One curious drink that I encountered in Poland was mulled beer. It was on menus (along with mulled wine) and on sidewalk signs as winter approached. On this particular cold November night, we met up with friends for dinner at Pikanteria in Warsaw’s Saska Kępa neighborhood. After dinner, our waiter asked if I’d like a mulled beer to keep me warm. I was told it is a traditional after dinner drink, so with my wife ordering a mulled wine, I went for it.
Pikanteria had a decent selection of bottled Polish craft beer, but our waiter recommended I go with a pale lager (AKA pilsner) instead. He said lighter flavored beers pair better with the spices in the drink, so I chose Tyskie Gronie. Besides, I’d had Tyskie Gronie before, so this made easy to compare between the spiced and plain versions of the beer.
When my drink arrived, it was unlike any beer I’d ever seen. Being from California, I’m familiar with michelada (sometimes called chelada) beers, but this was something else. While they vary, micheladas are usually served cold and typically mixed with Clamato (mixed clam and tomato juice), hot sauce, lime, and chili powder served in a glass with a salted rim. Some common variations are even topped with cold cooked prawns or cucumber slices. Think of micheladas as a Mexican version of bloody beer. This was something entirely different.
My mulled beer arrived hot and served in a tall slender mug with a few whole cloves and a cinnamon stick floating in the concoction. One the side it was accompanied by a lemon wedge and honey. After removing the cinnamon stick and cloves, I squeezed in the lemon and added some honey to the drink. I’m not gonna lie, I wasn’t a fan. It tasted like an herbal tea brewed in beer. Maybe it was because I was still wrapping my mind around the idea of drinking a warm, spiced beer. Like I said, this was unlike any drink I’ve ever had. While researching for this post, I found that mulled beer is a thing in parts of the American Midwest and Northeast, possibly due to the common Central and Northern European heritage in those areas. However, this California boy was bewildered by this strange drink.
Would I have this again? Maybe. Was it completely repulsive? Not exactly. To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of mixing stuff into beer. I jokingly tell my michelada drinking friends that if they need to mix something into their beer in order to drink it, then something must be wrong with their beer. I figure, to each their own. Both drinks are influenced by local foods and weather. Micheladas were made for warm weather drinking. Mulled beer was obviously made for the cold of winter. In the end, drink what you want to drink.