If you are a regular reader, or if you just dropped by about this time last year, you will know that I’m not a fan of Christmas Beers. Especially ones that are just a bog standard best bitter with some cinnamon thrown in and a label featuring Santa, Rudolph or the like. So, please spare your beer/real ale loving friends and family the horror of receiving such an item (or worse a whole gift pack of them!) and consider one of these alternatives….
The obvious thing to get beer lovers is beer, but you need to have an idea of what kind of beer they like before you choose. There are more than 100 styles of beer you know.
If they like something deep, dark and fruity then why not get them a bottle of Fullers Brewer’s Reserve No.4. You should have seen the queues at the Great British Beer Festival to get a taste of this beer that’s been aged in Armagnac casks. I’d be more than happy to get a bottle of this in my stocking and as it’s a limited edition 8.5% brew it feels like a beer worth giving as a present. £6 for a 500ml bottle (plus delivery) available from: http://store.fullers.co.uk/Store/Category/Beer.aspx
Many breweries make such ‘special edition’ beers that also make good presents. Try Shepherd Neame Generation Ale, a very tasty, rich fruity 9% beer made to celebrate five generations of brewing, which comes in a wooden presentation case – £17.50 (plus delivery) available from the brewery’s online shop: http://www.shepherdneame.co.uk/shop or if IPA is more your beer-loving friend/wife/husband/partner’s thing then get them a Big Job – a 9% hopfest from Cornish brewer St Austell. £9.99 per bottle from: http://www.staustellbreweryshop.co.uk/shop/
If however, you think they have more than enough beer under the stairs, how about a book? You could opt for an old fave, like Garrett Oliver’s The Brewmaster’s Table, or a not so old fave Melissa Cole’s Let Me Tell You About Beer but new out this year is The World Atlas of Beer by Tim Webb and Stephen Beaumont. Not only does it do exactly what it says on the tin, it also includes information on beer styles, storage, glassware and how to pour a beer properly. The best bit for me though is that it list highlights of beer from each country featured – so if you’re travelling somewhere not traditionally thought of as a beery location you’ll have some top tips for what beer to seek out. Published by Mitchell Beazley it has a cover price of £25. Of course Amazon are selling it half price but NB it says it might take an extra 7 – 11 days to dispatch. Take a gamble. It’ll make a good gift even if you have to give it a little late.
Some think of vouchers as a cop out. I disagree. Especially if they are Beer Academy Vouchers. Not only does the Academy accredit Beer Sommeliers like myself it also runs 90-minute tasting sessions and half day courses, such as How to Judge Beer, suitable for beer-lovers in general not just those who work/want to work in the industry. Vouchers/courses start at £27.50. For more info and to buy visit: https://www.ibd.org.uk/beer-academy/courses/gift-vouchers/
Or let your beer lover choose their own brews from the incredible selection at The Bottle Shop. Vouchers for here can be made out to any value and can be spent onmail order or at the shop which also has an ‘on licence’ making a trip to Canterbury well worthwhile. More details and beer list here: http://www.bottle-shop.co.uk
If you do go to Canterbury don’t miss out on a visit to marvellous brewpub The Foundry (http://www.thefoundrycanterbury.co.uk) while you’re there.
You can still get hold of the fabulous, My Beer Book for £3.99. It’s a lovely little pocket- sized notebook with each page being a template for recording all the important details of each beer you try. Buy it here: http://mybeerbook.com
Or if you want to give something a little more expensive there is a Moleskine Passions Journal for Beer. Amazon are selling it for £12.18, or you may be able to get one from The Bottle Shop. See what it looks like here: http://www.moleskine.com/en_GB/collections/model/product?id=26597#.ULxt-qXab-Y
If you decide to go for a bottle opener as a beery gift, don’t get a novelty one as they are often rubbish. Buy a blade bottle opener (see pic) – which should be a solid piece of metal. The one I’ve got is the best bottle opener I have by far and feels nice when you use it. These are available from a variety of retailers – shop around for the best quality and price. This one looks a lot like the one I have: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Stainless-bar-drinkstuff-Openers-Bartenders/dp/B003ZTT3Q0/ref=pd_sim_kh_1 (but I didn’t get mine here).
Sometimes the best present for a beer fan is simply to ask them what they’d like. Many have a wish list of beers (be warned though they might tell you they want something rare or expensive!) that they’d love to get hold of and either won’t treat themselves to or maybe can’t afford. You could make their Christmas Day – or Winter Solstice – by tracking down one of those*. Whatever you opt for I hope it makes for a Beery Good Yule.
*Goose Island Bourbon County Stout since you asked, or a bottle of Bare Arts Vintage Oat Stout – especially if there are still bottles from July 2010 available!