Either one is an great choice as a way to learn more about this important but largely forgotten era in America's history. The reason I say that it's largely forgotten is that I see people continuing to make the same arguments in favor of drug and alcohol laws as were used by the folks who pushed for Prohibition a century ago. When will we learn that you cannot legislate morality, especially if you want to live in a free country?
I wrote last week that this blog would be all about Christmas ideas for beer lovers, so you can consider the book and DVD above to be my first suggestions. My suggestions will be made with the craft beer drinker rather than the brewer in mind. I'm not going to make any suggestions regarding books or equipment that are specifically for homebrewers; there is a ton of great new homebrewing gear out there, with more new gadget and things being created every day, but unless you know the details of a homebrewer's set-up and level of expertise, it's hard to make good suggestions. If you're shopping for a homebrewer, your best bet is to just ask them; they probably have a wish list as long as their arm. Homebrewing is like golf or guns in that respect: it's a hobby that you can pretty much spend unlimited amounts of money on...
So, let's talk about gifts for the average craft beer lover. I always like to start with books, because I'm a bit of a bibliophile. Here are five, published this year, that I think are worth you while:
The Pub: A Cultural Institution - from Country Inns to Craft Beer Bars and Corner Locals: This is a coffee-table-style hardback, bursting with gorgeous pictures of historic British pubs and sparkling text from Pete Brown, one of the foremost in our current crop of beer writers. Having lived in Britain for three years and spent many a pleasant hour in its public houses, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. It would make a great gift for anyone who's been or is planning to go to Britain.
My next two choices are both first-person accounts. The Fermented Man: A Year on the Front Lines of a Food Revolution by Derek Dellinger is not focused so much on beer as on fermentation in general. The author decided to try to live for a year by consuming only fermented foods and beverages, which obviously includes many things besides beer, though beer did make up a substantial part of his diet.He's also the brewmaster at Kent Falls Brewing Company in Connecticut. The book asks questions about the role of fermented foods in maintaining our overall health, and supports the notion that we should be including more of them in our daily diet.
The second personal account is My Beer Year: Adventures with Hop Farmers, Craft Brewers, Chefs, Beer Sommeliers, and Fanatical Drinkers as a Beer Master in Training by Lucy Burningham. It recounts her year-long quest to become a Certified Cicerone. If you are unfamiliar with the Cicerone program, it is the equivalent of becoming a certified wine sommelier. The book's tone is light but interesting, as the author works to educate herself and her sense of taste in the art of enjoying and evaluating beer in order to pass the rigorous examination to become a certified beer expert.
You can't have a Christmas Beer Book list without having at least one book about beer and food on it. A decade ago that wouldn't have been the case, as such book were few and far between. However, in recent years, writers have begun to recognize that beer and food have a natural affinity that is at least as good and perhaps even better than that of beer and wine, and the number of books being published on the subject has increased accordingly. The best on on that subject that I have read so far this year is Beer Pairing: The Essential Guide from the Pairing Pros by Julia Herz & Gwen Conley. As the sub-title implies, these two ladies are professionals in this business; Herz works for the Brewers Association and Conley is a biologist by training who has worked for several breweries and currently teaches at the University of California. The hardback takes a comprehensive look at the sources of flavors in beer, how they are perceived by our sense of taste, and how to create pleasing pairings with food. For my money, it's the best single book on this subject currently available.
For my final book recommendation, I've save the best for last. The Beer Geek Handbook: Living a Life Ruled by Beer by Patrick Dawson was my favorite new beer book of the year. I was already an admirer of Dawson's writing from reading his excellent Vintage Beer: A Taster's Guide to Brews That Improve over Time, published back in 2012. This time round, he's written a breezy, funny book full of cool facts and trenchant observations about craft beer and the people who love it. Ever craft beer lover should read this book; it'll make you a better beer geek, I promise!
Moving on from books, there's glassware, one of the "go to" gifts for beer lovers. However, before you decide to go this route, you might want to make sure this is something the recipient truly needs! If they're like me, they're probably hip deep in glassware, much of which never gets used, but just gathers dust. However, if they do need glassware, check out the Buffalo Beer Mug Company. The sell nice 16 oz. Belgian-style glasses, and they do some interesting etchings on them.
When it comes growlers, much the same rules apply as with glassware. It's best to make sure the recipient actually needs/wants another insulated and/or logo'd growler before you spend good money on one as a gift. However, if you want to really go overboard, you can always lay out $139 for the Rolls Royce of growlers, the uKeg 64 Pressurized Growler for Craft Beer - Stainless Steel from Growler Werks. It has all the bells and whistles: insulated, automatic CO2 regulator, external sight glass, customizable tap, you name it. It costs a pretty penny, but it's the top of the line for growlers on the market today.
A good choice for stocking stuffers is food made with beer. There are plenty of choices out there, but one that I personally like is Beer Kissed. They make delicious cookies, caramel popcorn, and caramel sauces; the Scotch Porter Caramel Sauce looks especially yummy!
Finally, if you're looking for a gift for yourself or someone else, consider the gift of knowledge. I'll be teaching my beer class, CED A157 The Art & History of Brewing, again during the spring semester at Kenai Peninsula College. We meet once a week, on Tuesdays from 5:30 to 6:45 pm, with the first class on January. We cover lots of topics and taste beer in every class. If you've always wanted to learn more about craft beer, here's your chance.
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On that self-serving note, I'll close my Christmas Gift Blog. Enjoy the 83rd Anniversary of Repeal and keep warm in these cold, dark days of December.
Until Next Time, Cheers!