The spirit of the season? Great beer.
For the brew fan in your house, here’s a six-pack of ideas
Often when people try to buy gifts for the beer geek in their lives, the first thing that crosses their minds is the time-honored “beer of the month’’ club. This is not a good idea.
Why not? One, your beer geek has already had many of the beers that will be shipped to his or her door. Two, the beers in many beer clubs are uninteresting and overpriced. Three, with the ever-expanding craft beer aisles in local liquor stores, beer-of-the-month clubs have outlived their usefulness. (Also, if your beer geek lives in Massachusetts, you can forget about it anyway; the state is one of a handful where, because of an anachronistic law, it is illegal to ship beer.)
So what else can you buy your beer geek? Plenty.
BEER That’s right, buy your beer geek some beer. But be careful, and be creative. Your beer geek already buys himself plenty of six-packs of IPA and stout. He also buys the occasional bomber of specialty brew. What you need to do is buy your beer geek something he would not normally buy himself, because it’s too expensive and he feels guilty about spending so much money on beer. You should buy your beer geek a luxury beer. Need some recommendations? If you want to stay with the spirit of the season, grab a bomber of St. Bernardus Christmas Ale ($12.99), a strong dark ale that will keep him warm on a cold winter night. If you want to stay current, show your beer geek how hip you are by grabbing a big bottle of Infinium ($19.99), a champagne-like beer concocted by
BEER LITERATURE New beer books are published every year. Our two current favorites are “Tasting Beer’’ ($16.95) by Randy Mosher, a guide to pretty much everything you need to know about the subject, and “Great American Craft Beer’’ ($22.95) by Cambridge’s own Andy Crouch, which rounds up some of the best beers produced in this country and provides a primer on each style. If you want to give a gift all yearlong, consider buying your beer geek a subscription to BeerAdvocate ($16.99). The Cambridge-based Alström brothers, who run the Web’s best beer site, also publish an excellent magazine.
A MYSTERY The most original beer-gift idea of the season comes from Just Beer Brewing in Westport. Called “The Case of the IPA,’’ it’s a murder mystery that unfolds over the labels of a dozen 22-ounce bottles of beer. The 12-chapter story, which involves a wealthy brewer named Cornelius Fuggles, is pretty clever. The beer? Even better. Bill Russell’s brewery (the old Buzzards Bay Brewing) makes a deliciously bitter and hoppy India Pale Ale. At $2.99 per bomber with case discounts (available at Bauer Wine & Spirits on Newbury Street and a few other places), it’s the season’s best bargain, too.
GLASSWARE If your beer geek has a favorite brewery, consider buying some of its custom glassware (or other paraphernalia). You can usually buy such items directly from the company’s website. Dogfish Head and Stone Brewing Co. both sell original glasses for decent prices, and those are safe choices — every beer nut in the country enjoys what those brewers make. We’re dying to get our hands on a couple of the Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine glasses ($7 each). On the other hand, the so-called “perfect pint’’ is made right in our backyard — Boston Beer Co.’s Sam Adams Lager glass ($4.99) is designed to capture a beer’s aroma and enhance its taste. And here’s the best deal of the season: New Belgium Brewery in Colorado is offering a gift set with two of its glasses for just $5.99 — and no shipping charge.
MIX PACKS Everybody pulls them out this time of year. Sam Adams has its Winter Classics (about $14), which offers two each of six different beers, including Old Fezziwig, the best beer in the Sam Adams stable. Saranac brings out its “12 Beers of Winter’’ pack ($13), and St. Bernardus sells a mixed pack ($26) that includes six different beers, including the revered Abt 12, one of the greatest ales on the planet. The “Historic Ales From Scotland’’ pack ($11) presents a few lesser-known beers that predate the use of hops in brewing.
GIFT SETS Out they come in the liquor stores in December, these well-priced sets that include a few beers from a brewery along with a signature glass. Chimay, a brewery in Belgium whose beers are made by Trappist monks, produces some of the finest ale on Earth. Its gift set ($20) includes one each of its three beers along with its classic Chimay goblet. Ommegang, an artisanal brewery in Cooperstown, N.Y., collects three of its outstanding beers in 750-milliliter “bombers,’’ plus one of its distinctive glasses in a handsome set ($26). If you want the beer glass that many people consider to be perfect, go for the Duvel gift set ($18); you get the world-famous “Duvel tulip’’ plus four bottles of Duvel’s golden ale, the standard bearer of its style. But why settle for one glass? Boston-based Harpoon Brewery ups the ante by gathering six different glasses plus six different beers ($40).
Steve Greenlee can be reached at email@example.com.