Saturday, 26 Nov 2022

Hot Bierfest is a new Colorado festival for drinking hot beer

It’s the subject of many country songs and a major selling point of advertising campaigns and packaging: ice-cold beer.

But why do we insist on drinking beer that’s “as cold as the Rockies” even in the dead of winter, when the wind is howling and the temperatures plummet? We eagerly sip hot toddies, mulled wine, Irish coffees and other soul-warming beverages — but never, ever hot beer.

Three Colorado craft breweries want to change all that.

If you go

Hot Bierfest & Holiday Marketplace, from noon to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 18. At Primitive Beer, 2025 Ionosphere St., Longmont. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required. More info:

Before you wrinkle your nose and say, “Ewwww, hot beer,” go ahead and give it a try at the inaugural Hot Bierfest & Holiday Marketplace at Primitive Beer in Longmont, hosted in collaboration with Cohesion Brewing and WeldWerks. You might be surprised by just how much you like it. (Note that Primitive requires proof of COVID-19 vaccination for entry.)

“We have a pretty narrow definition of beer, and it’s a little more exciting to try and open that definition up more broadly,” said Brandon Boldt, who co-owns Primitive Beer with his wife, Lisa Boldt. “When you taste a lot of beer styles, served hot in the right context seasonally, it’s not a jump. Just taste it, I think you’ll like it.”

Hot beer has long been popular in other parts of the world with cold climates — places like England, Belgium, Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic. And, before the advent of refrigeration, most people were drinking room-temperature or cellar-temperature beer anyway.

“(Cold beer) is definitely more of a modern incarnation of beer — it’s not better or worse, it’s just really fun to look back on history,” he said.

At this weekend’s festival, the three breweries are showcasing two different methods of serving hot beer. One involves mulling beer with spices and citrus, similar to mulled wine or cider. The other involves heating an iron or stainless steel poker over a fire until it’s red hot, then plunging it into beer, which sizzles and foams. The hot poker method also creates some complex new caramel flavors as it scorches some of the sugars in the beer, according to Boldt.

Hot beer isn’t made from a special recipe — it’s just regular beer that’s later heated. But it does require brewers to think long and hard about which specific styles lend themselves best to being consumed warm.

Primitive, which specializes in spontaneously fermented beer — that is, beer that’s made only with the wild yeast and bacteria floating around in the air — is making its warm, festival “Glühbier” with a brew called Willfully Obtuse, a sour, four-beer blend that’s been aged on cherries and spent grape pomace. It’s heated and served in electric carafes with honey, citrus and spices.

“We’re taking a base beer that has some nice acid and tannins, emulating wine or cider in that way, and using that as the base for the spices and the heat,” Boldt said.

Cohesion Brewing, a Czech-inspired brewery in Denver’s Clayton neighborhood, is using the hot poker method to heat its Vánoční Speciální Pivo (Christmas Special Beer), a 6.5% garnet-colored lager that blends traditional Czech techniques with Colorado ingredients. This rich, malty lager has hints of spice, chocolate and bread, which makes it perfect for drinking warm.

Greeley’s WeldWerks is also using hot pokers to raise the temperature of its Barrel-Aged Wassail, a hot spiced ale made with orange peels and spices that’s been aged for 14 months in four- to eight-year-old Wild Turkey bourbon barrels.

Will we start seeing hot beers on taproom menus across the Centennial State? Probably not, according to Boldt.

Though the three festival base beers will be available at their respective taprooms and at some retail locations in the coming weeks, drinkers will have to heat them up themselves if they want to see what all the fuss is about. Boldt hopes to be able to offer hot poker beers at Primitive in the future, but he’s still working out the details.

And while beer served warm likely won’t be the hottest new trend in craft brewing (pun intended), it may grow to become an annual holiday tradition on the Front Range. Boldt and his collaborators want even more Colorado breweries to get on board with this cold-weather beverage and participate in the festival next winter.

“We’re trying to revisit historical techniques and take inspiration from what has existed but has been forgotten,” Boldt said. “There’s just a lot to be uncovered and unearthed. There’s something exciting to me about rituals, about stories and about keeping some of these traditions alive. There’s something romantic about remembering a lot of what has gotten us here.”

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