Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas Gifts for the Discerning Beer Lover

Christmas is a great time of year to be a beer lover.

Well, come to think of it, any time of year is a great time to be a beer lover, but Christmas time is especially good.

Why? Because now you can get lots of cool beer stuff and not have to pay for it. You just have to let the people in your life know what would make a wonderful gift for them to get you. Believe me, they'll thank you for it.

Take a look at the item above. This is a Sears Craftsman Model #44500 Cap Wrench Bottle Opener. Yep, you heard that right: a bottle opener made by Craftsman, just like your socket and box-end wrenches. This is a gift any manly beer drinker will love, and it's only $14.99. I received one as a gift from a good friend and I love using it. It also doubles as a club during bar fights...

It''s hard to go wrong with a good beer cookbook. I've mentioned a couple of good ones over the life of this blog, but there's a brand-new one on the street which any Alaska beer drinker needs to grab. Cooking with Alaskan Beer was just released a few weeks ago by Alaskan Brewing. It contains 101 recipes using different beers from Alaskan; each recipe seems more delicious than the last. We're talking things like Extreme ESB Enchiladas, Beer-Battered Coconut Shrimp, Mom's Smoked Porter Pot Roast, Alaskan Smoked Porter Banana Bread with Smoked Porter Butter, and on and on. My lovely wife and I plan to spend a good portion of the holidays trying and enjoying these great new recipes.

If your taste runs more toward books for reading rather than cooking, there are a couple of interesting new ones out. George Wendt, famous for his portrayal of Norm on the TV show Cheers has written Drinking with George: A Barstool Professional's Guide to Beer, while Christina Perozzi and Hallie Beaune have produced The Naked Pint: An Unadulterated Guide to Craft Beer. I haven't had a chance to read either of these yet, but they should be of interest to any beer lover.

I have read Peter Brown's latest book, Hops and Glory, in which he looks at the myth and legend surrounding one of the most romantic styles of beer, India Pale Ale. The book is a recounting of his attempt to recreate the 19th century sea voyage from Britain to India, transporting a cask of real ale. It makes for a fascinating tale, and the book is even better than his two previous works, A Man Walks Into a Pub and Three Sheets to the Wind. Unfortunately it has only been released in Britain, so if you want a copy, I recommend going to Amazon.co.uk.

I can hear you thinking: "Bill, I've waded through all these gift ideas, but where's the beer?" Well, I can't even begin to scratch the surface of listing all the wonderful Christmas beers, specialty beers, beer gift packs, beer & glass combo packs, and just plain excellent beer out there to choose from for Christmas gifts. It's hard to go wrong when you buy craft beer for a beer lover.

But there is one beer that I want to mention. Last Friday, Midnight Sun released their long (and I do mean LONG) awaited Jupiter, one of the beers from 2008's Planet Series. This is a Belgian style tripel, but made using the traditional methode champenoise. This involves brewing, then bottling the beer with a standard crown cap to allow it to carbonate, then turning the bottle upside down and rotating it by hand at regular intervals for well over a year to coax the yeast to settle down into the neck of the bottle (a process called "riddling"). Once all the yeast has settled, the plug of yeast is frozen, then the cap is removed and the neck slowly warmed, to cause the yeast plug to be disgorged (without the beer losing it carbonation), then the bottle is dosed with a similar clear beer, if required, then corked and wire-caged. At long last, the beer is ready to be sold.

As you can see from the above description, this is a uniquely time- and labor-intensive process, one which very, very few breweries in the world would undertake. I tip my hat to the folks at Midnight Sun for going down this road; you guys got some serious beer cojones...

A bottle of Jupiter will set you back $30, but it makes a wonderful and truly unique gift for the serious beer lover.

How does it taste? Well, I haven't opened my bottle yet; I'm saving it for New Years. But back on 1/26/2009 I did get to enjoy the base beer, on draft. The brewery released it under the name of Zeus, and I found it awesome, as I wrote in my review at the time. I can hardly wait to see how much better it has become after a year undergoing the process described above. When I do, I'll be sure to let you know what I think.

Well, there are some ideas for Christmas. Don't wait to late too do your shopping; you don't want to be the guy in the beer store on Christmas Eve, stuck choosing between Bud, Miller, and Coors. Remember, there are only 17 drinking days left until Christmas...

Until Next Time, Cheers...


Anonymous said...

The Hops and Glory book sounds fascinating. I'll have to keep it on my wishlist to eventually purchase. Thanks for the idea. I do enjoy reading your blog, keep up the good work and Merry Christmas!

I'm Bill Howell. said...

I think you will like it. Pete Brown's first two books were pretty good, but this one is the best of the three. The fact that he's actually conducting a bit of a "beer science experiment" helps hold the interest.