Recipe: Annie’s Holidaze Wassail

This recipe for a dark, spiced holiday ale is ideal for serving either cool or warmed and mulled, with many more variations possible on fruits and spices.

Annie Johnson Dec 26, 2022 - 4 min read

Recipe: Annie’s Holidaze Wassail Primary Image

Photo: Matt Graves/

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Batch size: 5 gallons (19 liters)
Brewhouse efficiency: 72%
OG: 1.077
FG: 1.021
IBUs: 26
ABV: 7.3%

9.8 lb (4.4 kg) dark liquid malt extract (LME)
1 lb (454 g) flaked barley
8 oz (227 g) caramel/crystal 80L
8 oz (227 g) chocolate malt

1.5 oz (43 g) Willamette at 45 minutes [15 IBUs]
1 oz (28 g) Willamette at 30 minutes [9 IBUs]
1 oz (28 g) East Kent Goldings at 5 minutes [2 IBUs]
8 oz (227 g) turbinado sugar at 5 minutes
2 Tbs (30 ml) spices at 5 minutes
Fresh zest from 2–3 large oranges at secondary

White Labs WLP085 English Ale Blend

Mill the grains. Heat 6 gallons (23 liters) of water to 156°F (69°C) and steep grains for 45 minutes. Remove the grains and drain well. Add the LME and stir thoroughly to completely dissolve, being careful to avoid scorching. Bring the wort to a good rolling boil and boil for 60 minutes, adding hops, sugar, and spices according to the schedule. (When adding sugar, briefly switch off the heat and stir thoroughly to completely dissolve.) Chill to about 68°F (20°C), aerate, and pitch the yeast. Ferment for about 10 days, add orange zest, then ferment for a few more days, or until fermentation is complete and gravity has stabilized. Then crash, package, and lightly carbonate.

Spices: It’s a choose-your-own-adventure—star anise, cloves, cinnamon stick, nutmeg, and/or allspice can all work nicely when used with restraint. I like to lightly crush the whole spices and place them a hop sock, so it’s easy to fish out.
More Fruit: Feel free to riff and make your own wassail fruit-punchier. Optionally, keep the spices, ditch the zest, and add cherry, raspberry, apple, persimmon, pomegranate, or quince purées after primary fermentation is complete. I like to rack the beer atop the fruit and let it sit for a week before packaging.
Pumpkin Ale Variation: Add some puréed winter squashes to your mash. With 5 minutes left in the boil, add one vanilla bean, slit down the middle, plus 1 tsp (5 ml) of Jamaican allspice. After primary fermentation, add some non-sulfured dried dates or sultana raisins for a week before packaging.
Wassailing Time: Keep in mind that you can continue to doctor your concoction when it’s time to warm it up and share, adding different fruits, spices, sugars, or booze—you can even get your guests involved in this festive sort of bench testing. You can also brew this ale without any of the fruit or spices, then—in a party keg or growler—add fresh ginger coins, a vanilla bean, a cup of dark rum for a portable holiday treat.

Annie Johnson is an experienced R&D brewer, IT specialist, and national beer judge. Her awards include 2013 American Homebrewer of the Year honors.