Mulled beer: The trendy alternative to mulled wine

A bottle of mulled beer
(c) Feiner Hopfen

Snow, ice and freezing temperatures – in conditions like these, beer fans need more than just cookies, blankets and a crackling fireplace. They also need a delicious drink that produces a warm glow from within. So how about a nice warm glass of mulled beer – something that’s becoming more and more popular all over the world.

When the snowflakes float down from the night sky and it’s bitterly cold outside, you don’t always have to reach for the mulled wine to warm yourself up. Mulled beer, which brewers usually flavor with honey, brown sugar and winter spices – such as star anise, cinnamon and cardamom – is a delicious alternative. An increasing number of breweries are getting in on this wintertime beer trend.

The idea for mulled beer is said to have originated in Belgium. Kriek beers are warmed up and served at Christmas markets and even at home there. These specialties are known as fruit lambics, which are brewed with sour cherries. Belgians often then amplify the flavor with special spice mixes.

Mulled beer is also very popular in Poland, where it’s referred to as grzane piwo. And even though some beer fans may turn up their noses at the thought of warm beers, it’s really worth it to taste these delicious beers, whose essential oils and bitter compounds released in the process of warming up the hops and malt can even help with common colds. Here are a few examples of these warm beer-based treats:

Glühkriek – Liefmans, Belgium

This beer is a “Cuvée Brut Kriek”, i.e. a blend of the best vintage beers from the Liefmans brewery. It is brewed with sour cherries and is aged for a full 18 months. The brewers add a spice mix of clove, cinnamon and anise as it reaches the end of the storage period. This mulled kriek is delicious on the palate thanks to a delicate effervescence and a fruity and spicy profile of aromas with a hint of woody and almond notes.

Glüh-Bier – Störtebeker Brauspezialitäten, Germany

The Störtebeker brewers from Stralsund make this mulled beer during the cold season. They flavor a bottom-fermented lager with elderberry juice and winter spices such as cinnamon and clove. Before serving, the bottle should be warmed to 40°C in a water bath. When poured into a glass, the beer releases the aromas of its spices and becomes reminiscent of actual mulled wine. Plus there are the lovely elderberry notes that cascade across the tongue.

La Dragonne – Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes, Switzerland

On account of its high alcohol content of 9.3%, this beer is approaching the realms of a decent mulled wine. What makes this beverage so special is its mix of coriander, cinnamon, star anise, cardamom and juniper berries – a mix you can really taste. This dark beer smells of honey, cinnamon, orange zest and clove, and with its dominating notes of cinnamon and coriander, it tastes very spicy and sweet.

Mulled beer can even be made at home

Mulled beer can even be made really quickly at home: Simply warm up a malty dark or bock beer and mix in honey, sugar and whatever other spices you like. It tastes truly sensational.

Mareike Hasenbeck

Mareike Hasenbeck is a freelance journalist with her own craft beer blog (Feiner Hopfen), she is also a beer sommelier and an international expert for beer sensory certified by the DLG (German Agricultural Society).