In Sichuan province, the winters are cold and damp – and central heating nonexistent. It was inevitable that somebody would invent the tradition of drinking hot beer.
After that, it was only a matter of time before some health nut eyed the boiling beer and decided to flavor it with wholesome herbal all-stars: goji berries to brighten the eyes and cleanse the liver, red dates to soothe frayed nerves, and orange peel to ward off allergies.
Remember: It's always winter somewhere.
SICHUAN MULLED BEER 煮啤酒
24 oz. can of lager
10 small pieces of dried orange rinds
2 teaspoons goji berries (about 16 berries)
4 pieces of rock sugar
7-8 dried red dates
4 teaspoons rice wine
2 teaspoons cinnamon-sugar mix (1 part cinnamon, 3 parts sugar)
1. Pour the beer into a pot or kettle.
2. Add the orange rinds, goji berries, rock sugar, dried dates and rice wine.
3. Simmer for three minutes. When you can smell the fragrance, it's ready.
4. Pour the drink evenly into two glasses or mugs.
5. Add 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon-sugar mix to each glass, then stir and drink.
What does one serve with mulled beer?
According to Qiaoyiqiao Guaiwei, a popular Sichuan-style restaurant in Beijing, these are a few of the local delicacies that go well with a hot herbed lager:
• 4-in-1 "dry hot pot" with duck lips, duck wings, chicken wings, rabbit heads (4合1麻辣香 malaxiang: 鸭唇 yachun, 鸭翅 yachi, 鸡翅 jichi, 兔头 tutou)
• crab roe tofu (xiehuang douhua 蟹黄豆花)
• braised rabbit (luzhi tu 卤制兔)
• bitter gourd in scallion oil (congyou kugua 葱油苦瓜)
• fiddlehead fern noodles in a sour-spicy sauce (la juegenfen 辣蕨根粉)
• "heartbreak" bean jelly, so named because it's spicy enough to draw tears (shangxin liangfen 伤心凉粉)
You're welcome to catch your own duck or rabbit, and slather its skull in numbing peppercorns. But it seems clear that this comforting, malty brew can take the edge off any super-spicy, ultra-tart or greasy extreme.
Mulled beer isn't a strictly Sichuanese eccentricity. Once upon a time, writes Jacob Grier for The Atlantic, Americans drank their lager hot.