Once again, we find ourselves looking out at the endless red glow of taillights along Route 2 in Warwick as we hand over our hard-earned money for “gifts” for people we hardly ever visit in the first place.
I know, I know, I promised the ghost of Samuel Adams that I’d be more cheerful around the holidays, but I don’t think the founding fathers could ever have conceived of the corporate retail store. I’m not totally without cheer, however, because here I am to make your life significantly easier. Buying gifts for loved ones who are craft beer enthusiasts is not as hard as you might think.
In a perfect world, you could walk into a package store and get a good recommendation from the owner or manager. However, since this isn’t a perfect world, I am here to guide you to the best gifts you could give to a craft beer nerd.
Specialty Beers – You can probably spot these yourself. They’ll usually be on the dusty shelf with dozens of their brothers; many are corked, but some use the more modern bottlecap. They’ll often have German or Belgian-sounding names, like Weihenstephaner, or Duvel. Some don’t, such as the Delirium Tremens, or the Delirium Nocturnum. If you’re really trying to wow someone, start asking around about the Sam Adams Utopias. Yes, they are ridiculously expensive, but they’re also practically collectors items in the craft beer world. Even if you suspect the person you are buying for has already had this brew, worry not. Trust me, beer nerds like me are always interested in a good brew whether it’s familiar or not.
Beer Accessories – This includes everything from glassware to specialty tap handles to individualized pewter mugs. Generally, these are things you’ll need to look for online, but there’s a handful of small shops here and there, often under the umbrella of kitchen and cooking stores, that have handy or fun items for the beer enthusiast on your list. Though, it might be wise to ask if your friend is already good on glassware. Personally, I don’t think I can take in a single new pint glass without my entire domicile collapsing into shards of broken dreams and hours of sweeping. But black and tan pouring turtles are relatively inexpensive and I can say for sure no one’s gotten me one of those yet, bafflingly enough.
Beer Event Tickets – The number of beer events happening throughout New England is, literally, dumbfounding. You can always check out local breweries, brewpubs, and beer bars to see if they’re throwing Beer Dinners or Tap Takeovers. And, of course, beer festivals abound, even in the winter, such as the Rhode Island Brewfest coming up in Pawtucket soon, hint hint. (You can check the Motif alcohol event listings for leads, too – ed, also hinting)
Books About Beer – I know a book sounds like a bit of a cop-out, but if by some miracle your beer-loving friend doesn’t own The Complete Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papazian, or Extreme Brewing by Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head, these might be items to consider. They should be available even as eBooks for the more tech savvy crowd.
Homebrewing Equipment – Even if your friend is a homebrewer, there’s a good chance there’s a piece of equipment that they covet endlessly on long dark nights. No, not that! Get your mind out of the gutter! I’m talking about things like immersion wort chillers, or mash tuns for all-grain brewing, or even a turkey fryer, which makes outdoor brewing an amazing experience. (Avoid the ones with timers.) A mind-bogglingly useful item for a homebrewer is a digital thermometer with an alarm and a built-in timer. I cannot describe the importance of a device like this when it comes to temperature control, and you can find them at most conventional retail outlets if you’re already fighting the mobs at the malls. If your friend has been curious about homebrewing but never tried it, there are a number of starter kits available at some surprising retail outlets, and of course, even online. (See some Motif recommendations here.)
Keep your eyes open, but most importantly, think outside the box for those of us whose thoughts go into the bottle.