It’s the season of giving! For beer-lovers, the perfect gift is nothing other than a great-tasting, hard-to-find brew. For the uninitiated, navigating the beer section is much more intimidating now than when all you had to choose from were mass-produced beers. In the 21st century, myriad mélanges range from craft lagers to imperial stouts to heavy porters. When giving the gift of beer, keep these tips in mind.
The Brewers Association posits seven aspects to consider as you decide which beer to send that weird cousin who lives, sleeps and breathes craft. I respectfully submit there are at least eight.
- GET EXPERT ADVICE. That guy with the curled moustache and frothy beard or gal with a cool vibe (I know, stereotypes, but they make the story better) is not there just to ring up a sale; their brains likely hold endless factoids about beer.
- FIND OUT WHAT TYPE OF BEER THE RECIPIENT LIKES. This is crucial; nothing worse than getting a really expensive Belgian gueuze if you can’t stomach sour beers. To eliminate this deal-breaking pitfall, ask your friend what their go-to quaff is–work it into the conversation: “So, how ’bout them Jaguars? What kind of beer do you like?” See? Subtle. Then go relate that to the beer store personnel.
- GO LOCAL. Beer lovers are obsessed with local. It’s their mission to find the most obscure area brewery, then snatch up whatever they can. Often, the gem they scored is enjoyed at a bottle share, along with a tall tale of how it was procured.
- GIFT CARDS ARE ALLOWED. If you’re not good at subtlety, a gift card from a local beer monger is perfectly appropriate.
- GIVE A COMBO. Getting beer as a holiday gift is awesome. Getting beer and schwag is awesomer. Try to grab a logoed glass, T-shirt, hat or the koozie. If you can, arrange it all a nice gift basket. Believe me, it’ll be a hit.
- FRESHNESS IS NEXT TO GODLINESS. Most beers are best enjoyed fresh. Beers like IPAs and lower alcohol styles have relatively short shelf-lives–most fewer than three months. Check packaging dates and buy only those three months old and younger.
- BIGGER IS BETTER. Annual releases are the gold standard and are sure to be well-received by any beer-lover on your Nice List. Think special holiday releases, annual imperial stouts and special sours. If it’s rare, it’ll be loved.
- MAIL EARLY, MAIL WELL-PROTECTED. Technically, you’re not supposed to mail or ship alcohol in the U.S. Sometimes, the local beer or wine shop can help with this–just ask. If you’re going to ship, pack the box carefully. There are special boxes with Styrofoam inserts, or you can use copious amounts of bubble wrap and newspaper (old Folio Weeklies work great).
So, that’s it; my guide–with help from Brewers Association–to gift-buying for the beer-lovers in your life. Heed these nuggets of wisdom and a good impression is a sure thing. And maintain plenty of holiday cheer.