Tag Archives: In Praise of Ale

’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.

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

Nose, nose, jolly red nose / And what gave thee that jolly red nose?

Cinnamon and ginger, nutmeg, and cloves / And that’s what gave me that jolly red nose.

At the beginning of his chapter on warm beer, W.T. Marchant expresses regret that “some of the more comforting drinks,” such as wassail, had waned in popularity over the years. “When beer was the staple drink, morning, noon, and night,” he continues, “it was natural that our ancestors would prefer their breakfast beer warm and their ‘nightcaps’ flavoured, hence the variety of their comforting drinks” (599).

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IMG_0283

 

Marchant’s undeservedly obscure 1888 classic, In Praise of Ale, is much more than a “compendium of songs, ballads, epigrams, and anecdotes relating to beer, malt, and hops.” It is, rather, nothing less than a compendium of traditions, gender roles, social relations, and the customs of everyday life. I will leave all that richness to the side for now, save for the following observation: If the past is a foreign country, it is one in which the inhabitants drink warm beer.

* * *

Before heading off on my most recent road trip, I spent some time perusing the list of upcoming topics for The Session, that monthly virtual symposium that gathers together beer writers from across the interwebs. For June’s edition, the scribes behind Boak and Bailey’s Beer Blog suggested that we take a deeper draught of traditional beer mixes. No beer cocktails, they admonished. Instead, they proposed experimenting with some classic two-beer mixes of times past, inspiring us with a few examples:

  • Lightplater–– bitter and light ale.
  • Mother-in-law—old and bitter.
  • Granny—old and mild.
  • Boilermaker—brown and mild.
  • Blacksmith––stout and barley wine.
  • Half-and-half––bitter and stout, or bitter and mild.
  • B&B––Burton and bitter.

Alas, I was not able to participate in this exploration of what remains a more vibrant aspect of British pub and tavern culture than of North American craft beer culture, but the idea traveled with me this summer.

* * *

A few weeks back, I spent some time with Marchant’s gem during one of my trips to the rare manuscripts reading room. Leafing through this old 600-odd page tome, I found myself drawn to the chapter on warm ale; as it turned out, a few days previous I had come across another reference to warm beer in the library’s catalogue:

A Treatise of Warm Beer, Wherein is declared by many reasons that Beer so qualified is farre more wholesome than that which is drunk cold (1641).

What’s up with all this warm beer, I asked myself? Marchant even had a reference to this 1641 treatise on warm beer in his work published more than two hundred years later.Dauphin - Francis (Wiki) These deep concern with the iniquities of chilled beverages reminded me of my Swiss grandmother, who used to give my brother and me grief about drinking our soft drinks ice-cold in a hot summer’s day, muttering vague prognostications to the effect that our stomachs would perform some grievous trick like turning somersaults. A similar fate seems to have befallen “the Dolphin of France, son to Francis the French King,” who, “although he were a lusty strong gentleman, yet he being hot at tennis, and drinking cold drink fell sick and died” (cited in Marchant, 601).

But maybe they were on to something, my grandma and those critics of the dolphin tennis players of the mid-1600s.

Even if no one I know has dropped dead upon knocking back a cold one after mowing the lawn, nowadays we tend to drink our ales far too cold, and our lagers, too.Bourdieu - OutlineTheoryPractice For the most part, the notion of an ice-cold beer is so culturally ingrained as to be a part of our habitus. It would strike many of us as odd––even some of the craft beer enthusiasts among us––to even begin to contemplate drinking our beer at cellar temperature, let alone at room temperature or warmer.

* * *

To my pleasant surprise, as I read on about the deleterious effects of cold beverages, I found not only a discussion of the benefits of warm beer to health, countenance, and constitution, but also a collection of recipes for beer cocktails of yore.

Marchant was well-versed in the kinds of traditional beer mixes that Boak and Bailey bade us try, but his account of beer’s versatility as a bit player in a panoply of curious drinks reveals yet deeper layers of possibility for the mixologist with a zymurgical bent. Marchant cites a seventeenth-century traveler to England who wrote the following: “In the evening, the English take a certain beverage which they call buttered ale, composed of cinnamon, sugar, butter, and beer brewed without hops” (612).

Thomas Lodge and Robert Greene’s Elizabethan-era stage play, A Looking Glass for London and England, provides another indication that beer played best in concert with other foodstuffs:Crab Apples (Wiki Commons) “Mark you, sir, a pot of ale consists of four parts: imprimus the ale, the toast, the ginger, and the nutmeg” (604). Marchant is quick to point out that these lines leave out the roasted crabs. Crab apples, that is; for “to turn a crab is to roast a wilding or a wild apple for the purpose of being hissing hot into a bowl of nut-brown ale, into which had previously been put a toast with some spice and sugar” (605).

* * *

And so, here are a few recipes for your historical cocktail hour, straight from the pages of In Praise of Ale. Try some of these now, or tuck the recipes away for the winter holiday season or for your harvest wassailing.

The Crafte for Braket [Braggot]:

When thou hast good ale, draw out a quart of it and put it to the honey, and set it over the fyre, and let it seethe well, and take it off the fyre and scume it well, and so again, and then let it keel a whyle, and put thereto the peper, and set him on the fyre, and let him boyle together, with esy fyre, but clere. To four gallons of good ale put a pynte of fyne tried honey and a saucerfull of poudre of peper (606).

Flip:

Keep grated ginger and nutmeg with a little fine dried lemon peel rubbed together in a mortar. To make a quart of flip:––Put the ale on the fire to warm, and beat up three or four eggs with four ounces of moist sugar, a teaspoonful of grated nutmeg or ginger, and a quartern of good old rum or brandy. When the ale is near to boil put it into one pitcher, and the rum and eggs, &c., into another; turn it from one pitcher to another till it is as smooth as cream (607-608).

Cool Tankard, or Beer Cup:

A quart of mild ale, a glass of white wine, one of brandy, of capillaire, the juice of a lemon, a roll of the peel pared thin, nutmeg grated at the top (a sprig of borrage or balm), and a bit of toasted bread (608).

Warm Ale Cup:

One quart of ale, one glass of brandy, two glasses of sherry, and a quarter of a pound of lump sugar. Spice according to the palate. Boil the sugar in half the ale, and then mix the whole together (608).

Purl:

This is a beverage which is held in high estimation in many places. It is made with a mixture of beer or ale (formerly amber ale was only used), and gin and bitters, or gin bitters. The gin and bitters are put into a half-pint pewter pot, and the ale warmed over a brisk fire, and added to it, at the exact warmth for a person to drink such a portion at a single draught (609).

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Bonus: Best Title for a Beer Book Ever

Thomas Tryon. A new art of brewing beer, ale, and other sorts of liquors: so as to render them more healthful to the body, and agreeable to nature; and to keep them longer from souring with less trouble and charge than generally practiced, which will be a means to prevent those torturing distempers of the stone, gravels, gout and dropsie. To which is added, the art of making mault, &c. and several useful and profitable things relating to country affairs. Recommended to all brewers, gentlemen and others, that brew their own drink. The third edition, with many large additions never printed before. By Tho. Tryon, student in physick, who hath lately published rules physical and moral for preserving of health, with a bill of fare of 75 noble dishes of excellent food. Price bound 1 s. Licensed and entred according to order (London: printed for Tho. Salusbury, at the sign of the Temple near Temple-Bar in Fleet-street, 1691).

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Reference

W.T. Marchant, In Praise of Ale, Or, A Compendium of Songs, Ballads, Epigrams, and Anecdotes Relating to Beer, Malt, and Hops, with Some Curious Particulars Concerning Ale-Wives and Brewers, Drinking-Clubs and Customs (London: George Redway, York Street, Covent Garden, 1888).

Images

Title Page: F.D. Hofer

Francis of France (Francis III, Duke of Brittany), Painted by Corneille de Lyon: Wikipedia

Bourdieu: Amazon

Crab Apples: Wiki Commons

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