The holiday season is here, and it’s time to get cracking on that shopping. If there’s a beer drinker on your list, brew-related gifts make for some easy picks — they’re easy to find in the Asheville area or online. And to make the search less stressful, we’ve put together a list of suggestions, from stocking stuffers to full-on holiday presents.
Let’s start with beers themselves. Before buying a brew for someone, drop a few hints and get some idea of what styles your recipients might enjoy. It’s easy to stop at a local grocer and put together a six-pack or box of made-in-the-mountains beers — including maybe a few cans from Asheville Brewing, Boojum and Catawba, or some bottles from Wicked Weed, Highland, Green Man and Hi-Wire.
Asheville Brewing Co.’s extremely popular holiday brew, Ninjabread Man spiced porter, includes vanilla beans, toasted cinnamon sticks, raisins, molasses and caramelized ginger. Check on the availability of 22-ounce bottles at brewery locations on Coxe and Merrimon avenues.
Or head to one of Asheville’s great beers stores — Tasty Beverage, Bruisin’ Ales, Appalachian Vintner or Hops & Vines — and pick out a few bottles. This time of year, a good sturdy Noel holiday brew, such as Scaldis Noel Premium Winter Ale or St. Bernadus Christmas brew,really hits the spot.
Another recommendation is Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome, an English brew that can sometimes be found at groceries with better beer selections. If you don’t have a ticket for the sold-out Warren Haynes Christmas Jam, get a bottle or the Christmas Jam Ale made by Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Also, Anchor Brewing’s Christmas Ale is always a winner.
One of the more unusual beer-related products out there is Asheville-based Broo shampoo and hair conditioner. These are high-end hair care products that come in three varieties — a citrus thickening style, minty invigorating products and a hop-scented moisturizing shampoo and conditioner. Broo can be found at local retailers, including Ingles, Whole Foods, Earth Fare and the French Broad Food Co-op. Or, if you order it online at Amazon.com, it comes in a special package that includes a wooden caddy.
Most Asheville-area breweries offer fun merchandise that would make great holiday gifts. That’s especially true for the three big national craft brands that set up shop in Western North Carolina. Down on the French Broad River, New Belgium Brewing has some sweet swag for sale in its Liquid Center tasting room and a lot more online at its website (newbelgium.com). For just a quarter, get some New Belgium lip balm, or $5 will buy you an adult coloring book or a set of playing cards. There’s also a good selection of glassware for a buck a piece.
Sierra Nevada in Mills River also has an impressive gift store. Online offerings include a Bigfoot hooded sweatshirt for $32 and a neon sign for $310 (sierranevadagiftshop.com). In Brevard, Oskar Blues has everything from a large 3-D can sign for its Mama’s Little Yella Pils for $75 to Dale’s Pale Ale wing sauce plus hot sauces, spice mixes and rubs for $8. There’s even a resealable can of the company’s B. Stiff & Sons root beer candy for $3.99 (oskarblues.com).
Want to zest up a sandwich? For $6.25, Crooked Condiments will ship you a 9-ounce jar of artisan mustard made with Asheville’s original craft beer, Highland Gaelic Ale, or Asheville Brewing Co.’s Ninja Porter (crookedcondiments.com).
All About Beer magazine, based in Durham, covers the beer scene in a slick, glossy publication that’s a favorite with many drinkers. A six-issue subscription is $24.95 at allaboutbeer.com.
Sticking with that reading theme, there are many great brew books on the market. Local writer Anne-Fitten Glenn explores the history of local brewing in Asheville Beer: An Intoxicating History of Mountain Brewing, which traces the scene from its earliest days right through the newest breweries. Her book is available through Malaprop’s and other local bookstores, as is Homebrew Beyond the Basics: All-Grain Brewing and Other Next Steps by brewer Mike Karnowski, owner of Zebulon Artisan Ales in Weaverville.
The Oxford Companion to Beer, edited by Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster Garrett Oliver, has 1,100-plus entries on beer written by experts. And for those who are curious about homebrewing, a good gift might be The Complete Joy of Home Brewing by Charlie Papazian. Order the fourth edition for $17.99 from the Brewers Association (brewersassociation.org) and pair it up with homebrewing equipment from Asheville Brewers Supply, Fifth Season or Hops & Vines.
Fans of draft beer might enjoy the battery-powered Fizzics machine, which will turn a can, bottle or growler of any brew into a creamy, draftlike beverage. Just put the beer into the machine, flip the switch and, in an instant, you’re drinking draft. It’s $149 from bestbuy.com.
And, finally, we’ll suggest the Pico Home Brewing System, which at $799 isn’t cheap. But it promises to produce five liters of beer using grain and hops PicoPaks, working very much like a Keurig and other types of instant coffee machines. After brewing, the beer goes into a keg, and then you carbonate. It takes seven to 10 days to produce a batch. The set includes a brewing keg, dispensing keg and more. Check it out at picobrew.com, and be sure to leave a pint for old St. Nick.
Follow Tony Kiss on Facebook at Carolina Beer Guy and on Twitter at BeerGuyTK. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.