Give the Gift of Happiness: Beer

Ho Ho HopsWith virtually no break after Halloween, the holiday season kicks into high gear until we’re stuffed to the gills way before December 25th.  I have mixed feelings about “the most wonderful time of the year,” which for me isn’t as magnificent as other times, but certainly does bring a lot of cheer during what would be an otherwise dreary season.  If Thanksgiving pushes us to think about what it is we’re thankful for, the rest of the holiday season makes us pause, enjoy each other’s company and look forward to the promise of a new year.  Before the down time however, the pressure is on as things speed up during the month of December.  The countdown to Christmas reminds us that our shopping days are numbered as our stresses multiply (this is why it’s not the most wonderful time for me).  While it’s easier to just give up and buy an array of gift cards, a more creative approach to beer related gift giving really does make the search pleasurable.

On the Internet there are a plethora of articles, Pinterest boards and new products aimed at the beer lover population. Writing, reading, cooking, brewing and of course drinking materials abound.  Have a beer enthusiast on your holiday shopping list but not sure what to get?  I’ve done some research of my own and came up with some nifty beer ideas for Christmas time or anytime really.  The most obvious gift is beer, which in and of itself may not sound exciting, but I can tell you that as a recipient of a six-pack of delicious craft beer wrapped in cheery snowflake paper, I wasn’t asking for a gift receipt to return it.  There are plenty of “Beer of the Month” clubs that provide a variety of options tailored to what kind of delivery you want to set up to your intended recipient.  Closer to home but a bit more work than ordering online is to make your own craft beer six-pack at a variety of grocery and convenience stores.  Local breweries and brewpubs offer growlers (glass containers for draught beers) where you can fill them with your favorite suds and spread the cheer at the next holiday party.

moleskine-beer-journal-01As a writer and beer lover, I like to record what it is I drink so that I can remember what I had and how it tasted.  I received a beer journal as a gift so that I had something ‘official’ to jot down my tastings now that I was a serious beer writer.  It’s been my experience that beer journals, while nice looking, aren’t the most useful or convenient things when trying beers at a crowded beer festival.  As a woman, it was inconvenient to have to dig through my purse for the journal AND a pen, all while holding a glass full of beer in the other hand at a crowded event.  I’ve tried scribbling in smaller notepads, which weren’t much helpful either.  For men, a notepad/beer journal also proves inconvenient unless you have big pockets.  For me, a beer journal just wasn’t a realistic tool for my needs, not to mention my handwriting got sloppier as the hours went on.  What really works for me is Untappd, an iPhone and Droid app that conveniently records what I drink, where I drink it, and I can upload a picture, rate the beer and make a brief comment.  This free app isn’t a holiday gift but definitely worth mentioning here.  While beer journals may not be my choice, there are a number of useful ones out there for the beer geek in your life.  Moleskine, maker of high quality notebook products, has made a beer journal complete with useful reference guides.

For the beer lover interested in beer history and knowledge, books are the way to go.  I’m currently reading “The Audacity of Hops” by Tom Acitelli — a great read if you want to learn about the history of craft beer in the U.S.  Other books I highly recommend are two by Garrett Oliver, head brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery:  “The Brewmaster’s Table,” a book about the pleasures of beer and food pairing, and “The Oxford Companion to Beer,” an extensive encyclopedia of beer from A to Z.  There are a variety of books on beer topics out there for every interest: cooking, home brewing, regional history, travel, and so on.  Beer magazine subscriptions are also a great gift idea — Beer Advocate, All About Beer, and Zymurgy to name a few.

Dogfish-Head-Randall-Jr-Gear-PatrolAnother way to give a creative beer gift is to make one (!) or buy something unique.  In the kitchen, you can bake a sumptuous Guinness chocolate cake or make beer-candied bacon.  On websites like Etsy, you can buy beer soap or hop flavored candy (click for link).  Dogfish Head makes what’s called a Randall Jr., a smaller version of the Randall which is essentially a device that infuses your beer of choice with flavor enhancing ingredients.  I recently sampled a Randall infused beer — Great Lakes Christmas Ale infused with cinnamon sticks and candy canes — and boy did I taste the infusion!  Unique bottle openers, growler devices, smartphone beer covers, whimsical t-shirts and a myriad of beer gifts as far as the imagination can cover are readily available.  The variety of beer gift choices can be overwhelming and intimidating, no doubt.  If this task seems too much to bear, pull up a seat at the nearest brewpub or brewery, order a tall one and buy a gift certificate.  Now who wouldn’t love that?  Happy Holidays and Cheers!

Also Featured in this month’s Table Hopping

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