Ask a Cicerone: The Best Gifts for Beer Lovers
Editor's Note: Ask a what? A Certified Cicerone®. That is, a beer expert who has passed a particular certification exam administered by the Craft Beer Institute. You can think of them as beer sommeliers.
We've already mentioned a few of our gift ideas for beer lovers and homebrewers, but it never hurts to have a little more help. We turned to beer experts from around the country, asking what gifts are best for the beer-obsessed...plus a few to avoid. Here's what they had to say.
"Stay away from beer of the month clubs. They often are underwhelming, even to the novice. Pick beers you know they like, or a one-off from a small brewery, something special, perhaps even signed by the brewer. The ultimate gift would be any trip that involves breweries and great craft beer bars: Munich for Oktoberfest, touring the best beer bars in Belgium, tickets to Dark Lord Day, an IPA tour of the California Coast."—Joshua A. Cass (821 Cafe)
"I love giving gifts to beer lovers that heighten the whole experience of drinking it. For example, little pairings that go well together like a piece of really good chocolate with a Dupont Monk's Stout, or a bag of gourmet popcorn with an Innis and Gunn. It's always great to get a good beer but when you get a little experience it's more memorable."—Anne Becerra (The Ginger Man)
"The best beer gifts I've received are Belgian tulips with my home brewery name etched on them, and a personalized brewing apron. A gift certificate to a homebrew store is always a great gift. Whether they are homebrewers or not, a good homebrew store will have something for every beer nerd."—Michael Ferrari (Luck)
"Clever bottle openers. I have an iPhone bottle opener from Sierra Nevada that is always a hit, belt buckle openers, keychain openers... It's my own personal version of a stamp collection."—Becki Kregoski (Bites 'n Brews)
"If there is one thing that beer lovers truly appreciate is beer that they haven't had an opportunity to try before. Go into the store and ask what is brand new, you know the beer that has just come out in the last couple of days and there is no way your beer lover has had before. Also remember this when traveling out of your normal beer purchasing area. Many times there are different items as you get into a new area, so there is a possibility that the beer lover in your life has never even laid eyes on some of those particular beers. These are great surprises."—Brian Hoppe (Hy-Vee)
"There's probably a sizable contingent of beer lovers at home still drinking all their beers from the standard shaker pint, so expanding this selection through different types of glassware—goblets, tulips, pilsner flutes—is a great way to enhance future tasting experiences. It's remarkable how this one modification can change how to approach and appreciate beer."—James Tai (Pinch)
"Beyond beer and beer books (which are never a bad idea), subscriptions to beer magazines are a good idea. It saves me from going out to pick them up every month."—Jesse Vallins (The Saint Tavern)
"I would gift some tickets to a local beer festival. There are an exploding number of breweries out there begging to be sampled! A good notebook is great for writing notes, if that's your thing."—John Wyzkiewicz (Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant)
"Gift packs with collectible glassware never fail. You get a small collection of great beers and a choice vessel from which to drink them. Duvel, Chimay and La Trappe make some of my favorites. Straight up glassware is cool too. Six stemmed tulip glasses or a couple of fine brandy snifters for Imperial Stouts and Barleywines would be well received."—Chris Kline (Schnuck Markets)
"The best beer gift I ever got was a homebrewing kit. Brewing beer at home is actually quite easy and fun, and most local homebrew shops even offer classes to get you started. For a more leisurely approach, check to see if there's a Brew-on-Premise location in your area, where you can take a group of friends to brew and bottle a batch of your own beer using their equipment. Homebrew clubs can also be a fun place to meet other local beer enthusiasts, and can easily be discovered in your area with a quick web search."—Aaron Libera (Sanford Homebrew Shop)
"Get your friends together, choose a designated driver or two, and plan a brewery/taproom tour featuring the best beer spots in your area! If you're lucky enough to live in an area with good public transportation, so much the better, no DD required. Here in San Francisco or Oakland you can do a beer tour on foot or on bike, or you could drive to breweries in the North Bay wine country area. If you want to get crazy, find out how much it costs to rent a small bus and driver for a day (if you have a crowd, check in advance to make sure it's OK to show up at a brewery or bar with a busload of people). Now that's a gift a beer geek will remember!"—Chris Cohen (San Francisco Homebrewers Guild)
"I use my bottle carrier made from a recycled malt bag all the time, because like most beer lovers I carry bottles to people's houses to share, and carry bottles home from the store to drink. The bag folds into nothing so you can stick it in your purse or backpack and it's strong. They do a growler carrier too."—Crystal Luxmore (beer writer)