I find that beer temperatures vary by the location. When we lived in Brazil, the beer was so cold that ice was often inside the bottle. In Europe, it’s always been on the warmer side. Cold beer somewhere in between these two was the standard in the States for years. Then came the craft beer boom, and with it, the understanding that some beers are best served at warmer temperatures.
But until we made it Poland, I had never had hot beer.
It may sound odd to you at first. That’s what I thought when I saw it on a menu in Krakow when we visited the Christmas Markets there a couple years ago. Given my adventurous nature when it comes to food and drink, you can probably guess that it was just odd enough to me to enthusiastically give it a try.
One would expect bitterness due to the heat or excess sweetness to cover it up, but no. It’s a delicious balance of sweet and bitter with seasonal spices. And like most hot alcoholic beverages, it warms you up immediately.
Last year in Berlin we tried something similar, but what is called Glühbier there is different than the Polish version. There, it was a warm cherry beer. Equally as good, but the mulled or spiced aspect of the Polish version is what I wanted to recreate. I’ve learned a few lessons along the way.
- Choose a lager, perhaps something on the sweeter side. The best version I made was actually with a Mexican-style Lager, 21st Amendment’s El Sully.
- Do NOT let it boil! You must watch it like a hawk, keep the heat on low and let it warm, not boil. As soon as it gets close to boiling, it will turn bitter.
- Save the citrus for the garnish, not the warming. When it warms with the beer the rind adds some bitter notes that aren’t appealing.
If you follow those rules, you should be well on your way to comforting mug of spiced beer. Give the cider and wine a break this holiday and embrace the idea of warming up your brew.
- 1 (12 oz.) lager
- 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
- 2 whole star anise
- Orange slices for serving
- Pour the beer into a small saucepan and let it settle. Turn to low heat and stir in the honey. Add the cinnamon stick, ginger, cloves and star anise.
- Let warm for 5 to 10 minutes, gently stirring often. Do not let the beer come to a simmer or boil. Once the beer is hot, strain out the spices and pour into heat-safe glasses. Garnish with an orange slice before serving.