Polish Hot Beer | Grzane Piwo
After a cold day of exploring the streets of Krakow in January, my friends and I stopped for lunch at a traditional Polish restaurant and the list of hot beverages caught my eye. “Hot beer?!” I exclaimed breathlessly, and immediately ordered myself a large mug. The menu warned that hot beer would take ten minutes to be prepared and heated, so I sat back and began to research this intriguing beverage.
Grzane piwo (pronounced geh-sza-neh pi-vo) is essentially spiced or mulled beer, served hot. Records dating back to the 17th century mention hot beer in England and other parts of Europe. One such record worth mentioning is F.W.’s A Treatise of Warm Beer, which calls hot beer “wholesome” and contains a chapter titled “The benefit that ariseth from the use of actual hot drink.” With Poland’s cold winters, it’s no surprise that the trend is alive and well on the streets of its cities; even the sight of it on the menu delivered a warm, fuzzy feeling.
That being said, the hot beer I had in Krakow could certainly be called an acquired taste. Polish hot beer is typically a light lager mulled with spices such as ginger, cloves and cinnamon. This combination of fragrant, powerful spices with a light-bodied beer creates a flavor sensation reminiscent of sugar-free cinnamon gum – the flavor is there, but without the punch. While this description may not appeal to those of us who appreciate heavy-hitting stouts in the winter months, Polish hot beer is a winner for long afternoons spent drinking with friends (which is how I discovered it that fateful day in Krakow) or as an evening nightcap. So next time you’re in Europe, grab a pint – it’s for your health. Na zdrowie!