Got Beer? Buying for Your Zymurgist

If you didn’t go and gorge yourself on commercialism this past Friday, and I hope for the sake of everyone working in retail that you didn’t, then it’s time to sit down and calmly think about what to get for that special person in your life who supplies you with beer. No, not your bartender, although that’s not a bad idea, especially if you’ve ever needed to be escorted outside and still want to stay on their good side.

I speak of your homebrewing friend. Homebrewing is a wonderful gateway drug to craft beer. After all, when you can break down and analyze recipes and learn about the process, it becomes almost impossible not to want to experiment and create something new and different.

And as usual, this is my guide to getting that special homebrewer in your life something they really want. Any homebrewer worth their salt already has the basics, so let’s go one step beyond and look at potential gifts that would appeal to your zymurgist friend.

Thermometers – Getting a good thermometer for your homebrewing friend may be one of the simplest, and yet most meaningful gifts. Most homebrewers use cooking thermometers, which work fine, but are easily damaged and sometimes imprecise. Since precision temperature is important, here are some options.

Digital thermometers with built-in timers are a godsend when brewing, the only downside being that the little probes break very easily. If possible, find several cheap ones to include for when those probes break so they can be swapped out for working ones.

If you can get even more high-tech, I can’t imagine a single homebrewer who doesn’t want an infrared thermometer. Popular for home inspectors and ghost hunters, it automatically reads the temperature of whatever it’s pointed at. It never has to touch hot liquid, and nothing has to go in the wort, so not only does it cut chances of contamination, it’s likely to live a nice long life, depending on batteries.

Conical Fermenters – For the die-hard, there are some five-gallon conical fermenters out there just like what the big boys at the breweries use. They’re not cheap, but think of it as an investment in the many batches of amazing beer that your friend will make, then likely share with you, so you can give coherent feedback … while you’re still coherent.

Swing-top bottles – I don’t know a single homebrewer who, if they’re not kegging, actually enjoys capping bottles. It’s tedious, and adds an extra chance of something getting into the bottles to potentially contaminate the beer. But if you can close the bottle with a flick of the thumb, problem solved.

Barrels – Rhode Island has a few distilleries up and running now, and I don’t think it would be too hard to get one of them to hand over a small barrel for you. Compensation might be required, but once that’s out of the way, you have a rum or whiskey barrel that any homebrewer would give their eyeteeth for. Whatever you do, DON’T wash it!

Those are my top picks for your homebrewing friend or relative, or relative friend. Remember that buying these items for a homebrewer isn’t just a show of holiday cheer, it’s an investment in next year’s holiday party. Whatever holiday you celebrate, have a good one, and ferment away, my friends!

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