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Red-hot iron and cold beer: the fascination of beer-spiking

I have a colleague who doesn’t like beer. But because apart from this significant flaw she’s rather nice, I talk to her nonetheless – and it was she of all people who introduced me to something about beer I didn’t know. Full of enthusiasm, you see, she told me how someone had immersed a hot iron rod in his beer in order to caramelise it. And because since then I keep coming across the term “ beer-spiking”, I’ve read up on this, not least in order to regain the upper hand in the team when it comes to beer-related expertise.

Beer-spiking, by the way, is not at all new, it’s just that the technique is currently experiencing a minor renaissance – in actuality it dates back to an ancient tradition from the world of smithying: if the blacksmith found the beer too cold when he fetched it in from outside, then without further ado he immersed a red-hot piece of iron – such as a poker – in it in order to bring his drink to a more agreeable temperature for consumption. The result is the same as it’s always been: the searing heat causes the residual sugar to caramelise, and lends the beer a soft, more intensive taste.

That the market has meanwhile come up with handier (and more hygienic) alternatives to a poker is presumptively attributable not least to the fact that recently some (hobby) brewers have been experimenting with the beer spike – the traditional tool has gained lots of new friends, not least in the experience-gastronomy sector. Basically, all these models function in the same way, and are quickly explained:

The beer: the most suitable type is a dark beer with plenty of residual sugar – such as a normal dark beer or a bock. Chill a relatively small quantity of this (approx. 0.2 litres) until it’s at about 6 – 7 °C, and then pour it into a glass, keeping the head as small as possible.

The beer spike: the tool is usually about 40 cm long, made of stainless steel, and looks relatively unspectacular. With the aid of a blowtorch or a Bunsen burner, heat up the rod or the ball at its end till it’s really hot – you want it to start actually glowing.

The actual “spiking” is then swiftly accomplished: immerse the hot beer spike vertically into the beer glass for about 2 – 5 seconds, until a fine-pored head about 2 cm high has formed. This will cause two things to happen: the beer loses carbon dioxide and the residual sugar will be caramelised.


In your enthusiasm, don’t forget that even after being used the beer spike may still be hot – so make absolutely sure you place it on a heat-resistant surface. And then – last but not least – enjoy the fragrance of caramel and quaff the beer quickly before the head cools down and collapses again. By the way: don’t worry about warm beer: it’ll only have warmed up by about 1 – 3 °C, and under the warm foam is at a perfect temperature for drinking.

Opinions, empirical feedback or questions on this? As always, please feel free to post them in the comments!

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