Beer Man

Cold Weather Has Created a Hot Bierfest, and It's Exactly What It Sounds Like — Sort Of

Weldwerks head brewer Skip Schwartz practices with the hot poker.
Weldwerks head brewer Skip Schwartz practices with the hot poker. Weldwerks Brewing
Hot beer probably isn't the next big thing. But it is an old thing — an unusual and little-known winter tradition in Europe that three creative Colorado craft breweries hope to revive on Saturday, December 18, when they host the inaugural Hot Bierfest & Holiday Marketplace at Primitive Beer Company in Longmont.

What is hot beer? Well, it can come in a couple of forms. One is gluhbier, a sour cherry-like Belgian style called kriek that can be heated and mixed with fruit and spices in the same way as gluhwein, heated wine with fruit and spices that you'll find at Christmas markets all over Eastern and northern Europe.

Another form is beer that is warmed with a hot poker from a fire and stirred so that the sugar in the beer caramelizes and creates an aromatic, frothy head. A practice that dates back several hundred years in both England and colonial America, heating beer in this way — and sometimes mixing it with spices or spirits like brandy — was invented simply as a way to keep warm using the most reliable beverages at hand.

"We brew seasonally, harvest seasonally and drink seasonally, so for us it's a lot of fun," says Primitive co-owner Brandon Boldt. And although he wants to note the European heritage, he adds that "fun is what we're going for. We're trying not to take ourselves, or anything, too seriously. This is mainly an excuse to have a fire and hang out with friends on a day when it will probably be cold and dark by 4:30 p.m."

click to enlarge Primitive will serve a hot gluhbier. - PRIMITIVE BEER
Primitive will serve a hot gluhbier.
Primitive Beer
Primitive's Willfully Obtuse Glühbier is a blend of Lambic-inspired spontaneous beers aged on cherries; it will be dosed with honey, citrus and spices and will be served hot from a carafe.

The other two participating breweries, WeldWerks Brewing and Cohesion Brewing, will create beers using the hot poker method. WeldWerks' Barrel-Aged Wassail is a winter warmer made with orange peels and spices and aged for fourteen months in Wild Turkey bourbon barrels. Cohesion's is a reddish Czech-style lager with "just the right amount of sweetness to caramelize when it is heated with the hot poker," the brewery says. "The deep toasted malt flavors should amplify with the heat added at the point of serving."

A few other Colorado breweries have served hot poker beers — notably Ursula Brewery in Aurora, which hosts its Sacred Fire beer release and hot poker party annually (this year's event is on December 21).

The idea for the hotbier festival actually came about as a joke during a conversation on a podcast that Boldt and Cohesion owner Eric Larkin recently started recording (the two also had a podcast when they both worked at Odd13 Brewing several years ago). Their guest that day was WeldWerks head brewer Skip Schwartz, and the three were talking about the next big trends in beer when Larkin mentioned "hot beer."
click to enlarge WELDWERKS BREWING
Weldwerks Brewing
And since three is a trend, it turned into a festival. "The smallest fest you can probably have is with three breweries, and we're using 'fest' in big quotes," Boldt says with a laugh.

Still, he's going to ask permission from the other breweries that have beers on tap inside Primitive's newly expanded space if they would allow people to scorch their beers as well — just to see what they taste like. And next year, he'd like to bring in other breweries who would make beers specifically for the fest.

"The poker method doesn't get it scorching or ripping hot. But it does add a really cool aroma and a hot nucleation point. It also creates a lot of head and texture that has heat," Boldt says

The Hot Bierfest & Holiday Marketplace is Saturday, December 18, from noon to 8 p.m. at Primitive Beer, 2025 Ionosphere Street in Longmont. Proof of vaccination is required for entry to the fest, though not to sit outside on the patio.
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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes