With finals looming and money lacking, most students have neither time nor money to complete their holiday shopping before heading home. Whether you will be celebrating the birth of Jesus, commemorating the eight-day menorah marathon or expressing your cultural heritage in Swahili, this time of year is meant for giving and sharing gifts. If money and time are lacking, beer can be a quick, affordable and sharable gift.
Even better, with this a handy guide for purchasing a favorite beverage for your favorite people, you can choose a libation that reflects the characteristics of the beneficiary or beneficiaries, as is often the case with beer, of your thoughtful gift-giving.
As with any other gift, the most important factor in selecting the right one is to know the recipient. While tempting, the usual distinction among beer drinkers — light versus dark beer — simply won’t cut it. To that end, I have devised a gift giving guide based on the general character traits of those for whom you might be expected to buy a present. Up first is the joker.
The joker is that person who routinely cracks appropriate or inappropriate puns during dinner, delights in giving the most useless but hilarious gifts possible, or is a general prankster. Turn the tables this year by selecting a beer with a label that is already funny. Consider Polygamy Porter, from Wasatch Brewing, Utah, with the tagline “Why have just one?” If pluralistic marriage is too touchy a subject, consider Shark Pants, a Belgian Indian pale ale from Three Floyds Brewing, Ind. Finally, evaluations of Michael Bay aside, check out Hoptimus Prime, a double IPA from Legacy Brewing, Penn. The joker will be speechless for laughing at your clever selection or busy tasting the wonderful gift you have given. If money is too tight, just buy the joker a case of the cheapest beer you can buy, even non-alcoholic if you’re going just for laughs. Just make sure to get or write a funny card to go with it; the joker will understand. Next is the historian.
In contrast to the joker, for whom you could reasonably buy anything as long as it was funny, the historian is going to be harder to shop for. The historian is the antithesis of the joker, always pointing out obscure bits of knowledge and alluding to great stores of wisdom. Getting the right beer for the historian involves a little more research, but there are great choices out there. First up is Old Rasputin, an imperial stout from Northcoast Brewing, Calif. Want brownie points? Tell the historian that it’s supposedly based on the favorite beer of Catherine the Great, regent of the Russian court circa 1770.
Next, consider any of the beers produced by Samuel Smith Brewing out of Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, England. The nut brown ale is considered world class, and the old-world style of the bottles and labels will be a sure hit as well. Finally, if you have any doubts, consider Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan, or Weihenstephan Brewery for short. It is the oldest continually operating brewery in the world, is widely available and produces a variety of styles, from hefeweizen and lager to doppelbock and more. With a tasty brew as a present, the historian should mellow out and stop using words with too many syllables. The adventurer is next.
Maybe the adventurer is a sibling who studied abroad for a semester, or a friend who backpacked to Tibet after graduation. Either way, it will be somewhat of a challenge to present a novelty. Fear not, there are more than enough unique brews to pique the curiosity of the adventurer. First, check out Hitachino Nest White Ale, from Kuichi Brewing, Japan. Sporting the most adorable label in existence, Hitachino Nest has flavors of lemon peel and citrus — and is as quirky and delightful as you would expect. Next, choose any of the brews made by Unibroue, Quebec, Canada. Unibroue — pronounced “uni-brew,” not “uni-brow” — is recognized as one of the best producers of Belgian style ales in the world. Check out Maudite, translated “Damned”; the oddly appropriate La Fin du Monde, meaning “the end of the world”; and Don de Dieu, “Gift of God.” Maybe on the next trip, the adventurer will take you along as a beer guide. The last gift recipient is the greatest challenge of all: your mother.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume that “your mother” is like many other mothers in that she doesn’t drink beer — doesn’t even like the smell. Your mother may in fact love beer, but you know who I’m talking about. If your recipient doesn’t like beer, then your mission is of double importance. Depending on how long and how entrenched this dislike of malty beverages is, this may be an impossible task, but there are a few solutions. First, try Allagash White, from Allagash Brewing out of our very own Portland, Maine. Make sure it is served chilled with a big slice of sweet orange. Next, try a fruit ale, such as Bar Harbor Blueberry ale, or Sea Dog’s Blue Paw. If you must, throw in a handful of frozen blueberries into the glass, they’ll delight your mom as they bob up and down in the beer. A lambic beer is another alternative. Try Lindemans’ Framboise, a sweet and colorful raspberry beer from Brouwerij Lindemans, Belgium. But don’t be too pushy if your mother isn’t into microbrewed deliciousness — not everyone is.
A few final words: stay in your price range, don’t be pushy and have fun in moderation. Also, bear in mind that when buying beer as a Christmas gift there’s always the chance that you’ll be there when they drink it, thereby allowing you to have some yourself. This is a season for sharing, after all.