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Whenever people ask me if there’s anything I don’t drink, I will immediately say two things: blue cocktails and warm beer (details date back to high school). Now it seems that I might have to revise my list: As unlikely as it sounds, beer that's been carefully heated is a hot trend, especially in places that take brews seriously. In Chicago, the Quebecois Quelque Chose cherry beer is served warm at restaurants like Naha and the recently opened Eve, where chef Troy Graves rationalizes it this way: “Chicago is so cold in the winter. Drinking a warm beer now is as satisfying as drinking a cold beer is in the summer. Plus the aroma and flavor comes out more when beer is warmed up.” At Avec, run by Koren Grieveson (an F&W Best New Chef 2008), they’ve been serving the heated-up Swiss dark winter honey ale “La Dragonne” for a year. The trend isn’t limited to Chicago: The popular Diamond in Greenpoint, Brooklyn serves La Dragonne at special dinners (paired with fondue), as does the fun cocktail lounge 116 Crown in New Haven, Connecticut.
A note to anyone who thinks warm beer should be as cheap as its reputation: At Avec, a 750 ml bottle of La Dragonne goes for about $35. Which is why Phillip Walters, co-owner of Chicago’s The Bristol, suggests making it at home. Here’s his recipe: Heat a bottle of Samuel Smith’s Organic English Ale with a little bit of coriander seeds, cardamom pods, star anise and cloves to 90° to 100° for about 5 minutes, then serve immediately. I might try this over the holidays. As for blue cocktails, I still draw the line.