The holiday-party and gift-giving season is here, ready or not. To assist you in this ordeal, I present the not-quite-annual Free Times gift-giving guide for the beer enthusiast or someone who should be one.
Fine, expensive craft beer tastes and looks better in style-appropriate glassware, and every enthusiast appreciates beautiful glassware that enhances the drinking experience. Brewery glassware is usually available only at the breweries or by mail order, but now an extensive collection of glassware is available at Green’s Beverage Warehouse. Total Wine follows with a good but not as large selection of glassware. And most retailers, including Morganelli’s, offer gift boxes from Petrus, Duvel, Piraat and Chimay that contain an imprinted glass and selection of beers. All of these are outstanding beers that will surprise and amaze anyone who has never tasted them — these are can’t-miss gifts. You can, of course, assemble your own unique gift boxes by picking the glasses and matching them with an appropriate bottle.
Again this year, several breweries are offering beers in giant 3-liter bottles. These are terrific conversation pieces for a gathering or party, and contain some very good beer. Some of the notable examples are Stone’s Double Bastard ale and Thirsty Dog’s 12 Days of Christmas along with several Belgian trappist and abbey ales.
If you are planning a party or expect family or friends to visit, several breweries offer sampler boxes of winter and holiday beers. The samplers from Harpoon, Samuel Adams and Widmer are great values and contain something for just about every beer enthusiast. The Sam Adams Winter Mix contains two bottles of six different beers — two of them, Old Fezziwig Ale and Cherry Chocolate Bock, are apparently available only in the sampler. These are luscious, tasty ales that are perfect for the season.
A gift of tickets to the World Beer Festival in Columbia on Jan. 18 is another can’t-miss gift for anyone with who enjoys beer and a good time. This festival is again at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center and is the chance to sample a wide selection of beers with a like-minded and fun-loving crowd. Tickets are available at Morganelli’s and Green’s for $40, VIP tickets for $85. For the more seasoned and hardy enthusiast, a ticket to Charleston’s Brewvival is a great idea. This outdoor festival is scheduled for Feb. 23 in North Charleston and features a variety of exotic beers personally selected by the organizers. Last year, Woodstock-like weather and conditions at this festival assured Brewvival’s place in beer lore for serious enthusiasts. Tickets are available online for $69.99. (brewvival.com.)
For gifts for friends or colleagues, there are a number of beers, especially Belgian-style beers, that are packaged in elegant cork-finished bottles that will surely surprise and impress the recipients. Browse the shelves of the larger retailers and you will discover some impressively packaged ales. In particular, Gulden Draak 10.5 Brewmaster Edition is extraordinary in its beautiful bottle. Even better is the ale contained in this bottle, a rich Belgian tripel aged in whiskey barrels — an amazing cold-weather delight.
Rodenbach, the Belgian maker of the unique Flemish red style, is offering several beers that are beautifully packaged and contain equally beautiful sour ales. The brewery is now offering unblended, vintage-dated versions of its Grand Cru that are spectacular. Rodenbach’s seasonal offering, Caractere Rouge, is truly amazing. This beer is aged for two years in oak casks (bacteria in the oak creates the sour flavor that is the characteristic of the style), and then whole sour cherries, cranberries and raspberries are added for an extra six months of aging. I enjoyed this with a Thanksgiving feast, and the sweet-sour beer with the perfectly balanced fruit flavors paired delightfully with turkey, ham and all the trimmings. This one will be a terrific appetizer for any meal. Cheers!
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