Are you freezing, dear Reader? Do you have the sniffles, have small ice blocks instead of toes, forget the last time the temperature was above freezing (actually, I remember—it was early October) and almost die on a regular basis from slipping on black ice on a busy street? Do you also not feel inclined to an ice-cold pint of beer, as perfect as it usually is?

Here is the tale of how I stayed in and made mulled beer, because I felt too cold to drink normal beer. In the touristy parts of Moscow, you can find numerous little stalls that offer traditional Christmas drinks or mulled wine; sweet, hot, festive—it’s really pretty nice. But do not despair—wine is not the only hot beverage option; I learned that Peter I (Russia Tsar from way back when) and his generation used to drink their beer hot. This fun fact got me started on a fascinating online search for hot beer drinks, during which I discovered the existence of mulled beer. It’s a traditional drink not only from 1700s Russia, but also all over the older European world. For example, take the famous English drink called Wassail. Making it involves pouring hot beer with spices over a bowl with some sugar on the bottom, letting it sit and “infuse,” then topping the whole thing with thin slices of bread. While beer-soggy bread didn’t appeal to me, I was curious enough about the idea of mulled beer to make a version at home.

Here’s the basic recipe:

-  1 mugful of beer

-  1 tablespoon of honey

-  Lemon and spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.) to taste

Put everything together in a small saucepan and heat it up, but make sure not to boil the mixture for too long, unless you want non-alcoholic mulled beer. Channel your inner Martha Stewart—pour the heated beverage into a crystal chalice, garnish with cinnamon sticks, candied orange peels, floating rose candles, etc., as desired. Post a picture of your dreamy mulled beer on social media venue of choice, labeled #foodporn and #whoneedsmulledwine.

I used a cheap Russian beer with an alcohol percentage of 13 percent (in case I accidentally over-boiled), which tasted remarkably similar to one of those 40s that you can buy at 7/11. I added lots of lemon, honey and cinnamon, then stirred. The mixture turned out to be gorgeous—the white foam from the heated-up beer was sprinkled with specks of cinnamon, resembling whipped cream, and the beer turned a slightly darker golden. Very appealing, especially when poured into a clear glass. The smell was also lovely, with the beer creating an unusually toasty, grainy undertone to the traditional holiday scents.

The beer I started out with was not wonderful, and the spices did not quite cover up its unappetizing taste. If I do this again, which I surprisingly might, I would do it with a very malty beer, like Baltika #9. I was prepared for this to be completely disgusting; however, the aftertaste was unexpectedly nice, with the lemon and beer balancing out the sweetness of honey and making it very drinkable. My biggest complaint was that the mouthfeel was very flat, with all the carbonation gone out of the beer—leaving the drink more like tepid soda. But even so, and with the less-than-stellar beer I used, I preferred this mulled beer to the mulled wines that I’ve had, which so far have been sickly, stickily sweet. I do think that every beer can’t be made into mulled beer; for example, an already distinct-tasting IPA or a light, clean-tasting lager both seem like a disastrous combo with spices and honey. But with a beer that is already not very carbonated and tastes malty, fruity or creamy—perhaps mulled beer could make a comeback in 2017 from its long hiatus since the 1800s.

So, in conclusion, I would recommend this to others. It might not be your cup of mulled beverage, but I think it’s worth a try. At any rate, it’s a good way to procrastinate on your schoolwork and acts as a nice-smelling, warm thing to clutch in your hands after a cold day (or while dealing with estranged family members). Whether accompanied by beer or not, I hope you fly through finals and have a wonderful winter break; I’ll see you on the other side, on the same continent (hopefully). 


Tonight’s Soundtrack: “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme” by Simon & Garfunkel—not the right spices, but it doesn’t matter because their voices are so cozy.

Tonight’s Toast: A Poem on the Underground Wall of a beer bar summed it up pretty well—“In Heaven there is no beer; that’s why we drink ours here.” I’m not sure about the non-existence of heavenly beer, since I’ve never been there, but I do believe in drinking in the moment. Here is to beer in 2017.

Conclusions on mulled beer:

Appearance: 5/5

Smell: 4.5/5

Flavor: 3/5* 

Mouthfeel: 1/3

Overall: 3.5/5

* To be fair, I feel that the flavor could be improved if I experimented with a

different beer and more spices.