After my recent postings about Beer Nog and Belgian Christmas beers, I’ve been stuck thinking about drinking throughout this holiday season. Oh, you too? Well, I don’t feel so bad then. But with as chilly as the weather has been, even here in sunny SoCal, I’m not exactly reaching for a cold one for comfort this time of year.
While I’ve certainly had my share of mulled wine and mulled cider, I wondered if mulled beer might be just what I need to help get me through this holiday season. My thought certainly wasn’t any new sort of imbibing innovation — in fact, heated, spiced beer was more or less de rigeuer for centuries. Prior to the advent of refrigeration and modern bottling, beer was quick to spoil, and as such, adding a touch of heat plus some sugar and spice helped make everything nice.
mull, v. — to heat, sweeten, and flavor with spices for drinking, as ale or wine. Origin: 1610–20; orig. uncert.
The beauty of making such an easy drink is that you can really suit it to your tastes. And given the huge variety of craft beers on the market, it would almost be irresponsible to post one “set in stone” recipe. With that said, here are some proposed guidelines, from which you should absolutely feel free to deviate:
For me, the most exciting thing about the holidays is the onslaught of Christmas beers. No, not the six-pack your bright-red Uncle Gus used to down just before the gift exchange — I’m talking big, hearty, Belgian holiday ales. Most are characterized by a strong, dark malty sweetness offset by a heavy dose of baking spice flavors and heightened alcohol content to help you stay all warm and toasted toasty. There are variations, of course, not to mention a wonderful world of British “winter warmers” and American holiday beers waiting to be consumed, but that will have to be for some other post. (If you’re particularly curious, I highly recommend delving into Don Russell’s epic tome, Christmas Beer: The Cheeriest, Tastiest, and Most Unusual Holiday Brews.)
And while you just may not be able to attend the 15th Annual Christmas Beer Festival being held in Essen, Belgium this weekend, there are plenty of great Christmas ales you can try in the comfort of your own drinking hole. I’ve selected my five favorite Christmas beers — Belgian only, in the spirit of this weekend’s Kerstbierfestival.
How does anyone stomach storebought eggnog? It’s like the yuletide equivalent of candy corn — despite its gag-inducing flavor and unnatural texture, it sells like hot cakes. Certainly eggnog wasn’t always this offensive, right? I mean, if it were made fresh, it had to be exponentially better, didn’t it? Because honestly — cream, eggs, sugar, spices, and booze? How could it go wrong? (Though the craptacular cartons have already demonstrated that it very easily can.)
Years ago, I churned out my first swing at homemade eggnog, and I’ve never looked back. Sensually thick and creamy, delightfully frothy and packed with so much incredible flavor, one sip could make even Osama Bin Laden want to deck the halls with boughs of holly.
This year, however, I wanted to change it up a bit. Inspired by an old bit I’d seen on SCTV, I was determined to make a batch of Beer Nog to see if it would be as delicious as I had imagined. Armed with a bevy of eggs, a gallon or two of dairy, and a bottle of Port Brewing Old Viscosity, I set out to make a Christmas drink for the ages. I whipped up a glass and took my first sip. A skeptical friend watched on, wincing slightly having already decided that Beer Nog couldn’t possibly work. “Well? How is it?” he asked.
I extended my hand to offer a taste. “You’re welcome,” I replied. My lips parted to a smile, creasing and cracking the thickest milk mustache the world may have ever known.