As Tom pointed out last week in his post “On Beer Culture and Beer Subcultures”, there seems to be at least four main subcultures within the overall craft beer culture. We decided to do our Hoperatives Beer Gift Guide by subculture so you can really target the better beer lover on your shopping list this year. There is also a category for gifts that all better beer fans would probably like (since the subcategories aren’t ironclad or you may not be sure what might work for your beer fan) . Be sure to also check out the gift guides that Queen City Drinks and WCPO/Beer Mumbo already published. We tried not to repeat anything they posted (but they may add to their lists over time). Some links listed below go to our affiliate links on Amazon.com. You’re not obligated to use those links, of course, but look at it this way: it’s like buying two gifts at once!
For the home brewer on your list:
So this is how you pick up some serious credibility if the home brewer in your life doesn’t think you’ve been paying attention to the work they put in to make beer. There’s a point in the brewing process where you need to circulate water through the cooked grains to get all the sugars and other yummy goodness out of the grain. This is called ‘sparging.’ It can be tedious. A dedicated sparge arm can make the process less tedious. Which means more beer gets made more often. This is a good thing. This is something that you give when you know for a fact that the brewer in your life does all-grain brewing. It’s not necessary for what’s called extract brewing.
We’ve actually given this as a wedding gift, and we found out that a gift certificate we gave as a wedding gift (see below) went to get one of these. Both couples are still married, so this is a good gift. Yeast is a living organism and it doesn’t like burning hot water any more than you do. There’s a point in the brewing process that the wort — the sugar water that’s been boiling for an hour or more with hops and such — needs to be cooled quickly before the yeast is added. Yes, it looks like a big copper tube coil because that’s what it is. But to a homebrewer it’s the best thing ever.
We once gave a Listermann gift certificate for a wedding gift and it was such a big hit we had to include this by name and location. Listermann is the grande dame of Cincinnati home brewing supply and has earned its outstanding reputation. The Cincinnati metro area is blessed with several home brew supply locations that will be happy to sell you a gift certificate so your in-house brewer can pick and choose the perfect gift. Here are other the fine home brew supply shops around town:
- Brew Monkeys (West Side)
- Paradise Brewing Supply (East Side)
- Tri-State Beer & Wine Crafting (NKY)
- Party Source (NKY)
- Party Town (NKY)
For the beer trader/swapper on your list:
We met the folks who run this company at the Beer Blogger’s Conference in Boston this past summer. The Rare Beer Club will ship you 2, 4 or 6 bottles of a hard-to-get beer each month. They work through distributors with the proper licensing, so they are are legally able to ship to Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana (which is refreshing, to say the least). If rare beer isn’t quite what you’re looking for, take a look at other craft-beer-each-month selections they offer (the site lists all past offerings so you can see what goes out). It’s even possible to mix and match offers to create your own personal beer of the month club.
It’s amazing to us every time we travel to discover how many people haven’t heard that it’s NOT ok to take liquids on planes. Or that beer is a liquid, apparently. If the beer lover in your live travels AND likes to bring back beer, these bottle bags are the best way to stash bottles of beer in checked luggage. Sure, they can be wrapped in an old shirt or some socks but, well, ewww. These can also be used in shipping beer (or any glass bottle, really). Just make sure you can get them back.
For the beer rater/evaluator on your list:
Yeah there are smartphone apps that allow you to rate beers, but these clever little notebooks are designed to help you think about what you’re drinking rather than just collecting some arbitrary number of stars or mugs or some other ratings icon. We’ve heard tell of folks using these to keep tasting notes while going through BJCP or Cicerone training. Each page in the notebook allows you to record a wealth of information about beers and ciders you try. The design is extremely well-thought out and these notebooks are essential equipment for the serious beer reviewer.
The little notebooks made by Field Notes are almost a cult item. I got hooked on them a few years ago. I used to be terrible about writing things on random scraps of paper. Now I write notes to myself in these and can usually find the notes later — a definite change from the past. Unlike the ’33′ notebooks listed above, these contain nothing but pages of grid-lined paper between heavy-duty fiber covers. You can record information about beer in them if you like, but they’re really just general purpose notebooks with a fun beer theme. The covers themselves are meant to suggest the colors of various kinds of beers and they Field Notes folks throw in some beer coasters that share some of the same design elements of the notebooks.
For the local beer fan on your list:
Christian Moerlein, the Man and his Brewery by Don Heinrich Tolzmann
The dean of all things German in Cincinnati has written the essential history of the man who’s the first among equals in the club of Cincinnati Beer Barons. It’s a classic story of a self-made man who came to this country with pennies in his pockets and built a thriving brewery that’s remembered long after its original incarnation closed with Prohibition.
We were given samples of these at the 2013 Beer Blogger’s conference and they’re fantastic. They’re a little taller and bit narrower than their glass counterparts, but they seal tightly and hold temperature for quite a while. It’s made of a heavy-weight metal so there’s some sturdiness to it. We’ve used these for all sorts of uses other than beer, but they work as advertised for that.
Pretty much any better beer location will be happy to sell you a gift certificate, but the Moerlein Lager House Beer tokens are unique. It’s the sort of stocking stuffer that will elicit a confused look at first, but joy upon realizing what they’re for. One token, one beer. How cool is that? The only downside is that they’re so cool, you don’t want to turn them in. In the end you do, of course, because … beer.
For any better beer fan on your list:
Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer by Maureen Ogle
This is one of the best books on the history of beer in America. We both love it so much that we own both the paperback and Kindle versions of it. Maureen Ogle is a professional historian who researches obsessively but writes accessibly. Her work is partly responsible for spreading the word about Jack McAuliffe’s early contributions to craft brewing. It’s book that cover a lot of ground in an easy-to-access volume and when you’ve finished it you’ll be even more impressed with what the craft brewers are pulling off with today’s small-brewery revolution.
A few years ago, a newly married friend of ours bought her new husband a kegerator for Christmas. They both loved it so much that when they moved to the west coast and were only taking what they could fit into a POD with them, they made room for the kegerator. We treated ourselves to a two-tap kegerator a few years later and have never regretted it. It may be one of the ultimate gifts for a better beer fan.
Brooklyn Brewing’s Garrett Oliver edited this volume that’s equal part reference book and lightning rod. You don’t have to do much Googling to find people who have nits to pick with the book, but when you dig into a given issue yourself you’ll generally find that the OCB is reporting a consensus view of topics that are difficult to summarize. In one volume you’ll find discussions of technical issues pertaining to brewing, extensive descriptions of styles, the histories of important beers and breweries and a lot more. I carry a Kindle version with me on my phone so I can look something up that I half-remember about one topic or another. And sometimes when I’m bored I just randomly pick an article and read it. Then another. I can kill a whole afternoon that way. The serious beer fan will find this book impossible to put down.