Is your holiday cheer hot mulled wine or cold, strong beer? |

Is your holiday cheer hot mulled wine or cold, strong beer?

With the recent arrival of snow and cold weather, and with Christmas just around the corner, nothing could be nicer than sitting by the fire with a winter beverage of your choice. One of the most anticipated of all the winter beverages is the release of winter brews, or winter warmers, which generally occurs around the end of October, and lasts until February or until this seasons brew runs out.

Brewing beer for the holidays is a tradition that dates back to somewhere around 650 A.D. when hops were not in use as a preservative for the early brews. Instead, herbs, spices, tree bark and peppers were used to preserve the brew. Monks who were brewers in the Middle Ages would produce special beers using the finest ingredients to commemorate the birth of Christ.The tradition of winter brews stems from these early beer makers and has become a welcomed yearly tradition in most every beer-producing country in the world.Most winter beers tend to be stronger than the other beers that breweries normally produce. While not all winter beers will be spiced, you will find a majority flavored with nutmeg, cloves, ginger, juniper or some other interesting spice or herb. Many brewers will add some other special flavorings, such as chocolate, licorice, berries, and molasses, creating unexpected flavors in their holiday brews. The addition of these flavorings adds depth and complexity to the brews, allowing for a full bouquet and rich flavors to develop, which makes a winter beer one to savor and sip. Not all winter brews are spiced though. Germany allows that no other ingredients be added to their beers other than water, hops, malt, barley and yeast. Their holiday brews of Bock or Marzen are brewed to produce higher alcohol levels, which adds the impression of spiciness.Most brewers alter their winter brew recipe from year to year, and the increased alcohol and spices generally make these brews suitable for cellaring to enjoy later in the year. Be sure to store the beer in a cool dark location , and read the label: many beers like Anderson Valleys Winter Solstice needs refrigeration.In addition to Sierra Nevadas Celebration Ale, look for Butte Creeks Cranberry Christmas Ale, Lost Coasts Winterbrau Holiday Ale, Mendocino Yule Tide Porter, and Humboldts Winter Nectar all fresh from Northern California.

If a cold beer is not your idea for a warming holiday drink, then maybe a mug of hot steaming mulled wine would be just the thing. People have been enjoying this as a warming beverage and cold weather favorite for centuries. Many swear that a cup of mulled wine taken at the onset of a cold will ward it off. You can now purchase bottled mulled wine produced in Nevada from the producers family recipe at many of our local wine shops and markets. The only requirement here is that you heat it up. If you choose to make your own mulled wine, spice packets are available in most grocery stores that need only the addition of red wine and heat, or you may want to try the following recipe , which is a favorite . Whichever preparation you choose , when you heat a pot of this wine the wonderful spicy aromas will fill your home, heightening the enjoyment these holiday drinks can bring.Janice Jones is a Truckee resident and wine consultant. Reach her at

Ingredients: One bottle (or more) of red wine, (zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, syrah or Grenache)One peeled and sliced orange, slice the peel in to 1/4-inch strips8 to 10 cloves 2/3 cup honey 3 sticks cinnamon 1 tsp. ground gingerDirections: Combine all ingredients, in a slow cooker. Gently warm on low for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally until the honey is dissolved and the spicy aromas have developed. Ladle into mugs, enjoy.This recipe makes four to six servings.Other traditional holiday drinks like eggnog, hot buttered rum, and Tom & Jerry made from rum, brandy, whisky, or a combination of all three can be made from store-bought mixes or you can prepare them yourself from the following recipes.

Ingredients: 4 eggs, separated 1/2 cup sugar 1/2 cup light rum 1-1/2 cups whole milk 1-1/2 cups whiskey 1 cup heavy creamGround nutmeg for garnishDirections: Add 1/2 cup sugar to yolks and lightly beat, then set aside. Beat the egg whites in a mixer or with a whisk until fluffy, then add 1/2 cup sugar, pour the yolk mixture into the whites and mix slowly. Stir in the rum, milk, whisky, and 1/2 the cream.Beat the rest of the cream in a mixer, and fold into the nog, making a fluffy concoction that should be ladled into cups and topped with the nutmeg, and served at room temperature. This recipe should make eight servings.

Ingredients: 2 tbsp. brown sugar 4 tsp. butter dash cinnamondash nutmeg 1 1/2 cups warm water1/2 cup rum Directions: Mix the sugar, butter, and spices and water, heat until steaming hot then stir in the rum. Serve in mugs and garnish with lemon slices. This makes 2 strong mugs.

(my Aunt Sarahs Recipe)Ingredients: 2-1/2 lbs. of sifted sugarone dozen eggs1/4 tsp. cream of tartar 1/2 tsp. ground allspice1/2 tsp. cloves1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon4 oz. rumjuice of one lemonDirections: Separate eggs. Beat yolks with 2 lbs. sugar, cinnamon, cloves and allspice until creamy, slowly stir in the rum and lemon juice.Mix egg whites in mixer with cream of tartar forming soft peaks, then add remaining sugar to form stiff peaks. Fold the white mixture into the yolks making the batter which should be placed into a sealed container and stored in the refrigerator until you use it.To make a Tom & Jerry, put a heaping tablespoon of the batter to a mug, add a shot of brandy, or whisky, or rum or any combination of those three, fill with boiling water, stir until dissolved and garnish with nutmeg. The mixture in a nice sealed container makes a great hostess gift this holiday season.Please remember that eggnog, Hot buttered rum and Tom & Jerry, while delicious make very potent drinks, so if you dont have a designated driver, enjoy them at home when you are not going out. Also, remember, these are definitely not low-cal drinks the eggnog is roughly 300 calories a mug!

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