Not posting my Christmas Gift Guide until now is a bit of an epic fail… but a family bereavement meant many things had to be put on hold. But let’s not dwell.
Christmas is just around the corner and in an effort to ensure beer lovers are NOT saddled with shit, pseudo Christmas beers or faux festive ales here’s a few brief ideas for what to give them instead.
A beer writer, suggesting beer writing as an Xmas gift? Whatever next? Ok, so I’m biased but these aren’t my own books (maybe next year!). These are new books that I rate and think are worth giving as gifts. They are all available from evil Amazon so if you’re quick you’ll get ‘em in time for 25 Dec.
Thinking Drinkers by Ben McFarland & Tom Sandham (Jacqui Small; £20)
It would be all to easy to dismiss McFarland (despite being a former Beer Writer of the Year) and Sandham as comedic bluffers but this book, which goes well beyond beer, is an engaging, informative AND funny read. If – like me – you are a dedicated beer drinker who has found their drinking horizons broadened by their developing palate you’ll find this a worthy guide to hitherto unexplored drinks. It begins with beer and includes chapters on wine, whisky, gin and more. Nicely presented book with a gift feel, but much better than a ‘gift book’ – if you see what I mean.
Wisdom for Home Brewers by Ted Bruning & Nigel Sadler (Apple £12.99)
I wasn’t convinced by this book when I first opened it – as it really is a list of 500 tips for home brewers and it uses an annoying, curly handwriting font for each tip although the details of the tips are in a proper, readable font. HOWEVER, I changed my mind when I realised this book isn’t for me! This is book of short bites of information for the sort of would-be home brewer who isn’t a keen reader – in fact it’s probably the ideal home brew book for anyone with a short attention span or who lacks time and wants to read about home brewing in succinct chunks.
Britain’s Beer Revolution by Roger Protz and Adrian Tierney-Jones (CAMRA, £14.99)
Two stalwarts of British beer writing team up to tackle the topic of the beer revolution – ’nuff said. What you want to know more? As with many CAMRA books there is much within that serves as an introduction to beer, but Protz and ATJ also highlight and mull over many of the things which have changed the face of British brewing, beer and drinking – such as craft beer, beer blogging and influences from abroad – before taking the reader on a tour of Britain’s best breweries, the people behind them and great pubs to seek out their beer. Equally enjoyable for the armchair traveller as for those who literally want to get out and explore.
Drink London by Euan Ferguson (Frances Lincoln, £9.99)
As an almost-Londoner living in exile I loved this book as much for Kim Lightbody’s wonderfully evocative photos of the city’s boozers as for the text. Whether you know the capital like the back of your hand or have never been there this is a lovely little tour of London’s pubs and bars that is also small enough to tuck in a bag as a travel guide.
Drinking with Men by Rosie Schaap (Riverhead Books, £….)
I can’t tell you how much I loved this book, which was recommended to me by Pete Brown – and for which I will be eternally grateful because as well as being an excellent book it turned me back on to reading too. Reading Drinking with Men is like being alongside the author in each of the pubs and bars she’s called her local throughout her life. Buy this for anyone you know, beer lover or otherwise, who loves the pub and understands the special kind of knowledge one can gain from going there.
More gift ideas… beer and soap!
Ban and consign crappy Christmas gift beers by buying a proper gift beer instead – like this boxed Mash Tun No 1 (7.4%) from Shepherd Neame – which was brewed to celebrate a hundred working years of … the no 1 mash tun at the brewery – which also happens to be one of the last remaining wooden mash tuns in Britain.
(For beer newbies a mash tun is effectively a huge pot for steeping malted barley to extract the sugars which are then fermented into beer).
Or if you have access to a good independent specialist beer retailer, or find an online one that can still dispatch in time for Xmas you could buy a 750ml – or wine bottle size – beer as a gift instead.
Brooklyn Brewery’s Cuvée Noire (10.6%) would make a fantastic gift. It’s a rich, bourbon soaked stout with a Belgian twist – and it is pure joy to drink. (You can find my review of Cuvée Noire in the new beer magazine Original Gravity.)
Or – again if there is still time for delivery (check with retailer) you could buy a whole bouquet of beer. A what? Well, remember my home made bin of beer from a previous seasonal blog post? Little did I know someone had taken up the idea of doing something along those lines professionally. Check out the Bro-quet website for more details. (You’ll also find them listed via Not on the High Street.) I met the woman behind the business at the Birmingham Beer Bash earlier this year and like most of us in the industry she is passionate about all things brewed and keen to share the love.
Finally, if you are looking for a little stocking filler for a beer lover then see if you can find some Proper Job Soap. You’ve heard of beer shampoo? Well this is soap enriched with St Austell Brewery Proper Job.
I have taste tested this soap so you don’t have to. It DOES NOT taste of beer so I strongly advise against eating it or even licking it.
It is, however, a very good soap which lathers well and feels expensive. The only downside is that it comes in a very chunky bar which isn’t so easy to hold on to if you have small hands. If you have big, manly hands though it’s perfect! It also contains some sort of grainy pieces which I think make it a great gift for beer-loving gardeners or those working outdoors who need a bit of extra oomph to clean up their hands when they come in. That said I used mine in the shower – and I’m extremely fussy about what I wash with – and it was lovely. You could say it did a Proper Job!
Once again apologies for posting this so late in the day but hopefully it might still help you out of a beery hole and save some of my beer-loving brothers and sisters from the horror of being given a nasty so-called Christmas beer.