The gift of beer itself may seem obvious, but it is fraught with pitfalls. Especially if the gift giver is not as knowledgeable, experienced, or perhaps as jaded as the intended recipient. Craft beer lovers tend to have promiscuous taste buds. They crave new and exciting, and occasionally hard to find beers. How can anyone hope to keep track of another person's sense of new. You may have an advantage if you live a few states away and distribution agreements give you unique access to a hot new Nano, or even a New Belgium scale microbrewery. That's a great in if you have a little guidance. A beer lover that's a bit of a hoarder may enjoy an annual gift of Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, or Sierra Nevada Bigfoot for their cellar. However, the safest bet for a beer gift is t he somewhat corny Beer of the Month Club.
Has the beer lover on your list has neglected to drop any good hints for gift ideas? Are you looking to surprise? Here are some ideas to consider.
Give the Obvious With Style
I'm not an advocate of the cheesy mail order companies that may think they are doing subscribers a favor when they send three bottles of Cave Creek Chili beer. If they are great. The exciting development in beer of the month clubs is occurring much more locally. Great beer stores, like Massachusetts' Craft Beer Cellar are running subscriptions a bit like a CSA. Here the club is curated by a highly knowledgeable staff, and may be tweaked a little bit to the individual tastes of the members.
Educate and Entertain, Inspire Conversation
Beer is consumable and fleeting. While there's poetry in transience, more premance may be found in prose. Contemporary beer writing tends to break into a handful of easy categories travel writing, home-brewing, and general food and drinks reference. It's almost too easy to get trapped in these styles. However, great creatives, be they brewers or writers, artfully bridge, or ignore stylistic bounds. Pete Brown has been called the "Beer Drinker's Bill Bryson" and his two most recent books are must reads for anyone who is interested in beer, and enjoys a good chuckle. Hops and Gloryexplores the history of the famous beer style from the perspective of a beer writer, out of book ideas, desperately trying to recreate IPA and experience it as it was after it arrived in India. You'll have to order his most recent, Shakespeare's Local, from the UK to read how 600 years of English history unfolded around a single charmed pub.
Travel writing takes either the form of personal narrative or guidebooks identifying the great breweries and taverns in a region. Basic names, addresses, and reviews are commonly available on the web. However, a well constructed guidebook like the Good Beer Guide 2012 is easier to use than most websites (and much cheaper than data roaming).
It's easy to recomend homebrewing books. It's hard to pick one that a home brewer wouldn't have. There are plenty of great texts that provide all the technical details necessary to brew many classic styles in the home. Most books offer some historical context for the styles, and quite a few perpetuate the much loved (and maligned) myths. My recomendations are on the right.
In terms of general refference, the encyclopedic The Oxford Companion to Beer is an insightful annd stately tome. Good beer and food pairing can add a lot of depth and character to a meal. Highly opinionated books like The Brewmaster's Table or Beer, Food, and Flavor are excellent and informative reads.
Experiences Are Excellent, Even If They Just End As A War Story
Beer Festivals are the rock concerts and football games of the craft beer movement. Lots of like minded people gather, and share a collectove experience. However, unlike sporting events and concerts, the headliners and locals are rarely the stars of the show. The big guys know this and tend to bring something rare or at least weird to get geeks' attention. The big hits are usually small brewers debuting something surprising, or a mid-size craft brewery making its debut in the area. There are craft beer festivals everywhere. The only pitfals are a few festivals that market themselves more for over-consumption than exploration. A lot of great festivals like the BeerAdvoacte fests sell out early. A pair of advanced tickets will be appreciated.
If crowded festivals aren't your thing, you can always plan a weekend get together in a great beer city or town. (Portland, Portsmouth, Boston, Denver, Seattle, Burlington, Prague, etc). Share in the experience. It will be fun!