Drinking on the Last Frontier: Sharing holiday cheers

Photo courtesy of Elaine Howell

Photo courtesy of Elaine Howell

By Bill Howell, for the Redoubt Reporter

We’ve survived Thanksgiving, and December is here, so now it’s time to get serious about our Christmas shopping. Once again this year, I’d like to try to help you out with some gift ideas for the craft beer lover on your list. You can always fall back on just giving them beer or brewery apparel, but here are some other ideas to consider.

  • To start with, growler technology continues to improve. I’ve written in the past about stainless, double-walled growlers, but how about a growler that you can pressurize and turn into a minikeg? The DrinkTanks insulated growler with pressurized Keg Cap dispenser gives you the convenience of a party tap for sharing beer with friends without dragging around that full-sized keg. The blow-off valve keeps you safe from over-pressurizing, and the CO2 port protects your precious beer from harmful oxidation. The growler alone will run you about $70, with the Keg Cap dispenser going for another $45, so it’s not a cheap gift, but the beer lover in your life will thank you. You can order it at www.drinktanks.com.
  • If the beer lover you’re shopping for is like me and already hip deep in growlers, how about something in the personal hygiene realm? Beer and hop-infused products are all the rage this year. Beards are omnipresent in the craft beer world, so why not give Lesher’s Beerd Balm? With seven different hop varieties available, a beard can smell like everything from old-school Saaz to new-school Citra (www.beerdedbeard.com). You can find soaps made from beer at Home Brewed Soaps, including Porter, Coffee Stout and IPA scents (www.homebrewedsoaps.com). Another option is a set of hop-infused beard oil and beer soap from the Craftsman Soap Company (www.craftsmansoap.com). Whichever company you choose, beer and/or hop-infused products are a great gift option.
  • I’ve never been a big advocate of gifting glassware. Most beer drinkers are usually very well-stocked in that department. However, there is a very nice, 16-ounce, stainless steel pint available from Hydroflask for $22. It’s stainless on the interior surface and has a powder-coated exterior that’s easy to grip. It’s also double-walled, so the beer stays at the proper temperature and the pint doesn’t sweat on warm days. It feels comfortable in your hand and has something called an Enhanced Lip to better fit your mouth. It’s a great choice for camping or boating, allowing you to pour your beer out of a can into something equally sturdy. You can choose from a variety of colors at www.hydroflask.com.

If nothing else seems appropriate, you can always fall back on giving a craft beer lover books about beer. I’ve talked enough in past articles about my own books, so let’s pass them by and talk about four recent releases, any one of which would make a good gift.

  • The first is “Mastering Homebrew: The Complete Guide to Brewing Delicious Beer” by Randy Mosher. Mosher is one of the leading beer writers out there. This is his fifth book and his third on homebrewing. I’ve been homebrewing for almost three decades, yet I still found his book fascinating and informative. If you are shopping for a homebrewer, look no further.
  • The second is “The Beer and Food Companion” by Stephen Beaumont. Stephen is certainly one of the leading contenders to assume the mantle of the late Michael Jackson as the Bard of Beer, and this excellent book goes a long way in advancing his claim. Books on pairing beer with food used to be few and far between, but they are becoming much more common, and this is the best one yet. It’s the perfect gift for someone who is both a foodie and a craft beer lover.
  • The last two books are cookbooks by Jacquelyn Dodd — “The Craft Beer Cookbook” and “The Craft Beer Bites Cookbook.” Both are filled with delicious recipes using craft beer, as well as notes on pairing different craft beers with the various dishes. However, each book has a different focus. The first emphasizes dishes suitable to a sit-down dinner, while the latter is exclusively appetizers and finger foods, perfect for the tremendous amount of entertaining that takes places this time of year. For someone who enjoys both beer and cooking, you can’t go wrong with either or both.

Finally, I will again be teaching my class, the Art and History of Brewing, during the upcoming spring semester at the Kenai River Campus of Kenai Peninsula College, from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m. Tuesdays from Jan. 12 to April 30. We taste beers in class, tour all the local breweries and generally have a fine time appreciating 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 has been an avid craft beer drinker and homebrewer since 1988. Upon retiring from the U.S. Navy in 2004, Howell moved to Alaska, where he blogs about the Alaskan craft brewing scene at alaskanbeer.blogspot.com. In 2007 he created a beer appreciation course titled “The Art and History of Brewing,” which he teaches annually at Kenai Peninsula College. He is the founder of the Kenai Peninsula Brewing and Tasting Society and serves as a media consultant to the Brewers Guild of Alaska.

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Filed under beer, books, Drinking on the Last Frontier

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