If you ask most Americans, the idea of warm beer is repugnant, perhaps even blasphemous to the beer gods. We do everything we can to keep our precious pilsners, porters and pale ales as cold and refreshing as possible because, let’s face it, no one wants a Bud Light that’s been out in the sun for too long (it’s questionable if anyone wants a Bud Light at all).
But Poles and Eastern Europeans have been drinking beer that is not only warm, but hot, for centuries, in the form of spiced, mulled beer. When I first heard this, I questioned the sanity of my Polish ancestors, but then decided that they’ve been at it longer than us Americans, so maybe they know what they’re talking about. In fact, this was a popular drink even among Polish noblemen in the 16th and 17th centuries.
So I set out to make this spiced beer, called grzaniec, for myself. I ended up discovering that it’s the perfect wintertime drink if you want to warm yourself up, especially if the temperatures are colder than a Russian Gulag, like they are this year.
This is the recipe I ended up using, but you’re free to take it or leave it. The internet is full of different variations.
You will need:
• A bottle of your favorite Polish lager. I personally like to use Tyskie or Perła.
• 2-3 tablespoons of water
• 1 teaspoon of whole cloves
• ½ teaspoon of ground ginger
• 1 cinnamon stick
• 1 pinch of nutmeg
• 3-5 tablespoons of honey
1. Place the water in a saucepan, followed by all the ingredients, except for the beer.
2. Simmer the ingredients until the water has evaporated. Be sure to regularly stir the mixture.
3. Once the water has evaporated, gradually pour the beer into the saucepan.
4. Stir until the beer is hot, but not boiling.
5. Strain into a glass and enjoy!
Don’t wait for the grzaniec to cool off. Drinking it warm is the point! In fact, the root of the Polish word grzaniec is “grzać,” meaning “to heat.” The taste of all those spices coming together creates a type of refreshment in your mouth that even cold beer cannot. From someone who was skeptical at first, I can honestly say it’s worth a try.
If you like it, there’s another type of grzaniec that uses wine instead of beer as the key ingredient. I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s next on my list!