Thursday, December 21, 2006

Beer Tips: Beer Tips: What beer to choose as a gift? (Day 4)

In this series I'm exploring the difficulties of buying beer as a gift. Yesterday I discovered Bryan's BeerAdvocate page which listed his favorite style. Today I'm going to stop at Michael's Deli in King of Prussia, PA at lunch. Wish me luck! While I'm off doing that I would like cover another aspect of buying beer for somebody, Seasonal beer as a gift. Seasonal beer is often of a style that is outside the normal styles that many people drink. Here are a few styles you may run accross (links to Beer Advocate Style pages). NOTE: Skip to the bottom of this post if you want some quick tips, dos and don'ts. Honestly, you could find just about any style as a Winter seasonal, but, I think most people would agree the vast majority of Winter seasonals have a higher abv. and/or bolder taste. While most people reading this blog probably welcome this, it does tend to cause a problem for the average unexperienced buyer of gift beer. I mean how many people know what a Weizenbock is or what a spiced beer will taste like? What further complicates life for me is that here in Pennsylvania the easiest beer to buy is packaged in cases at the distributers. So what is a gift buyer to do? I guess it depends how much effort one wants to put into it. Limited Time and Little Knowledge. Lets face it this time of year can feel like somebody is pressing on gas pedal and just won't let up. First, if the person you are buying for is fairly new to craft brew, you might want to be conservative with your selection. The Don'ts
  • Don't buy a whole case.
  • Don't buy the most expensive.
  • Don't buy something that is spiced.
  • You might want to stay away from the seasonals too.

What should you do?

  • Talk to somebody who knows the beer they are selling and ask their advice.
  • Go with the recipients favorite beer.
  • Buy something that is similar to their favorite beer.
  • Find out what micro/craft beer is popular this time of year. (ask at the store)

What would I do?

  • If I didn't know too much about beer and the recipient didn't either, anything from Sam Adams is a good place to start. Seriously, the only mainstream Sam Adams Beers I don't like are the Cherry Wheat and the Cranberry Lambic.
  • Something from a local brewer adds a nice twist. Go with their flagship. A nice ale or lager or one of each. You don't need to buy the craziest one they have.
  • Some of the best beer you can find (ask at the store) and couple that with something you know they like. If they know you are into beer and you know they want to experiment, then give them what you know they like and add a kicker. Perhaps a six pack of Guinness with a bomber of Stone's Arrogant Bastard Ale. Remember even the most expensive widely available beers won't cost much compared to wine.
Lots of Time and little knowledge.

For all those planners out there (not me).

  • The Familiar - Find out what they like and look for something similar that they may have never tasted. Buy a bottle for yourself so you can see what it tastes like. Repeat as necessary until you find something your comfortable with. This is my approach with Bryan this year :-)
  • Keep on Giving - Perhaps a beer of the month club? Not sure how much these cost these days. My wife did this for me one year when we lived in Virginia. It was pretty cool. Especially since I was in the early stages of my beer tasting journey. If anybody has suggestions let us know.
  • Beer from Another Region - Find some beer that you just can't get around your region and get it. New Glarus comes to mind as being Wisconsin distribution only. There are many...many more.
  • Local Specialties - Go to the local brew pub ( and see if they have something special bottled. Tell them you are looking for a special gift. In Southeastern, PA Sly Fox has some interesting bombers like Christmas Ale and Odyssey Imperial IPA. Watch for a tasting here of the Christmas Ale.
  • Learn and Execute - Do your research. Check out some beer sites and see what people are raving about. Chances are you'll be well rewarded for your efforts.

Ok...ok...I'm sure I could think of some more, but, I need to get Bryan's gift. I hope you don't have to buy for the beer guy that has tasted everthing. Sheesh.

Read about what I found at Michael's Deli

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