Fill Your Stockings with Suds

Alt holiday gift ideas for the beer nerd in your life

holidayBeerThe leaves are still on the trees, candy wrappers are still on the floor, the nights are just getting cold and there are Christmas commercials on TV. Yep, the retail Christmas season has jumped the gun again and pre-empted our regularly scheduled program of cranberry sauce, turkey, stuffing and falling asleep on the couch. But before I launch into a tirade about how wrong this trend is, I need to stop, take a drink of cider and remember that there are people (unlike me) who like to be over-prepared, even if it is months in advance. So for those studious people and others who will save this paper and their shopping till a week before Christmas, here are my recommendations for those homebrewing, or the homebrewing curious, people in your life.

The Beer Lover

 This person loves a good beer, but isn’t ready to take the plunge into home brewing (yet).

Bombers – Twenty-two ounce bottles are a gift that anyone can enjoy no matter what category they fit into. You’ll need to do some detective work to find out what tastes your giftee likes in a beer. Do they like light or dark beers? Bitter or sweet? Aromatic or mild? Take them out to a good beer bar one night and keep notes on what they order. If they ask why you’re on the phone all the time, just tell them it’s Facebook. Local liquor stores that carry a good selection of craft beer usually have someone who’s very knowledgeable on duty – don’t be afraid to ask for their help. If you plan on traveling, local beer that you can’t get on this coast is a great gift. Don’t worry – you can put a bottle of beer in your checked bag without the TSA putting you on the naughty list. Just make sure it’s well-padded in your suitcase and don’t try to bring it carry-on.

The Beer Curious

This person has tons of craft beer in their fridge and a can-do approach to life, yet doesn’t home brew, or is just starting out.

The Brewing Ingredient Kit – So many home brewers, myself included, got their start when a friend gave them a kit of ingredients. They’re very easy to come by and can be purchased from your local homebrew store and on websites. They include all the ingredients and detailed directions on how to brew. This gift won’t break the bank and can range from $30 to $50.

The Basic Brewing Kit – A basic brewing kit includes all the buckets, hoses and other equipment a person needs to get started in the addictive world of home brewing. If you keep your eye out, sometimes they will come with an ingredient kit to get you started. A decent kit will usually be anywhere from $60 to $100.

The Beerventurer

This person has cut their teeth on home brewing and it is quickly becoming a way of life.

All Grain Kit – Almost all home brewers start out with an extract-based kit. Instead of pounds of grain, they use syrups and powders to provide the basis for beers. The next step is to go all grain, which offers full control over beer and opens up a whole new world. Kits typically include a mash tun, hot liquor tank, valves and high-heat tubing. A kit will typically run $200 to $300.

Kegs – One of the worst parts of home brewing is cleaning and filling all those bottles by hand. To make life easier, why not give them a keg setup? The kit usually includes tubing, a CO2 regulator, 20 lb tank, a 5 gallon keg and all the fittings you’ll need to pour. These kits usually start at $120 for a basic setup. Homebrewing shops that specialize in draft systems can build you a customized kit for any purpose.

The Beer Master

They’ve brewed it all from beers to ciders to wines. This category is by far the hardest to buy for.

Temperature Controller – You can plug this unit into any fridge or freezer to make a lagering chamber. Lagers are very light in color and taste. If done correctly, they can be the perfect thing on a hot summer day. A temperature controller will run you about $60.

Knowledge – Give the gift that keeps on giving – books! By far, one of my favorite books for advanced brewing is Designing Great Beers by Ray Daniels. This book dives right into all the calculations and chemistry needed to understand the interplay of barley and hops. Paperback editions of this book will cost less than $20.

The Farmer

This person may not make beer, but definitely has a love for homemade food and drink. These gifts would also work well for all the brewers listed above.

The Homebrewer’s Garden, by Joe and Dennis Fisher – This book details growing barley, hops and herbs. It also has great information on how to recognize bad pests, blights and other plant-related issues. Definitely a great buy for anyone who has an interest in gardening. A paperback of this edition will only cost you about $12.

The Compleat Meadmaker, by Ken Schramm – Yes, another book, because books are awesome. This book details how to make honey wine, more commonly known as mead. It details the ingredients used, methods for brewing and everything in between. If your giftee has bee hives and likes to drink, this is the perfect gift.

A Cheese-Making Kit – These have come on the market in recent years and while I still have yet to try one, it seems like a fun activity with the reward being as gratifying as beer. If you or your giftee has access to raw milk, this would be a great way to go. Some homebrew shops sell them, but you might have to go online to get the best selection.

Gift buying tips:

  • Do your homework; learn the terms of the trade so you know what you’re looking for — especially style characteristics when it comes to buying beer.
  • Be a detective; find out what kind of beers the target likes.
  • Know what kind of brewer they are and what equipment they already have – hanging out with them on a brew day is an easy way to find out.

Where to Buy:  

This is far from a comprehensive list, but it’s a list of sources I buy from and have had good experiences with. Local homebrew stores are a great way to keep it local and establish lasting relationships with people passionate about beer.

  • Blackstone Valley Brewing Supplies – 403 Park Ave, Woonsocket, RI – 401-765-3830. Steve Duhamel at BVBS has been in business for 15 years, making him the longest running storefront outfit in the state. BVBS has a full range of beer ingredients, wine kits, mead supplies and draft expertise. Happy 15th Anniversary BVBS!
  • Basement BrewHaus – 116 Calverly St. Providence, RI – 401-272-9449. Chandler Hearn and company revived the defunct Basement Brew Ha shop back in 2008 and have been providing all manner of ingredients and equipment ever since. Basement BrewHaus has beer ingredients, wine ingredients and interesting spices to excite your imagination. www.basementbrewhaus.com
  • Craft Brews Supplies – 1133 Main St. Wyoming, RI – 401-539-BEER. Upstarts Chris Timmins and Co set up camp in South County and provide a full range of beer, wine and mead making supplies. Craft Brews Supplies also has live brewing demonstrations and quarterly homebrewing contests.

Online. Yes it happens sometimes, the local guys don’t have exactly what you need, or there’s a really good deal on something that you do. Sometimes you need to go through an online site, but it’s usually a larger homebrew shop, so that counts for something … right?

  • Northernbrewer.com – By far my favorite website for buying homebrew equipment. They have a huge selection, reasonable shipping rates and superb customer support.

Mix A Six

Notes and happenings from around the state 

    • Yuengling is finally coming back to New England! Plans were announced to start distributing in Massachusetts in the first quarter of 2014. Franklin, MA, is the closest town in their distribution area, but it beats a drive to NY.
    • Foolproof keeps marching toward world domination and is now available on CT shelves. This is the second state they have expanded to this year.
    • Somerville, Massachusetts-based Slumbrew is coming to RI. Exact details are unavailable at the moment, but keep your eyes out for their tasty brews.
    • Matt and Kara Richardson of Ocean State Hop Farm fame have announced a project to start RI’s first farm-based brewery. Known as The Tilted Barn Brewery, they seek to convert a preexisting barn into a full-fledged brewery that uses ingredients grown on their farm. To fund this project, they started an indiegogo campaign to which you can contribute at indiegogo.com/projects/tilted-barn-brewery.
    • Revival Brewing announced Burnsider Pale Ale as their next draft-only release. Keep your eye out for this one in the coming months.
    • Rhode Island Brewfest Winter Edition will return again in February 2014. Follow @RIBrewfest for more info.
    • Proclamation Ale Co. is on the horizon. More on that later.
    • Bucket Brewery is settled into their new space and starting to brew beer. They open up for tours and tastings on November 23 – first come, first served.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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