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Mulled Winter Beer

Known amongst the craft beer community as The Beer Wench, Ashley Routson is a self-proclaimed craft beer evangelist and social media maven on a mission to advance the craft beer industry through education, inspiration and advocacy.

Most people are familiar with mulled wine and cider—but mulled beer?

Surprisingly, mulled beer is far from being a modern-day concept. Its origins date back to the 16th century. Refrigeration as we know it didn’t exist back then and most beverages (including beer) were drunk at room, cellar or sometimes even warmer temperatures.

As with wine and cider, making mulled beer is simple and the flavor combinations are endless. Personally, I prefer to use dark, spiced or Belgian beers for the base. Hoppy beers tend to get more bitter when warmed and reduced, which isn’t ideal for this type of drink.

This concoction calls for Anchor Christmas Ale—a unique holiday beer whose secret recipe always changes each year. This year’s version pours deep brown with crimson hues and boasts an inviting aroma of roasted malt and holiday spice. If you can’t find Anchor Christmas, a different holiday spiced ale can be substituted in its place; pumpkin beers work very well with this recipe, if you can still find some.

I chose to mull this beer with a combination of fresh and dried ingredients, to both brighten and deepen the flavor. Note that I used whole spices rather than powdered, but in a pinch, powdered can be substituted—just be mindful of how much you add (remember, start small because you can always add more later). If it tastes too heavily spiced when you finish mulling, you can always dilute with more beer.

Lastly, I opted to spike mine with a splash of bourbon, a step that can be omitted, but brings a certain je ne sais quoi to this warm (and warming!) holiday beverage.

Mulled Christmas Ale

Ingredients (serves one)

  • One 12 oz. bottle of Anchor Christmas
  • 4-5 slices of fresh ginger
  • 2 whole cinnamon sticks, set aside one for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon dried cloves
  • 1 teaspoon dried coriander
  • 1 teaspoon whole black pepper
  • Peel of one orange, with one long strip reserved for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon raw honey or agave nectar
  • ½ oz. bourbon


Add beer, spices and orange peel (except for garnish) to a medium saucepan. Warm over low heat for 30 minutes, just below a simmer. Do not boil. After 30 minutes, add the honey or agave. Taste for sweetness and add more if desired. Remove from heat, strain into a mug or a heavy, stemmed glass (so you don’t burn yourself holding it). Add the Bourbon (or spiced rum) and garnish with the orange peel. Serve warm with gingerbread cookies, a slice of pumpkin pie or a piece of coffee cake.

Recommended pairings

Have you ever tried mulling beer? What spirits are putting you in the holiday spirit this year? Let me know in the comments below!

From carving with confidence to pouring with pride, our online Holiday Cheat Sheet means more of your best for less stress. Order holiday meals online too; we'll do the work, you'll take the credit.