Give the gift of beer: A suds-soaked shopping list

Bottles and cans and just clap your hands
By LOU PAPINEAU  |  December 7, 2011

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OK, unsexiest beers . . . oh, wait, wrong theme. We're working beer-related gifts in Bottles and Cans land. You like beer, yes? Chances are your friends like beer, yes? So give 'em some beer! Or something else from this beer-soaked list. Let's get shopping . . . .

VARIETY PACKS Twelve-packs are an ideal entry to the wonderful world of craft brew — they're fairly priced, boast a range of styles, and there's usually nothing too extreme in the mix. All of the following, which I saw while doing the ho-ho-ho sleuthing over the weekend, will make any giftee enjoy the bounty (and thank you for opening the door to better beer): Heavy Seas, Wachusett, Sea Dog, Southern Tier, Victory, Harpoon, Left Hand, Long Trail, Widmer Brothers, Boulder, and Smuttynose.

GIFT SETS We're talking samplers with a glass. Excuse me, a goblet. Which is part of the Chimay package, with bottles of the Trappist brewery's essential Première, Cinq Cents, and Grande Reserve, plus a gold-rimmed goblet (can we call it a chalice?) embossed with the Chimay logo (it runs $24-$28). Other high-class offerings: the Duvel four-pack, with an oversized tulip glass (about $16); the Unibroue Diabolic Pleasures two-pack, with 750ml bottles of Maudite and Eau Bénite tripel (the latter is currently exclusive to this package; $18-$20); Samuel Smith's classic three-pack (Oatmeal Stout, IPA, Nut Brown Ale) has an imperial pint glass with their way-cool logo ($10-$13); and perhaps the best bargain, the Ommegang set with 750mls of Hennepin, Three Philosophers, and Gnomegang, plus a large flute glass (about $24; the liquid would run $30-plus in most stores).

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SPLURGE Let's get a bit indulgent here. Firestone Walker's 15th Anniversary beer, XV, has arrived, and it's a literal melting pot (they admit that on paper it "at first looks chaotic and potentially disjointed"): 46% barleywine, 17% imperial brown ale, 13% double strength English pale ale, 19% stout and 5% Imperial IPA (I haven't had it; that's not a hint). Twenty-two ounces will run about $23 — at $1 an ounce, that seems fitting for the 1% camp (see the Gift Guide for more input).

BEER LIT As Archie Bunker sagely noted, "You can never buy beer, you just rent it." One of the best permanent beer items you can buy is Tasting Beer, subtitled "An Insider's Guide to the World's Greatest Drink," by Randy Mosher, a fantastic (and beautifully designed) compendium of beer history, beer making, beer consuming, notes and recommendations on virtually every style of beer, and much more. It's a steal at $11.17 at amazon.com. Also recommended: Andy Crouch's Great American Craft Beer ("A Guide to the Nation's Finest Beers and Breweries"), with framing chapters on "exploring" and "enjoying" beer, and engaging details on the expansive range of US offerings, providing a great road map for future beer adventures ($16.41 from Amazon.com, or $0.01 from their secondary sellers). Or give a subscription to Beer Advocate ($15 for 12 issues) or Draft magazine ($20 for six issues); both are entertaining and drool-inducing reads.

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