Friday, December 16, 2011

Holiday Gift Ideas for Beer Geeks

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.

4. Glassware.  Quality beer glassware is hard to find, but makes a great gift.  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.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Year-End Thinking

It's unlikely I will reach my goal of 100 posts for this year.  I could write a number of small useless posts to get to 100, but I am not going to succumb to posts that read like a New Brew Thursday tweet just to meet a meaningless target. 

I am putting together my list of best and worst beers of the year.  I know the best beers I have had this year, but I am having a hard time putting together the worst beers.  I'd had some beers that have disappointed and underwhelmed, but until last weekend none that I'd call the worst beer of the year.  Iron Fist's undrinkable Gauntlet double IPA was shudder inducing bad.  It did not taste like an IPA, was way too malty and boozy and had a nasty aftertaste.   If I didn't know it, I would not have guessed it a double IPA.  A friend ordered the Gauntlet at a pub, and I tasted it, so I did not actually have one myself, so maybe I should not include it on my list.  But whether I include it or not, with one taste it was by far the worst beer I had this year.   We asked the bartender if we could swap Gauntlet for a Coronado Brewing Idiot double IPA, which I knew was a good beer, and she gladly obliged, agreeing with us that Gauntlet was a tough beer to drink.   I can't remember ever sending a beer back for crappy taste.

Holiday Beer Recommendations

I was asked by a friend today for holiday beer recommendations for a party he was hositng.  I immediately said Dupont's Avec Les Bons Voeux, which is possibly the finest beer on the planet, holiday beer or not.    I try to enjoy a couple of this smooth, souped up saison a year.  I sent a later email telling him that he should also buy some Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, a classic American holiday beer.  If my friend and his guests don't like either of these two beers they deserve to get sick on their eggnog.