On the Eleventh Day of Xmas: Glühbier

I first had to make a pot of Glühbier in order to write this entry… for the sake of authenticity and all. But I am getting ahead of the story!

Glühwein or mulled wine is deeply rooted in the German Christmas season, and even though I didn’t grow up with it, most of my adult life ever since I stepped into German culture, has contained Glühwein every year without fail. Christmas just isn’t complete without it, and I learned to make it from scratch, taking full advantage of the availability of ingredients in India at the time. To me it will always be Christmas in a mug, because it combines the warmth of the hot wine, the traditional spices and flavours associated with the season such as cinnamon, orange, cardamom, star anis, and cloves, which also happen to be the spices needed to bake Spekulatius cookies (one has to be careful here, because although the Spekulatius cookies are integral to German Christmas as well, they are actually Dutch) and Lebkuchen (gingerbread to all non-Germans). To best savour the Glühwein you also have to be standing out in the cold at the Christmas market freezing your butt, feet and fingers off, surrounded by the sights and sounds of the festivities, keeping an eye out for the next Bratwurst stand to raid while your potato cakes with apple sauce are getting cold and you are imbibing the heady aroma of cheap Glühwein.

This year everything is different. There are no Christmas markets, and everything is taking place in the confines of our homes. Budgetwise, Glühwein is not exactly on the cheap side, especially if you are like me who refuses to scrimp on the quality of the red wine. I have one bottle reserved for Christmas Eve though, and might just transform that into Glühwein. In any case, when I moved to Berlin in 2017, that winter I was introduced to a local abomination called Glühbier, basically hot mulled beer. I know it sounds atrocious right? And the bottled version I was served tasted exactly as I imagined – worthy of being a permanent fixture in the toilet. Nevertheless, I didn’t want a bad first impression define my attitude, so I gave it another chance the following year – the same year I was introduced to the blond Glühwein, same thing as the original red one but made with white wine and with a shot of calvados instead of rum. The Blondie I tasted but couldn’t drink because of my allergies, but I have to say it is a very elegant version of Glühwein.

The Glühbier, on the other hand, made no progress in my direction and I opted to part ways with it. Strangely enough, its popularity in the Berliner Christmas markets grew. This year, like many other things my life, I decided to revisit, revise, and resurrect, which has been the recurring theme in my life for 2020. Anything that falls through the cracks, especially after the revision, gets chucked out permanently if it doesn’t speak to my soul. I have a case of Pils in the kitchen, not for drinking but for bread baking. I gave it a good hard stare this morning and decided to whip up a small portion of Glühbier and try my luck. Chef Google provided me with several recipes to choose from and I did the usual, and combined elements from various recipes, choosing flavours that I knew would compliment each other.

I am afraid I have to strop writing here, because the Glühbier packs quite a punch. I nailed the flavours, using cranberry juice instead of cherry, and adding a generous shot of martini rosso to the coconut rum. So for those of you who are interested in getting happily tipsy as well, you will need
(note that the proportions below are for a party version. Do the math and scale everything down to your convenience).

3 litres black beer (this is the original recipe, I don’t like black beer so I used pils)
100g sugar (I used brown sugar)
2 Tbsp honey
4 cloves
2 star anis
4 cardamom pods ( u
2 cinnamon sticks
80ml rum (I used coconut rum)
the juice of 1 lemon
500ml cherry juice (I used cranberry and others preferred orange).
Bring everything to a boil and simmer for 15 min over low heat. Serve over chopped apples and raisins or dried cranberries (for the version this morning I used fresh blueberries).

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