If you're not into beer but know a beer geek and want to buy a present to indulge his or her hobby, here are a few gift ideas, and ones to avoid, for this holiday season.
1. Don't Give Beer. Unless you have been given a specific beer request, you should avoid direct beer gifts. The beer geek is at heart a snob and if you don't know the beer your giving, the chances of choosing a beer the geek will like is slim. Stella Artois and Newcastle Brown Ale are not special, and Cost Plus' Beers-of-the World twelve packs are lame.
2. Beer Store Gift Certificates. If you are set on giving beer, a gift certificate to a good beer store or grocery store with wide beer selection is a better gift idea than randomly trying to choose strange beers. You should budget around $25, which will let the geek buy two to four beers.
3. Brewery Gift Certificates. If you're lucky enough to live near a brewery you should think about a gift certificate. A gift certificate from a local brewery will allow the geek to fill growlers, or buy bottled beer or pickup up glassware, logoed clothes or other beer swag.
Crate & Barrel finally has as decent selection of beer glassware. I'd recommend the Hops, the Bruges (picture), or imperial Pint Tumbler. Many breweries now sell special glassware, and again, if you live near a brewery, you should investigate this option. Avoid the ubiquitous Shaker pint glasss, the tall pilsner glasses or any glasses with handles. Any respectable beer geek has plenty of Shaker pint glasses and won't need any more. Stores like Target and Macy's only offer the tall pilsner glass, but while these glasses look elegant they're a pain to use, plus beer geeks don't tend to drink many pilsners, which these glasses were designed for, and if they do it's usually directly out of a can or bottle.
5. Beer Books. The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.: Liquid Lore, Epic Recipes and Unabashed Arrogance is a good literary gift. Amazon has it and I've seen it at Costco (although this is probably regional). It's a glossy well written book that the beer geek will enjoy. Most professional beer writing is tedious at best, so be careful with selecting beer books.
6. Bottle Opener. It sounds simple, but a good bottle opener is a must for any beer geek, and an overlooked tool for the drinking trade. Choose an opener that has heft and leverage, as it will be required to open wine bottle-size beer bottles. Local breweries and a quality beer or liquor store are a sources for openers, but other cooking stores should carry suitable ones, too.
Keep your beer gift search simple. Beer does not lend itself to over thinking. The beer geek is typically an appreciative person, despite the snooty attitude towards beer, and will enjoy any extra effort to indulge their habit.