It seems like winter colds strike with a vengeance right now, at the end of the season. In my household we drink literally gallons of ginger and honey tea during the cold months. Fresh ginger tea is delicious, and it wards off colds pretty well. But when I was felled last week by a particularly nasty cough, I had to turn to something stronger.
…The idea seems strange today, but heated ale drinks were once staples of home and tavern life. They provided warmth on chilly nights and nutrition when meals were scarce. And although we’re in the midst of a craft brewing renaissance in which no style of beer is too exotic or obscure to bring to market, warmed ales are conspicuous by their absence.
If the allure of hot beer is mysterious, it helps to consider that both the beer and the setting were very different when these drinks were popular. Today’s crisp, clear lagers and bitter, hoppy IPAs are not conducive to being at enjoyed at high temperatures. Prior to the 20th century, English and American drinkers were more likely to be quaffing malty ales. These fermented quickly without refrigeration, and at their best they offered a full-bodied sweetness that could be enjoyed unchilled or even hot.
The idea isn’t much when you remember that white wine is typically served chilled, but red wine is served at room temperature. Each style of beer is chilled or warmed to the appropriate temperature for maximum enjoyment – that’s about 45-degrees for pilsners and light beers, and 55-degrees for ales and stouts. I know some who like their local chocolate porter served in a non-frosted glass. If you like it, where’s the harm?