Ah, holiday shopping season: That magical time when you could film the snowy sequel to Fury Road in the mall parking lots. It’s difficult to buy gifts for some people. I often find myself perplexed as to what to get for my fellow beer nerd friends, and I can only assume they suffer the same dilemma. Most hardcore beer nerds already have extensive pint glass collections, some rare bottles of special stuff that they’re saving, a few scarce imports, and limited edition bottles and cans. Many also homebrew, have been to every brewery in New England, and can recite their favorite beer recipes by heart.
So what do you get for the beer nerd who has everything?
Luckily, homebrewing is a creative venture, so it appeals to creative people. It’s time to put a new twist on the old beer gifts and come up with something different and/or interesting for that beer enthusiast on your list.
1. Rare ingredients: If you’re anything like me, the first thing you think of when you see some fresh vanilla beans is, “Wow, that would go beautifully in my porter recipe.” This seems like a simple gift, but if you know a brewer who makes a recipe they’re very fond of, but it requires something exotic like pure Vermont maple syrup, locally made clover honey, fresh ground espresso, whale vomit (See page 6) or even some ground cardamom (I’ve seen stranger), that could be something you could pick up from gourmet stores.
2. Special brewery/beer event tickets: Beer events are happening all the time. Be it a local festival, a brew bus tour or a humble beer dinner (try Julians, any Doherty’s, English Cellar Alehouse and many more), there’s always something going on. Individual breweries are also offering special items and gifts, so be sure to check the RI brewing scene for anything new and different. Assuming your beer nut doesn’t already have tickets, feel free to get some. If your beer fest of choice isn’t selling tickets for next session yet (GIBF in April, as of this writing, for example), a home-made gift certificate will work, as long as you remember to honor it down the road.
3. A book: This isn’t as crazy or as simple as it sounds. Since the homebrewing movement began, there have been volumes written on the subject. Most homebrewers already have the books by Charlie Papazian, but there are many others out there to look into. In fact, I seem to recall a local RI Beer Guide coming out, written by some local women who really know their stuff. If they don’t already have a copy, that would be a good item. If they do have a copy, maybe see if you can get them a signed copy. Or, if they already have that … who knows, maybe they’re into Lovecraftian horror set in Providence and written by a local author of beer news. Nudge nudge. Wink wink.
4. Antique, vintage or rare signage: This one’s going to take some searching, but you might want to find an antique Guinness mirror or an elegant Murphy’s wall decoration. This is something to hit flea markets for if you’re on a real budget, but if you have the cash, Craigslist or eBay can get you some surprising results. I’d be lying if I promised this was easy. Sometimes it is, but if not, with a little hunting and some perseverance, you can get that beer nerd friend of yours something to really annoit their home, man-cave, or study with. I’d advise staying away from neon signs, though. The glass and wood shingles are much classier, and less likely to require a perhaps-not-convenient outlet.
5. New or replacement equipment: No homebrewer ever has everything in perfect working order. Brewing is messy, and sometimes things just happen to get dropped, knocked over, sat on, melted or improperly cleaned, making future brewing adventures difficult. The most useful thing I’ve ever found for brewing is a digital turkey thermometer. They run anywhere from $10 to $40, depending on where you get them, but the ones with a temperature alarm and a timer make brewing so much easier. The probes break easily, so they need to be handled with care, but the things are a godsend to brewers everywhere. If you really want to shell out, an infrared thermometer can be just as useful, eliminating the need for a fragile little metal probe.
Those are my top picks, though they are by no means the only possibilities. Be creative and original. After all, that’s what craft beer is all about. So rather than adding yet another pint glass to your friend’s tremendous collection, show up with a jar of local honey and ask them if they’ve ever made mead. Get them a replacement funnel, or a new mash tun. Heck, even a new book on the chemistry, the science behind the art, could ferment new brewing ideas. The options are endless.