Tag Archives: Glühwein

’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.

***

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.

***

“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.

Spreading Good Cheer with a Tankard of Mulled Beer

Anyone who lives in or has been to Central Europe at this time of year has likely warmed him- or herself with a mug of spicy mulled wine (Glühwein). I remember well my first encounter with this aromatic winter elixir. The gray sky hung low over Saarbrücken, and an icy drizzle coated the paving stones leading to the Sankt Johanner Markt in the center of town. But something was different about this day.100-2705_IMG Aromas of baking spice and roasted nuts mingled with grilled bratwurst and pine boughs. I rounded the corner and was greeted by a cheerful panorama that seemed to defy the dark afternoon: my first Christkindlmarkt. The square had transformed itself into a collection of open-air stalls decked out for the season, many selling Christmas ornaments, nutcrackers and other handmade wooden toys, some selling Lebkuchen and candied almonds, and others selling beer and Glühwein to wash down the Fleischkäse, sausages, and other delectables. It is a winter scene that plays itself out all over Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and parts of Alsace and the South Tyrol.

Since that day in Saarbrücken in the early nineties, Glühwein has become an annual holiday tradition wherever I happen to call home. And since I’ve never been known to leave a perfectly good recipe be, I’ve cooked up several variations over the years. Why not a tankard of mulled beer in place of Glühwein?LiefmansGluhkriek (www-bier-deluxe-com) After all, every now and then you’ll find a Christmas market stall selling Glühbier. And the Belgians, too, are no strangers to warm beer, having once enjoyed a popular holiday concoction of old lambic, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and beaten eggs. Recently, producers such as Liefman’s have revived the tradition with Glühkriek meant to be served warm.

Before giving you my recipe for Glühbier, I’ll start with the process for making Glühwein. Whether you’re making Glühwein, mulled beer, or wassail, the basic ingredients are simple: red wine, beer, or cider; some form of citrus juice; sugar (or some other sweetener such as honey); spices; and brandy. Amounts for each ingredient will depend largely on how much Glühwein or Glühbier you want to make, and how spicy you want it. The cooking process drives off plenty of the alcohol (along with about ten percent of the volume), so don’t worry about knocking your guests out.

* * *

*Red wine. Four bottles of wine (3 liters) should keep about ten of your friends happy. The same rule of thumb that applies to cooking wine also holds true for Glühwein: You don’t need to waste your fine bottles of wine on something to which you’ll be adding plenty of sugar, spice, and other things nice, but nor do you want to use a wine that you wouldn’t also want to drink while you’re making the Glühwein.100-2679_IMG A good Syrah or Grenache should do the trick. For now, just keep the wine aside until you’ve made your tea mix.

*Tea. For your Glühwein, you want something like Earl Grey, or a subtle herbal tea. For four bottles of wine, I make about two cups (500mL) of tea with about five teabags. Once you’ve made your tea, pour it into the large pot you’ll use to cook the Glühwein and bring it to a simmer. You’ll add all the ingredients to the tea, starting with the sugar, followed by the oranges, spices and, finally, the wine.

*Sugar. You’ll need more than you think you need. I add sugar by the handful. Start by dissolving it in the tea, and then add to the wine over the course of cooking. Figure on using a half cup or more.

*Oranges. Mandarin oranges work best. Wash the outsides, 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. I use at least six oranges in a pot of Glühwein.

*Ginger. Optional. I’ve used it once or twice, and it adds a nice zing. Peel and grate straight into the kettle.

*Spices. Here’s where you get to play around a bit and put your own stamp on your mulled wine. The key is to make sure that you start with whole spices. Cloves and cinnamon are de rigueur, but you can add nutmeg, allspice berries, peppercorns, star anise, even juniper berries or green cardamom. Remember that a little goes a long way when it comes to cloves. With cinnamon sticks, crush them lightly before adding. In the case of whole nutmeg, grate it straight into the pot. If you’re pressed for time, you can also use ground spices.IMG_2070 Three cinnamon sticks, about eight cloves, and about a third of a whole nutmeg (or two to three good pinches of powder) makes a good starting point.

Now you can add the wine! Stir it all in, and then bring the mix to just below boiling point before reducing the heat and simmering the mixture for an hour or more.

*Brandy. You can use any kind brandy, or Kirsch if you have it. Add the brandy at the beginning of the simmer, just a splash at a time. Taste now, keeping in mind that cooking will drive off the harsher alcohol. By the time all is said and done, I will have added about one to two ounces of brandy. (Be careful with hard liquor around an open flame, or you may end up with a more fiery version of Glühwein than you bargained for.)

After an hour, taste the mixture. If it’s too sweet, add more brandy. If it’s not sweet enough, add more sugar. Adjust any other seasonings. If you needed to adjust it, let it all simmer for another twenty to thirty minutes. If it tastes fine to you, strain it before your guests arrive and keep it simmering over low heat on your stovetop.

Voilà. Now your home will smell like a Christkindlmarkt!

Glühbier (Serves ten to twelve)

  • 6 bottles (500mL) of a rich and malty beer like Bock or Doppelbock
  • 6 mandarin oranges
  • 3 tsp grated ginger
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 8 cloves
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 star anise
  • ¼ of a whole nutmeg, grated (or two good pinches of powder)
  • 1 to 2 ounces dark rum

Follow the same procedure as you would for Glühwein, omitting the tea.

Happy Holidays!

Related Tempest Articles

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

With the exception of the Liefman’s Glühkriek (www.bier-deluxe.com), photos of Potsdam, Berlin, and Glühwein spices by F.D. Hofer.

© 2014 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.