Holiday shopping for the discriminating beer lover can be a stressful prospect. Which beers should I buy? Which homebrewing supplies does she need? How many times can I get away with buying novelty beer-themed boxer shorts? (Answer: none.)
But don't worry, we're here to help. Here are 9 useful gifts for the beer-obsessed person on your list.
Bottlemark Gift Certificate
If they're anything like me, your favorite homebrewer probably has some fantasy of owning his or her own brewery. Thus, every air of legitimacy that wafts over their mini-brewing operation provides an odd sense of satisfaction. Bottlemark makes high quality, well-priced custom bottle caps with no minimum order for the homebrewer. The end product looks great, arrives quickly, and is inexpensive enough to warrant the luxury. Gift certificates available online.
Spiegelau's Beer Connoisseur Gift Set
We've said it before, and we'll say it again. Glassware makes a great gift. Spiegelau's set of beer glasses are elegant and functional, and even the most glassware-addicted beer geeks can find room in their collection for these. Don't worry if they've already got a set of these glasses—duplicates are perfect for guests and the accident-prone.
Moleskine Passion Beer Journal
Beer journals are a dorky but super effective method for learning more about beer, exploring what's in your glass, and organizing your beery thoughts. Moleskine's is the best I've seen, with the sturdy construction for which the company is known, and detailed sections for taking notes on specific beers, breweries, and recipes. It falls a little short on the fact that there's only room for 40 beer reviews, so it may be worth buying two or three for your favorite beer lover.
As a Californian living under arcane growler laws, I've always been jealous of those that can just bring their own growler into any brewery and have it filled with fresh, local beer. For those lucky folks, a gift of the Bräuler would surely be appreciated. The makers of this stainless steel growler are working feverishly to improve what has traditionally been a less-than-perfect form of packaging. The Bräuler is designed to be unbreakable, light-impermeable, and modular: special caps still in development will offer new capabilities for further beer protection and serving possibilities. Their recently-funded Kickstarter campaign will yield a CO2 injection cap coming next year, and they have plans for even more cool add-ons. For those like myself living in a state in which generic growlers are useless for commercial beer, the Bräuler is great for homebrewers who want a portable package for sharing.
Currently, the growler can only be purchased as a branded product through breweries and third-party retailers. Check out the company's website for a list of retailers, many of which sell the product online for around $50.
I'm a big fan of homemade gifts, on both the giving and receiving side of things. Beer mustard is easy to make and fun to tailor to your personal taste. Try this recipe using your giftee's favorite beer (you don't need to stick to dark beer!). Bonus points for using homebrew.
Gift Certificate to an Out-of-State Shop
Buying beer for a discerning drinker can be a scary prospect, especially if you aren't as knowledgeable (or obsessed) as they are. Let them make the decision. If the receiver's state allows out-of-state beer shipments, buying a gift certificate to an out-of-state beer store that ships is a great way to give them a chance to try beers they can't normally get. I've had good experiences ordering Bell's and Boulevard beer from Missouri's Wine and Cheese Place, Cigar City's beer from Florida's Lueken's Big Town Liquors, and can strongly recommend the nearby K&L Wine Merchants for out-of-staters to get tasty California beers. Again, state regulations vary, so make sure to check if a store will ship to the giftee's state before buying a gift certificate. Here's a nice round-up of who will ship where.
A Really Good Wine Key
Wine, you say? Even the snobbiest grape-shunning beer fan will appreciate a good wine key—not only will it open the occasional "my neighbors really don't understand me but I'll be polite at my own dinner party" wine bottle, but it will also tackle tricky capped 'n' corked beers from the likes of Cantillon or Fantome with ease. Pick one with a good bottle cap opener, and this gift will be sure to find a permanent place on the receiver's home bar. Beautiful examples like the one above have form and function at a stocking-stuffer price.
Charbay's Hop Flavored Whiskey
Still daunted by the task of buying beer for a picky drinker? I've never seen a gift of booze go unappreciated. Charbay's new Hop-Flavored Whiskeys (distilled from Bear Republic's Racer 5 IPA) will appeal to beer and spirits geeks alike. Andrew Strenio reviewed them over here if you want to read more. Hint to family members: buy me this. The Wine and Cheese Place ships to 43 states, and these cost $45 to 63.
About the author: Mike Reis is a Certified Cicerone and Co-Director of Beer at the Monk's Kettle and Abbot's Cellar restaurants in San Francisco. Follow him on Twitter @beerspeaks or find him behind a pint near you.