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Last minute beer gifts

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If you are anything like me, then you probably have not yet started your holiday shopping. Alas, it can be a mad scramble to assemble some last minute tokens of affection for the ones you love. But there’s one gift that you may not have considered, one gift that can really make all the difference in the world for the right guy or gal.

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So if you are – or think you could be – shopping for a fellow beerdoe this season and have not yet bought a gift, here are some ideas that won’t only instill joyful elation in the recipient, but will also make you look pretty darned good.

What can I say? It’s a win-win.

Beer Clubs: Guaranteed Winners
A bottle of something special is always well received, but most local beer geeks have tried everything available on the Santa Barbara beer shelves. Th is is why the Beer of the Month Clubs from are the perfect gift. Each month the U.S. Microbrewed Beer Club delivers a 12-pack of 12oz beers to the respective doorsteps of its members. In the package, there are three bottles each of four different hand-selected beers from exceptional U.S. craft brewers. There is also an International Beer Clubcerveza, por favor – that instead highlights beers from outside the country. Their most popular club blends these two options into twelve 12oz beers featuring four different varieties from both U.S. and international breweries.

The U.S. and International Beer Clubs offer a wonderful selection of beers that are not easy to find (especially in our area), but The Rare Beer Club – founded by Michael Jackson (no not that Michael Jackson but rather the greatest beer and whiskey writer the world has ever known)– really kicks it up a notch.

The Rare Beer Club is for the true beer connoisseur and is dedicated to delivering some of the best (and hardest-to-find) beers in the world. Each month members receive two different world class beers in 750mL bottles. Many of them are special edition, one-off brews, like the cleverly named Prostator from Elevation Brewing Co. Th is hearty, smoked doppelbock was produced as part of the Pints for Prostrates project that uses proceeds to benefit prostate cancer awareness. They have also featured brews like the Arctic Saison, a collaboration beer between Grassroots Brewing and Anchorage Brewing Co., that has a peppery theme and funky finish from the microorganism brettanomyces.

Some of the beers featured in The Rare Beer Club have been made before but are just very hard to get your hands on. Th is is the case with Boon Mariage Parfait, a beer I had spent years waiting to find. Mariage Parfait is French for “perfect marriage” and I have never tasted a beer that so confidently lives up to its name. Th is beer is a blend of several different aged lambics to form a style of beer called geuze. Lambics are a family of beers from the Senne Valley in Belgium that are spontaneously fermented from the microorganisms naturally occurring in the air. They take years to produce and are considered the height of the brewer’s art.

The aroma of Mariage Parfait is a delicate dance around the fruit bowl, bringing together white grape, lemon and unripe peaches. The rim of these flavors are accented by white pepper and a dusty, musty note that has a leather earthiness laced within to bring the weathered theme that exhibits this beer’s age and the various microorganisms it contains. It was brewed in 2009 and has matured, losing the sharp acidity that can accompany younger geuzes. The tart character is in perfect balance with a sweetness composed of apricots and honey flavors that is followed by an abrupt dryness, punctuating the finish like a crash of the cymbals. You could write a book on the flavors of this beer, but in the end any words you use to describe it will fall short of the true symphony of flavors that grace your palate. Mariage Parfait exemplifies the care and consideration that goes into selecting these obscure offerings from only the best breweries in the world.

The Rare Beer Club. It’s sort of a big deal. And it’s a great gift.

The selection process for the beer clubs is exhaustive and performed by skilled palates so don’t expect to see Budweiser on your doorstep soon. (I mean, not that Bud isn’t a world-class brew of course. It is.) Memberships can be given for just a single month, every month, or anywhere in between, allowing a highly customizable gift that can fit any budget. Similar clubs for wine, cheese, chocolate, cigars and flowers are available and can be combined with beer clubs to suit the interests of whoever you are shopping for.

Make Your Own
Has your loved one been talking about trying their hand in homebrewing? Valley Brewers in Solvang and Surf
in Ventura both have wonderful homebrewing shops and can supply you with a beginner homebrewing kit or even a new brewing kettle for someone who already brews. Each shop carries a wide selection of ingredients and their knowledgeable staffs can help you put together the perfect gift. Oh, don’t forget to include a homebrewing lesson. The next one will be at Surf Brewery on Saturday, January 11, from 12 – 3pm and just happens to focus on, drumroll, beginning homebrewing! (And if it doesn’t work out with the class then you can always get a book on beginner homebrewing. Fun too.)

A Lasting Gift
Books are both my favorite gift to give and to receive. A well-chosen book will keep on giving, bringing countless hours of entertainment and inspiring new interests in the gifted reader. Surf Brewery and Valley Brewers offer a variety of beercentric literature; Chaucer’s Bookstore and other local book sellers carry good selections as well.

For the blossoming homebrewer I suggest The New Complete Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papazian, considered to be the grandfather of craft beer. Charlie’s warm demeanor comes through in his words and, together with his approachable techniques, it is clear why this book remains a timeless classic and is the go-to handbook on homebrewing.

If you are shopping for a seasoned homebrewer then I suggest Designing Great Beers by Ray Daniels, founder of the Cicerone program and senior staff member at the Siebel Institute for brewing. This extensive book gives the reader a highly technical approach on how to construct any beer recipe, but its writing is direct and easy to understand, making it a popular addition to the bookshelves of professional and amateur brewers alike.

Extreme Brewing by Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head Brewery, is a selection for the more experimental brewers and off-centered individuals. This vivid piece of writing covers how to brew with exotic ingredients and make the eccentric beers that Dogfish Head has become famous for.

Finally, if you have that friend who thinks s/he knows everything about beer, then The Oxford Companion to Beer edited by Garrett Oliver is just right. This thick tome literally covers the A-to-Zs of beer in encyclopedic fashion that is guaranteed to teach something new to even the most knowledgeable of beer enthusiasts. Happy hunting, fellow last-minute shoppers, hopefully these suggestions will help you find that perfect gift for the beer
geeks in your life.



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