Mulled beer is less popular at festive events today than mulled wine or spiced cider. However, adding spices and heating beer has a long history. Mulled ale makes a deliciously warming winter drink.
History of Mulled Ale
Mulled ale can be traced back to the old pagan tradition of wassailing. ‘Wassail’ does not derive from the word ale, as you might expect, but comes from the Old English phrase ‘waes hael’, meaning ‘good health’. Wassailing refers to the act of the drink being carried into the room with great ceremony, a traditional carol being sung and then the beverage being served.
The wassail drink itself was made of mulled ale, curdled cream, roasted apples, eggs, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and sugar. It was served from huge, 10-gallon bowls, often made of silver or pewter.
A similar drink, popular in Britain for centuries, was posset. This consisted of milk curdled with wine or ale and spices. It was seen as a healthy drink for invalids, and is the origin of drinking warm milk as a sleep aid. Such dairy-based alcoholic drinks can still be seen today, such as the American festive favourite eggnog.
Mulled Ale Recipe
Our simple recipe sticks to beer, honey and spices. Which beer you use for mulling is really a matter of taste. A light lager can make a delicious base for a lime and ginger infused drink, while a nut brown ale is better spiced up with nutmeg and cinnamon. This recipe uses IPA for a traditional taste.
- 660ml IPA
- 6tbsp honey
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 50g fresh ginger
- 5 cloves
- 2 cardamom pods, crushed
- 1 lemon
- pinch of salt
1. Put all of the ingredients, including the ale, in the saucepan. Heat gently for 5-10 minutes.
2. As soon as it begins to boil, take it off the heat.
3. Leave the ale to cool slightly, then pass it through a fine sieve.
4. Rewarm slightly to serve. Add a curl of orange peel or a cinnamon stick for decoration.