THE ALEHEADS HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE

‘Tis the season when we all follow the herd down to the mall and spend roughly 20% of our annual income on crap we didn’t have any need for during the first 11 months of the year. And that’s OK…without this orgy of consumerism, our great nation’s economy would regress to Grecian levels. Part of the joy of the spending-spree season is purchasing gifts for those you love (or at least tolerate for tax purposes). Of course, some folks are easier to shop for than others. The Uncle who collects Japanese tentacle porn? Buy him some Japanese tentacle porn. The wife who likes giant diamonds? Buy her a picture of a giant diamond.

But what about the Alehead in your life? How do you shop for someone who spends every waking minute thinking about and/or consuming craft beer?  Whether you’re a family member/significant other of an Alehead or just an Alehead yourself looking to “drop hints” to your loved ones, you’ve come to the right place. This year, here’s what every Alehead will be happy to see underneath the wrapping paper:

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1. Beer: It goes without saying, but in an informal poll of 100 Aleheads, 99 said that their preferred holiday gift would be “beer” (the 100th was passed out in a puddle of urine). Unfortunately, while this is the easiest gift suggestion to make, it’s the hardest one to pull off successfully. The problem is that it’s mighty tricky for a non-Alehead to purchase beer for a highly persnickety beer snob. Here are a few recommendations to help you make the right selection.

A) Pay attention to your Alehead’s likes/dislikes: I know listening to an Alehead blather about beer is the aural equivalent of waterboarding, but if you really want to make your Alehead happy, spend the few weeks leading up to the holidays engaging them in beer conversation. It won’t take long before you learn what styles he/she likes or dislikes and which breweries he/she loves or hates. Being armed with those preferences will make the selection process MUCH easier. As a wise, 80s cartoon once told me, “knowing is half the battle”.

B) Ask an expert: Does your Alehead have a drinking buddy? Ask them for suggestions. Does your Alehead have a package store they frequent regularly? Go there and ask the staff for help. Or jump on board the information superhighway and check out recommendations from such renowned beer blogs as aleheads.com (or other lesser sites). There is no such thing as an Alehead that doesn’t like talking about beer incessantly. The problem won’t be getting good advice…it will be getting your expert to shut up.

C) If all else fails, make an educated guess: If you’re in a crunch and just don’t have anything to go on, head to your local bottle shop and do your best. I would suggest grabbing bombers over six-packs since a “mistake” will only leave your Alehead with one bad bottle in the fridge instead of a half-dozen. Avoid any macro beers (Bud/Miller/Coors) or any breweries associated with the macros (like Blue Moon/Shock Top/Stella/Leinenkugel). If you have no idea what you’re doing, it’s best to avoid imports of any kind. Seriously…picking Belgian beer is like randomly selecting cheese at Whole Foods. One false move, and you’re stuck with something that smells like a bottle of toejam and farts. I would highly recommend grabbing bottles of American craft beer. Anything that says “IPA “or has the word “Imperial” or “Double” in it will probably be just fine. And remember, steer clear of anything that sounds overly familiar. As far as an Alehead is concerned, the more obscure, the better.*

*A word of warning…NEVER buy one of those “beer of the month club” subscriptions unless you’ve really done your homework. They generally ship pretty lousy beer and they’re usually hugely disappointing. There are some exceptions to the the rule, but they’re few and far between.

I'll take one of everything, thank you.

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2. Gift Certificate to Beer Bar/Package Store: This is an even easier solution for a lazy gift-giver. Can’t decide what kind of beer to get for your Alehead? Just let them pick themselves. Sure, it shows a little less thought than personally selecting some great brews, but it’s better than sticking them with three pricey bombers of beer they hate. Plus, your Alehead is (hopefully) a grown-ass adult and the appeal of “surprise” gifts is probably not quite as important as “getting something they actually want”. So if choosing beer is too confusing or simply requires more mental energy than your lazy ass can muster, grab your Alehead a gift certificate to their favorite beer bar or package store. It may not have the “wow” factor of a perfectly selected bomber, but it WILL have a 100% success rate.

It's the lack of thought that counts.

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3. Glassware: Maybe your Alehead already has a fridge or basement filled to absurdity with beer. Or maybe you know everyone else will be buying them brews and you want to get them something a little different. One word: glassware. It’s a little known fact that Aleheads can never have enough beer glasses. Sure, we almost always use the same glass. And yes, we don’t really have any more space for another goblet. But…hey! Shiny! A good beer glass looks cool and is always fun to bust out when fellow Aleheads are visiting. Stay away from standard pint glasses since they’re a dime a dozen. Instead, grab a chalice, tulip, snifter, or something equally funky-looking. Check out our glassware guide to learn some of the terminology.

Gotta catch 'em all!

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4. Literature: OK…your Alehead has all the beer they need (Note: This is impossible, but it’s a hypothetical situation) and so many beer glasses that he/she could drink for a year without ever having to wash a glass. Aren’t there any other options? How about some beer literature? It’s been bashed at length in the beer blogosphere, but the Oxford Companion to Beer is a handsome volume and a wonderful conversation starter. You also can’t go wrong with anything written by Michael Jackson (the British one), Pete Brown, Martyn Cornell, or Randy Mosher. The only thing Aleheads like more than drinking beer and talking about beer is reading about beer (also, hop puns).

I know...Garrett Oliver is a douche. Still a nice-looking book though.

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5. Homebrew Gear: This one requires a little more detective work than the rest. First, you have to know whether or not your Alehead is an active homebrewer (if not, your gift of a wort chiller might raise some eyebrows). Second, you’ve got to have a pretty good handle on what kind of gear your homebrewing friend already has (you don’t want to buy them another bottle filler if they already have a good one). But if they’re just getting into the hobby and only have a basic kit, there are tons of great add-ons you can buy for your Alehead. An extra carboy (the big glass jar you ferment your beer in) is always a welcome addition. Ditto a wort chiller (very few starter kits come with one of these…it’s a length of coiled, copper pipe that helps you cool your beer down before adding the yeast). A high-end digital thermometer is hugely helpful (most kits comes with a standard thermometer). Or buy them a stir plate to let them grow their own yeast starter cultures. The one thing I would caution against is trying to buy a beer recipe kit for your Alehead. Most homebrewers already generally know what the “next” beer they’re going to tackle will be (actually, most of us know the next six or seven styles we want to try). You also kind of have to brew with your ingredients immediately (it’s like cooking…you don’t buy produce to make a salad with them two months later) so you’re better off letting your Alehead buy their kits themselves when they’re actually ready to brew.

*And in a quick nod to #4 above, there are also some GREAT homebrewing books out there for the brew-it-yourself enthusiast.

If your Alehead is NOT a homebrewer, this gift could be a little awkward. Just pretend it's some sort of penis-enlargement device.

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6. A Beer Fridge: Maybe you’ve got some cash to burn and want to buy a big-ticket item for your Alehead. One option would be to go on eBay and buy a super-rare brew for your Alehead (maybe a Dark Lord, Kate the Great, CBS, or Westy 12). But you have to be careful when buying beers on the secondary market…and regardless of how savvy you are, you’re going to get screwed on the price. Your best bet for a pricey gift is a nice beer fridge. Even if your Alehead already has one, I promise, he/she can always use another (they’ll just set one at a higher temp for their barleywines and Imperial Stouts). Check out our guide to beer fridges for some helpful shopping tips.

Umm...no. Think smaller.

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7. A Bottle of Scotch: Sometimes an Alehead needs to be reminded that there are other things to drink in the world besides beer.

Needs more hops.

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8. Subscription to Aleheads: On the flipside, maybe you’re flat broke. Maybe you’ve been laid off, can barely pay rent, and the thought of buying gifts for other people right now just makes you weep inside. Fear not, you can always give your Alehead a free subscription to aleheads.com! Simply type their e-mail address into the handy “Become an Alehead” widget on the top-right side of our site and you’re done! It’s the gift that keeps on giving (seriously…we post a LOT) and it won’t cost you a dime (other than your immortal soul…mwaaa haaa haa!).

Come on...drink the Kool Aid. The only thing it's spiked with is beer (and crystal meth).

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Best of luck with the shopping and happy holidays to you all. Remember, if the season gets a little too stressful, grab a beer and reflect on what this time of year is really all about…shitty weather and horrible music.

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6 comments

  1. Damn good advice Brother Barley!

  2. Thanks for featuring our gift certificate!! It made me feel all happy, like hugging a puppy.

    While riding a unicorn!

    Merry holidays, Aleheads.

  3. Thanks, Sean. I love the Fullsteam aesthetics…and your beer’s not bad either!

    G-Lo, I hope your stockings are filled with nothing but high-gravity, craft beer this holiday season…

  4. Anonymous · ·

    Well done – enjoyable read this.

  5. I like how you photoshoped the “Become and Alehead” screencap to make it look like we had followers.

  6. Thanks Brother Barley! And may your first child be a MASCULINE child! :D

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