We can all agree that January is a notoriously frigid month all over the country. While many of us hunker down for this long dreary month, recovering from the winter holidays, we look for ways to get and keep warm. So, do we turn our backs on our beloved cold beverages and drink hot toddies? Ignoring delicious winter beers that are likely desperately crying out “Drink me!” in our refrigerators? If you really cannot bring yourself to knockin’ back a cold one, I have a solution for those lonely beers and these long cold winter nights: A hot winter beer cocktail.
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Beer cocktails themselves are quickly growing trend all over the world, especially in places like the Pacific Northwest where craft beer consumption is still on the rise. I did a quick search for the most common beer cocktails floating around the Internet of the heated persuasion, and lo and behold, the most popular is an oldie-but-goody: Wassail.
Wassail comes from the Old English term, Waes hael (“be healthy”). Traditionally, the drink came from the ceremony of wassailing, which involved singing and drinking the health of trees in the hopes that they might better thrive. What evolved over time was the drink of this celebration, a hot, mulled punch (and oh man does this pack a big one) often associated with Yuletide. Historically, the drink was a mulled cider made with sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg and topped with slices of toast. The recipe in more modern times (not often seen or drunk here in the US) is created using a base of wine, fruit juice, or mulled ale, sometimes with brandy or sherry added.
I picked up this recipe from DRAFT Magazine, which is a “modern, traditional” wassail recipe, and tweaked it by using a Pacific Northwest winter ale. I recommend any winter beer you have in your fridge that is spiced and dark (think anything you can come up with that resembles mulled ale). Jubelale worked nicely for me.
Serves about 12
3 small Gala or Fuji apples, cored and halved
2 bottles Cigar City Warmer Winter Winter Warmer (I used Deschutes Jubelale)
2 3-inch cinnamon sticks
1 cup dry sherry
1⁄2 cup plus 1⁄4 cup dark brown sugar, divided
1⁄2 teaspoon ground ginger
1⁄8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
zest from half a lemon, in long strips
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• Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Place the apples in a shallow baking dish, sprinkle 1⁄2 cup brown sugar over the fruit, and pour 1⁄4 cup of the beer in the bottom of the dish. Bake until tender, about 40 minutes.
• While the apples bake, combine the remaining beer with the remaining 1⁄4 cup brown sugar, sherry, lemon zest and spices in a large pot over medium-low heat until the mixture just begins to bubble (do not let the liquid boil). Reduce heat to the lowest setting, and simmer 30 minutes.
• Remove the lemon zest, cinnamon sticks and cloves from the pot. Add the apples and their juices, stir well to combine, and simmer together 10 minutes. Ladle into mugs and serve.
I must warn you, this baby will likely lead you to forgetting your own name, so sip it slowly and possibly load up your Saint Bernard’s rescue flask with this stuff. I had to take a long, coma-like nap after half a glass and also understand the commonly sung carol with a new level of clarity. But, if you’re looking to warm up and get happy, brew yourself some Wassail. Love and joy come to you, and to you some wassail too.