Stumped as to what you should buy those special someones on your list? Let Chow Bella do the shopping -- or at least the browsing -- with our 2014 gift guides. Today: gifts for the beer geek.
Beer people are generally an easy-to-please folk. They enjoy beer in all its forms -- draft, bottle, can, shampoo -- and will appreciate any gift with a passing relation to their favorite beverage. But there are some brew-based presents you can give that will put you way ahead of Coworker Craig and his holiday five-pack.
Hopped-Up Sandwiches Dogfish Head Craft Brewery's flagship 60 Minute IPA provides the briny base for the Hop-Pickles, the perfect sandwich accessory for any hophead. Made by hand at New York-based pickling enterprise Brooklyn Brine, each $8 jar of cukes is also flavored with caramelized onions, Cascade hop oil, habanero peppers and smoked paprika.
Pedal Power If you've been downtown in a major city in the past few years, you've probably seen some version of the pedal-powered trolleys with a dozen or so people gleefully cycling themselves from bar to bar. The Valley Pedaler, an offshoot of the Flagstaff-based Alpine Pedaler, is Tempe's own beer-powered cycle machine. Individual seats on the Pedaler's two-hour pub crawl are $25 and come with special drink discounts at each stop. Bigger brew crews can even rent the whole 14-person trolley for $325.
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Tools For Beer-Tasting There's a big difference between drinking beer and tasting beer. To drink takes no effort -- you simply sip, swallow, and repeat. To properly taste a beer, however, you need to consider all aspects of a brew, from aroma and appearance to flavor and finish. Northern Brewer's Beer Tasting Tool Kit comes with all the tools you need to taste like a true beer judge, including notepads for writing about the brews you drink, bags and strings for covering up a bottle's label, and a glossary of useful flavor terms you can use to describe your experience.
An Important Bicycle Accessory For the uninitiated, a growler is a resealable container that can be filled with beer directly from the tap, making it possible to drink your favorite draft-only beer from the comfort of your couch while watching Con Air, to use an example that may or may not be how I like to spend my Friday nights. But growlers can be unwieldy things, especially when riding one's bicycle to the closest brewery, as your average beer geek is wont to do. Enter the Growler Cage: a sturdy, neoprene-coated bracket that attaches to a bike wherever a standard water bottle cage would go. The Cage, available for $55 in a variety of colors, is designed to hold a standard 64-ounce glass growler with a firm yet gentle grip, ensuring no innocent beer is spilled no matter how intense your bike ride home.
Beer! No, not membership to a Beer of the Month club. Though a monthly package of random brews from across the country seems like a no-brainer gift, your true beer geek knows that the beers chosen for those things are rarely of high esteem, and the journey they take is perilous -- from Mongo the Mail Carrier's less-than-gentle handling of the package to Arizona's oppressive heat, any beer that actually makes it to your bud's house will have been shaken, stirred and cooked before it got there. What you need is fresh, local product. One of my favorites this time of year is San Tan Brewing Co.'s Winter Warmer, a high-ABV English strong ale brewed with orange blossom honey and fresh ginger. Holiday traditionalists will also enjoy Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co.'s Biere de Wassail, made with Arizona-grown apples and a secret spice blend, while those seeking more uncommon winter flavors would like ¡Odelay!, a Mexican chocolate porter brewed by Four Peaks.