Andrew Colman- Serum Visions: Wassailing the Holiday Cube

Hello everyone and welcome back to Serum Visions!


It’s Christmas, it’s Christmas!

Well, actually, at the time of this writing it’s still Advent, but I went to the Royal Winnipeg ballet doing Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker last night and it sure is starting to feel like Christmas. And since I am writing for the future, Merry Christmas!!

Nothing says Christmas in the MTG community like the Holiday Cube. My goodness, I am so happy for I have been watching so much cube streaming these last few days, it’s silly. I saw DZYL draft some absolute joke decks. There was the classic turn-one [card]Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre[/card] off of a [card]Black Lotus[/card] into [card]Channel[/card] opening hand. But what he didn’t do is play the [card]Karn Liberated[/card] that was also in his hand because it would have opened him up to losing to a turn one [card]Lightning Bolt[/card]. I’m not sure about you, but I would have gone for it! And the other deck that sent his sacred bell dinging (every time something goes his way he dings a bell) was his [card]Crucible of Worlds[/card]/[card]Strip Mine[/card]/[card]Wildfire[/card]/[card]Burning of Xinye[/card]/[card]Tanglewire[/card]/[card]Smokestack[/card]/[card]Rishadan Port[/card]/[card]Maze of Ith[/card] deck. It went 6-0, not even close, except for one close game where he beat a turn-three [card]Blightsteel Colossus[/card]. The deck was absolutely soul crushing. There was not a single bad draw during the whole six games. Merry Christmas.

Okay okay, I just needed to get some ridicupants cube stories out there to help bolster my other series. On to the beer.

This week’s topic is Christmas beer with a special focus on hot beer. Yes, hot beer. I am not talking about beers that have a really high alcohol percentage that have a really hot smell or nose, or even a beer that warms you on the way down. Nope, I am talking about a beer that you enjoy after you have heated it up on the stovetop and ladled into a mug or stein.

I’ll start with a little history, then discuss some of the style, and finish with a recipe, which will be our style of the week!

If I ask you to picture a beer in your mind’s eye, chances are good that you’ll see brown bottle or a can of lager with some condensation dripping down the side. Depending on how much football you watch, you might see some rather attractive females surrounding that beer, but that’s a whole other topic. If we were living a few hundred years ago, you would be instead be picturing a room temperature mug of ale being served to you by a bearded, jolly bartender in a tavern. The advent of lagers and artificial refrigeration contributed to the demise of the hot beer. Here’s how.

Before we had effective sanitation and refrigeration practices, there was a much higher chance of something undesirable getting into beer and giving it an infection, making it taste less than perfect. It’s important to note that infection is not necessarily a bad thing and is often sought for certain types of beers. We also need to know that not all infections are created equal. Some are described as smelling like rhino vomit that has sat in the sun a few hours, and others are not so bad, like lactic, which can give a very clean tart flavor to the beer. If a beer is not infected by the former it can still be very drinkable.



Traditional WassailingOne solution (often used in the 1600s) to masking the slightly undesirable flavor was heating and spicing the beer. This is very similar to mulling wine, except you’re using beer. The most popular version of a mulled beer is called Wassail. It’s named after a celebration for the health of the apple trees from Southern England. While doing research for this article, I found that the most popular version of Wassail seems to be Lambswool.  It blends the pulp of six apples into the spiced and heated beer and it creates a beautiful froth on the top of the cup that looks just like the wool of a lamb! However there are many versions of Wassail and it does not seem to have a definitive form. I’ll supply you with the two most popular preparations and you can decide for yourself which one you like best.



Simple Mulled Beer

Recipes for this are greatly varied but there are some constants.

For the beer, use a brown or strong ale, and make sure it’s more malty than hoppy—this is not the time to embrace your inner hophead. A brown ale or a strong ale will work well. I haven’t seen any Belgian mulled beers so try and keep it American or British. I would look for a beer around 5-6% ABV (or more) with good malt character.

For the spices, use your favorite blend of Christmas spices: Cinnamon sticks for sure, nutmeg, clove, ginger, mace, allspice. The key here is to keep it light and make sure to start with a little and add extra if you’d like to taste them more. A good guide is to try and use around a teaspoon total per pint of whatever spices you decide to use .

Add some sugar—it seems like a tablespoon per pint is a good measure. You can use any type you like: honey, agave, brown sugar, whatever.

You may want some extra booze. Add half an ounce per pint (or more) of spiced rum, whiskey, Irish whiskey, or brandy. You could try gin, but leave vodka out of this one.

Finally, you’ll want s slice of citrus for garnish, either orange or lemon.

Mix everything but the citrus together in a pot. Bring to just below a simmer and take the pot off the heat and let it sit for five minutes. Ladle into a mug, add the slice of citrus, and enjoy!


And for the foodies in the crowd…


Lambswool Wassail DrinkLambswool

Recipe Ingredients:

1.5 liters (3 x 500ml bottles) of traditional real ale

6 small cooking apples, cored (Granny Smith)

1 nutmeg, freshly grated

1 tsp ground ginger

75g brown sugar


1. Roast the 6 apples for an hour at 250 degrees until soft and pulpy—the flesh should peel easily away from the skin.

2. Add the sugar to the bottom of a large pot. Add enough to beer to the bottom of the pan to dissolve the sugar. Try not to splash while stirring.

3. Add spices and the rest of the beer, keeping just below a simmer for a couple minutes.

4. Let rest off the fire for 10 minutes.

5. Separate the pulp from the skins of the apples and and blend the flesh smooth, you want no lumps in the final product.

6. Add the apple purée to the pot and let it steep for 30 minutes. Do not let the beer simmer on the fire at this point.

7. After 30 minutes, whisk vigorously or blend with a hand blender. If you mix long enough, the apple will froth up and look just like lamb’s wool.

8. Ladle it out into a tulip or stein and enjoy.


When you make one of these recipes this holiday season, shoot me a pic on Twitter @awcolman. You’re really going to love these drinks, and if you come up with or already have your own version, post it in the comment section because I would love to try some other recipes!

Please keep in mind that when alcohol is warmed it is absorbed into the body considerably faster than normal. Enjoy and drink responsibly. Please please don’t drink and drive this holiday season.

Merry Christmas and as always thanks for hangin’.


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6 comments on Andrew Colman- Serum Visions: Wassailing the Holiday Cube

  1. Martin Coppersmith says:

    Before I bastardize my brown ales I need you to promise me that this is going to be worth it.

    I mull red wine because I am not a fan. Merlot is the worst so it goes in the stock pot a few times a year. Why would I cook some of my favorite beers?

    Of course, I don’t eat a tenderloin raw so maybe getting tossed on the stove is a compliment?

    As for the lambswool. WTF qualifies a “traditional” and also “real” ale?!

  2. Martin Coppersmith says:

    based on a search for food pairings suitable for IPA (my least favorite beer) which I am willing to ruin and send down a drain. A similar approach worked last year when I made SAVORY ‘pumpkin’ pies wth earthy spioces and acorn squash. I’ll let you know if it kills me. Good results may result in my being more willing to sacrifice a brown ale for a second batch – using the ‘sweeter’ spice you discuss above.

  3. Martin Coppersmith says:

    note to self

    1 bottle a pint doth not make

    Spices were too intense at 2 bottle + 1 shot of gin + 0.5 tsp each : coriander turmeric cardamom and paprika

    Damn, that was not even beer anymore.

    Oh, and straining $%^&*( ground spices through a coffee filter is for the dogs. If you develop a selection and amount of spice you like…. get WHOLE spices and crack/grind them just a little when mulling. I’ve got cardamon crap in my gums.

  4. Andrew Colman says:

    Hey Martin,

    Reading all of your posts at once really made me laugh. to be fair I did advise against using anything bitter. Maybe I should have expanded on why to really clarify myself. When you heat/ simmer beer you lose a lot of the characteristics that it brings. One thing you don’t lose however is the bitterness. In fact, as the beer evaporates the amount isomorized alpha acids stays they same and thus become concentrated making the beer MORE bitter! The brown that I used was quite low hopped but after everything was said and done it was considerably more bitter for just this reason.

    I also advised using ‘chirstmasy’ spices of which turmeric and paprika are not. They both have tannic and bittering qualities to them which isn’t quite what we are looking for. We are looking for rounding and warming flavours :) The gin, depending on what kind you used may have accentuated the undesirable characteristics of the IPA and turmeric. Probably should have left that out of the suggestion list. I think i could work but it would take some finessing.

    Lastly, using ground spices would have been fine. They just settle out at the bottom of the cup before you serve and as you drink, if you are going to use whole spices and feel the need to strain, best us a sieve.

    I am very happy that you tried it! I would encourage you to try it again using some different ingredients. NO IPA’s lol

    Also, the google doc cube scaler will be up the article after the whole list has been spoiled. This week artifact next one multicolour then the google doc. Sorry it’s so far away, i just don’t really have time to dig into it and make it fully functional right now.

    I’s love to know how your process is going so far though!


  5. Martin Coppersmith says:

    Well my progress on building a metric for the cards incidentally included in the MM box I have is dead. I actually started a few people arguing about what constitutes a ‘deck design arechetype’ versus what qualifies as a card-style archetype and whether the difference matterd.

    I derailed a 5 person EDH game for 30 minutes, during which I think I participated for 5 minutes.

    Maybe I need to get some input from a few ‘names’ in drafting and deck design to either contribute a couple minutes of input or to get help tracking down a few well written article on the topic from a reputable source(s).

    B.R.E.A.D. is a useful acronymn for drafting bombs removal evasion answers and doods…. but answers in particular gets convoluted fast. And it avoids the subsets of removal: wipe, targeted, burn vs. kill, nullification as removal (like pacifism).

    You can see how a few of our more opinionated players could turn this conversation into a fiasco.


    And yeah, stick to the recipe. I had hoped that following the ‘sweet beer with holiday spices’ format would work well when altered to ‘use spices normally used in the food pairings of your beer’ – FOOL!

    I’ll have to see if my locl tavern has any kegs their trying to blow. If something is reaching a near stale point sometimes they have a price reduction on growlers – then I wont feel so bad about ‘abusing’ a good brown ale.

    And again – per the lambswool recipe – what is or how do you ID a ‘real traditional ale’? Don’t make me haul a laptop to the local varietal beer emporium ( and ask wtf you are referring to. ;-)

    1. Andrew Colman says:

      Hey Martin,

      Sorry this response is so late, Christmas season is upon us, you know :)

      A real traditional ale just means it’s a beer from a cask. You don’t need to use beer from a cask, it just sounded good in the recipe, style points… any good brown ale will do. Do be so afraid of ruining your beer, it’s only one beer and a fear based life could prevent you from discovering something amazing!

      As for your cube building problem, remember this is your cube and it is not set in stone. If you get it together and it is a total wreck then you will have learned that it was a total wreck and you can just move on from there and make it better. Whats great about what you’re trying to do is that it probably will be common uncommon based and so it wont end up being to expensive to make significant changes.

      Again the project should not be dead, you are just getting started, this is something you need to push though to get to the final product.

      Why don’t you send me what you have already and we can see how to continue on. Depending on how it looks I might be able to run it as a series on this website, on how to build a draft format as such. With much credit to you of course. We can call it a collaboration :)

      It’s a good idea don’t let a stupid fight over cardboard selection processes ruin it!

      Talk to you soon


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