By Bill Howell, for the Redoubt Reporter
The snow has come at last to the Kenai Peninsula, and Thanksgiving is behind us, so now it’s time to buckle down for some serious Christmas shopping. Once again this year, I’d like to try to help you out with some gift ideas for the craft beer lovers on your list. You can always fall back on just giving them beer or brewery apparel, but here are some other ideas to consider.
- First off, how about something growler-related? Kenai River Brewing Co. is now selling an excellent insulated growler. It’s made of stainless steel, is double-walled to keep the beer inside cool, and finished in a nice black with the brewery’s logo in silver. Most importantly, it has a swing top rather than the plastic screw-on type you see on some insulated growlers. Those caps habitually leak, allowing the growler to depressurize and the beer inside to go flat. This growler is manufactured by Miir and the seal seems excellent. I tested one by letting it sit in my beer fridge for over a week and the beer inside was still perfect when I finally opened it. These growlers are a bit pricy at $55 but should last forever. You can find them at the brewery in Soldotna.
- Speaking of growlers going flat, it’s difficult for one person to drink an entire half gallon in a single sitting; that means the leftover beer goes flat. But not anymore, thanks to a handy little gadget called the Growler Saver. It’s a cap that fits onto a standard glass growler. The cap has two valves installed on it — one is a relief valve and the other is a fill valve. After you open a growler and pour as much beer as you want, you screw on this cap and re-pressurize the growler with a CO2 cartridge. This purges the oxygen and keeps the beer inside fresh. In effect, your growler becomes a minikeg. I have one of these and use it all the time — no more flat, leftover beer! You can buy it at http://www.growlersaver.com for $59.99.
- If growlers aren’t your favorite beer drinker’s thing, then he or she is probably drinking lots of bottled beer. That means they will need an opener. I’m always on the lookout for innovative opener designs, and recently I discovered a company called Beer Snap. They have several different opener designs, which come in various finishes and can be customized. I’m personally very partial to their Lager Levers, which have a beveled edge (great for opening wax seals) and a nice hook that lets you slip it over a belt loop so it’s always handy at parties. For those into really high-tech stuff, they even offer an opener made out of titanium, much lighter than steel but even stronger. You can get a customized opener at http://www.beersnap.com for under $30.
When all else fails, you can always fall back on giving a craft beer lover books about beer. Three new books have been released in the last few months, and any would make a good gift.
- The first is “We Make Beer: Inside the Spirit and Artistry of America’s Craft Brewers” by Sean Lewis. He’s a former columnist at BeerAdvocate magazine, and as such has a unique perspective on the passion to create that drives so many of the makers of American craft beer. If you’re looking to gain an understanding of what makes craft beer so special, this is where to find it.
- The second is “The Brewer’s Tale: A History of the World According to Beer” by William Bostwick. This is the book for the history lover, as it deals with the tremendous impact that beer and brewing have had on world history, going all the way back to the beginnings of agriculture thousands of years ago. The author keeps the story relevant by also relating his attempts to home brew beers such as would have been enjoyed in the historical periods he’s discussing.
- The third book is less focused on beer and more on the history of alcohol in general. It’s “Proof: The Science of Booze” by Adam Rodgers. It takes a light and breezy look at the science behind fermentation and distillation. If you ever wondered how yeast does what it does, or why Scotch tastes differently than bourbon, this is the book for you.
- Finally, in our annual installment of the shameless personal-plug department, I will be teaching my class, The Art and History of Brewing, during the upcoming spring semester at the Kenai River Campus of Kenai Peninsula College. The class will be held from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m. on Tuesdays from Jan. 13 to April 28. We taste beers in class, tour all the local breweries and generally have a fine time learning to increase our appreciation of good beer. It is a one-credit course, with the cost of the beers to be tasted included. Call 262-0330 for more information.
Here’s hoping you and yours have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Until next month, cheers!
Bill Howell is a homebrewer, teaches a beer appreciation class at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus and was named the 2010 Beerdrinker of the Year by Wynkoop Brewing Company in Denver. He and his wife, Elaine, have authored “Beer on the Last Frontier: The Craft Breweries of Alaska,” available via Amazon.