Choosing gifts for the discriminating beer nerd or the new fanatic can be a challenging endeavor. Are they a hophead? Have they expressed an interest in homebrewing? Do they obsess over proper glassware or temper-mental yeast? Our holiday gift guide can point you in the right direction.
You really can’t go wrong with the gift of beer itself, unless you choose a generic six-pack of Miller Lite, so we suggest something out of the ordinary. You can do that by avoiding the big box stores and going to a local bottle shop or even a wine store that carries craft beer. That’s where you’re more likely to find some special Belgians or even a few rare beers that your loved one will likely fawn over. If you don’t know their taste, just ask an employee for advice. Most specialty shops have well versed beer mongers that are happy to guide you.
If going out on a limb makes you uncomfortable, consider a gift certificate. Yes, some people think they’re less personal, but a beer geek with discerning taste will love controlling their flavor destiny. A certificate could even allow them to splurge on an expensive bottle they would normally avoid.
Another option is the gift that keeps on giving and Michael Jackson’s Rare Beer Club is your best choice in this area. The bottle selections are above average compared to similar clubs and there are three different membership levels to choose from ranging in price from $45 to $87 per month (including shipping), depending on the number of bottles. While this gift is expensive, it will be highly anticipated each month.
A few 2010 holiday beers. 2011 versions are on the shelf now.
If you have a friend who’s itching to try their hand at homebrewing, the Beer Craft book will get them started and on the right track. Written by William Bostwick and Jessi Rymill, Beer Craft demystifies the homebrewing process by breaking it down into simple steps, easy to follow charts, and encourages one-gallon batch sizes that can be made in any kitchen. Yes, there are more comprehensive books, but this choice is more concise and presents the process in a far less intimidating manner. List price: $17.99
The second option for the homebrewer in your life is an American Homebrewer’s Association (AHA) membership. The AHA offers homebrewers a variety of excellent resources and benefits, including bi-monthly home delivery of Zymurgy Magazine, discounts on beer and merchandise around the country at participating locations, early bird registration to the Great American Beer Festival and online access to recipes and experts in the forum. Cost: $38
Never has one book compiled so much information about beer into nearly a thousand pages. The Oxford Companion to Beer, written by beer sage Garrett Oliver, will give the novice, geek or brewer access to a plethora of insights about brewing history, science, styles and more. It’s simply an incredible resource that every beer lover should have on the shelf. List price: $65, but currently on sale.
Serving beer in proper glassware is essential and any cupboard should be stocked with a few options for different styles. Spiegelau offers a wonderful starter set that includes a Lager, Pilsner, Wheat and stemmed Pilsner beer glass (also known as a Belgian beer glass) for $34. If you had to choose just one style, go with a set of two stemmed Pilsner glasses for $21.
Logo glassware from breweries also make a nice gift.
On the decorative side of beer gifts, Pop Chart Lab’s poster is a must for tracking the genealogy of beer styles that have evolved since the Sumerians brewed 6,000 years ago. In addition, if you purchase this poster before December 31, you’ll be entered to win one bottle of every beer represented in the chart, for a total of 200 bottles worth $2,000. Yes, you read that correctly. Cost: $25
If every option above has been exhausted, then you can always pick up a t-shirt, sweatshirt, hat and more at a favorite brewery or bar. If you’re local to a particular venue, just pay them a visit, but most breweries also offer apparel online for easy purchase.