Mulled lambic

One of the intriguing aspects of reading historical works on the history of brewing and lambic is to discover many obscure details about spontaneously fermented beers. One thing that recently caught my eye was the existence of a popular warm lambic beverage. Consumption of warm alcoholic beverages is nothing new as evidenced by the existence of Glühwein and Gløgg. Another popular option is to blend the mysterious green Chartreuse (“Chartreuse glows in the dark, and if you drink enough of it, your eyes will turn bright green”) and hot chocolate.

In his book Geuze en Kriek, Jef van den Steen mentions the existence of ‘calibou’, a “very popular” winter drink based on “old lambic, sugar, cinnamon, clove and beaten eggs.” Despite its reported pre-war popularity in Belgium, I have not been able to find more information about this winter-friendly warm lambic.

There is no shortage of information about “mulled beer” in general, though. According to a 1641 English pamphlet, “warme beere” is “farre more wholesome than that which is drunke cold.” A 1623 text called Panala Alacatholica praises warm beer because it “doth by its succulencie much nourish and corroborate the Corporall, and comfort the Animall powers.”

Interestingly enough, Liefmans has released a beer called Liefmans Glühkriek, which is a spiced winter kriek that should be served at warm temperature. Timmermans has produced a Warme Kriek, and Van Honsebrouck a beer called Premium Glühkriek. Even traditional geuze blender De Cam has made a beer called Hiéte Kriek, which was a draft-only warm kriekenlambic, spiced with Glühwine spices and sweetened with candi sugar. Such beers are often released to coincide with traditional Christmas markets and Christmas beer festivals.

I have not yet decided to sacrifice a bottle of old unblended lambic to recreate the popular mulled lambic called ‘calibou’, but the similarities between the spice bill for this concoction and other mulled beers should allow for some interesting experiments to duplicate this historical winter drink.