter of time until a new generation of German brewers started heeding the siren call of hops, spice, and everything nice, even as they continue to craft their beers within the relative confines of the 500-year-old Reinheitsgebot (Beer Purity Laws).

David Hertl is one such representative of this new wave of brewers leavening tradition with innovation. The resident beer sommelier at Bamberg’s main craft beer emporium, Hertl also happens to be a young brewer who hails from a family of Franconian winemakers.IMG_5084Setting the stage: Bamberg is hilly medieval city in Franconia, famous as much for its Altes Rathaus straddling the River Regnitz as it is for its smoky Rauchbier. Franconia is part of Bavaria, and Bavarian beer is synonymous with the Reinheitsgebot.Reinheitsgebot - Briefmark (Wiki-de)

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As I made my way back to my hotel after a satisfying evening of Bamberg-style imbibing at Mahr’s, Aecht Schlenkerla, and Fässla, something caught my eye: a tastefully decorated storefront in a stone building with rounded arches. Bierothek.

Bierothek is where I made David Hertl’s acquaintance the following day after a long hike toward a mirage-like castle that kept receding beyond the southern horizon. Hertl was about to close up shop for the night, but let me in to browse Bierothek’s 300-strong selection in search of beers to bring back to Vienna.IMG_5047

We got to talking about the Reinheitsgebot, and the difficulties inherent in translating not so much the word “craft beer” into German as introducing it as a concept to German beer drinkers. Consolidation may well have left its mark on the German brewing industry in recent decades, but much of what Germans drink still fits the Brewers’ Association’s definition of craft beer, disputed and relatively elastic as this term may: “small, independent, traditional.”

When concepts take flight, though, the act of translation is never merely a one-to-one exchange, but rather an exercise in interpretation. As Hertl points out, for many German beer drinkers, “craft beer” has become virtually synonymous with American-style pale ales, IPAs, and imperial stouts. Hertl faces the occasional challenge in convincing German consumers that German beer actually is craft beer avant la lettre –– and that the novel tidal wave of American beer, exciting as it may be, isn’t necessarily better, just different from typically streamlined German beers.

This tension between tradition and innovation is one that I find fascinating, especially as it is currently playing itself out in Germany. Hertl and I return to the topic of the Reinheitsgebot in relation to a North American approach more influenced by Belgium than by Germany, and talk at length about the discipline imposed by German tradition.Hertl Braumanufaktur - David Hertl (Facebook) At this point in the conversation, Hertl waxes poetic about the sublimity of a well-crafted helles lager. Lover of lagers that I am, I cannot help but agree, even if I’m no stranger to homebrewing and drinking well beyond the Reinheitsgebot.

As I’m topping up my basket of beer, I notice a foil-wrapped stoneware bottle of Doppelbock aged six months in Islay whisky barrels. And a fortuitous coincidence at that. Up to that point, I hadn’t yet asked Hertl his name, but when I picked up the bottle, he proudly proclaimed that he had brewed it.

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The details: Hertl Braumanufaktur, *Torfig Rauchiger Whiskydoppelbock (Aged 6 months in Scottish Islay whisky casks). 11.3%. 9.60 Euros (~$11 USD). *Torfig means peated.

The first thing that strikes me about this beer is that it isn’t quite what I was expecting of a Doppelbock. Suffice it to say, this is a beer that defies stylistic preconceptions, starting from the moment you pour it into the glass. “Hazy orange-amber hued and the colour of light caramel” isn’t exactly the classic description of a Doppelbock. But that’s fine. We’re talking innovation meets tradition here.

And one more thing: It’s a beer to which you’ll want to give some breathing space, not only because it chocks up a hefty 11.3% ABV. This is a unique Doppelbock that expresses different moods over the time it takes to enjoy it.

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Curtain call. A heady mix of fruit and caramel hints at things to come. Classic Doppelbock-like melanoidin notes brood like Fafner in the depths of his cave. The fruit is berry-like, expressing itself in brightly acidic flavours that blend tart cherries and cranberries.

Not to be outdone, stone fruit contributes a brightness to the aroma and palate as well. Like a Wagnerian motif, this hint of peach sour carries through to the end. A bit of a social butterfly, the peach sour note pairs, by turns, with suggestions of orange zest-spiked shortbread and the occasional trill of yellow plum. Later, the stone fruit strikes up a harmony with a kaleidoscope of darker-toned notes reminiscent of Oloroso sherry before shifting key into a perfumed almond-like character more reminiscent of Amaretto. Hops even make a cameo appearance in this opera of aromas and flavours, giving voice to the kind of spicy mandarin orange peel fragrance that blends citrus and fir needles.

As for the peat? It’s the viola of the orchestra –– rather surprising, considering the beer is brewed with peated malt and then rested in whisky barrels.

What makes the beer unique, though, is the slightly tart-acidic contribution of the Islay whisky casks. This is both a blessing and a slight distraction. On the one hand, the Scotch weaving its melodies in the background contributes the stone fruit complexity and honeyed nuttiness that separates this Doppelbock from its peers. On the other, this diamond-like acidic note cuts through the richness of the Doppelbock’s maltiness a little too zealously, leaving the autumn honey and fruit cake malt duo cowering in the corner. That said, this zingy-tart Doppelbock is nothing if not fruity, and this saves the beer. Fir needle-scented brown sugar and candied orange peel appear as the curtain falls on the performance, leaving behind dried apricot in the tart-dry and fruity finish.

All in all, like many a whisky barrel-aged beer I’ve had of late that isn’t of the bourbon barrel-aged variety, I find myself craving a bit more body and residual sweetness to counter the fruity tartness. A barrel thing that underscores the nature of different spirits? I don’t have enough homebrewing experience to say one way or the other, aside from what I’ve read about the subject. But here’s a closing thought. Perhaps Hertl could propel future iterations of this beer from the terrestrial realm of “unique and compelling experiment” into an other-worldly Valhalla by blending a barrel-aged batch of his Doppelbock with a fresh batch of Doppelbock. I’m not sure if this is entirely in keeping with the spirit of the Reinheitsgebot, but the practice seems to help the folks in Flanders introduce a bit more body and sweetness back into their Oud Bruins and Flemish reds.

These are fairly minor concerns. As a man of many zymurgical talents and a mere twenty-five years young, Hertl’s brewing future looks bright.IMG_5091

Related Tempest Articles

Let Us Now Praise Famous Lagers: Your Saturday Six-Pack (Vol.3)

Every Day Is Craft Lager Day at Kansas City Bier Company

Celebrating Craft Lager Day with a Landbier from Kapsreiter

Bourbon in Michigan: Barrel-Aged Beer along the Great Lakes

A Trio of Barrel-Aged Imperial Stouts: Prairie’s Pirate Bomb, Goose Island’s Bourbon County, Victory’s Dark Intrigue

Not Your Average Wheat Beer: Schneider’s Porter Weisse

Images

David Hertl raising a glass (Hertl Braumanufaktur Facebook page)

All other images by F.D. Hofer

© 2015 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.