This Week in Craft Beer

Spreading Holiday Cheer with Craft Beer

I've long felt that there is a beer suited to virtually any occasion, and the holidays are by no means an exception. Parties, family dinners, get-togethers with old friends and cozy nights by the fire are in abundance during these cheerful times, and with gift-giving a hallmark of the season, there is no better time to spread the good word about craft beer. Whether you're hoping to show the lager drinker in your life the darker side of the beer world, give thanks to a friend whose beer fridge door is always open to you, or charm those oenophile relatives you only see once a year with a departure from the ordinary, here are some tips for sharing and gifting craft beer like a pro.

Play It Safe, But Not Too Safe

Part of gift giving is about buying something giftees wouldn't buy for themselves. In this regard, gifted beer should push a person's comfort zone just enough to show off the evolving diversity of the beer world, but not enough to shock taste buds. Today's beer has transcended the fizzy yellow brew many generations grew to love or loathe, and with some craft beers carrying the qualities of red, white and sparkling wine as well as dark spirits like whiskey and rum, it's easier than ever to find beer that appeals to selective palates.

A Pretty Bottle Goes a Long Way

Some of the best craft beer comes in a wine bottle with a cork and cage so that it might be cellared. As an added benefit, corked bottles can add an extra layer of class to this once-humble beverage and create enough intrigue to lure non-beer drinkers in for a taste. Few things garner more attention at a holiday party than the sound of a cork popping, and when the barrel-kissed elixir inside the bottle fizzes like sparkling wine upon hitting a stemmed glass, you'll be surprised by how many wine drinkers approach and ask, "What's that?"

It's All In the Presentation

Six packs make good party offerings, but unless they are assembled by hand with intention and heart, they can also say "I was in a rush and stopped at the CVS on my way here." On the other hand, a big bottle of specialty ale garnished with a bow and hand-delivered to the intended consumer(s) shows a commitment to gifting the recipient can actually taste. This isn't to say that hophead friend of yours won't hug and kiss you when you show up with a six-pack of Ballast Point Sculpin, but in general, small-batch beers selected with love and care will make a bigger impact. Bonus tip: Make sure the beer is cold when you hand it over and maybe they'll share!

Don't Try to Out-Geek a Beer Geek

A good beer geek has explored the local beer market from top to bottom and has probably traveled to other states just for beer, which can make gifting this person beer a challenge. Your best bet here is to buy beer in another market, since few things excite beer geeks more than beer that can't be had at home. When that's not an option, gift cards to the local bottle shop, beer-centric paraphernalia and apparel and offers to serve as a beer mule the next time you travel out of state are all acceptable gifts. Bonus tip #2: Barrel-aged beer is all but guaranteed to get you a hug and a thanks.

In its ability to unify friends, loved ones and strangers alike, craft beer serves a powerful social role in a time when technology increasingly deprives us of human interaction. It is a substance that binds and equalizes, brings joy and offers a sensory adventure to those willing to explore its limitless varieties and will always have a place at my table.

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