With the gift-giving season comes pressure. But if a craft beer-lover is on your list, fear not. Avoid bad ties, tacky perfumes and the Jelly of the Month Club with a few suggestions for beer fans.
The Growler, Perfected
The growler is a flawed vessel, and really doesn’t keep beer fresh for very long. The uKeg from GrowlerWerks is an entirely different story. The uKeg is pressurized with a seltzer CO2 cartridge and pours smoothly from a small tap handle. A dial on the regulator cap even lets you control the level of pressure. The innovation is great, but the aesthetics are pretty stellar. The rugged (and subtly steampunk) stainless steel, copper and limited black chrome finishes are the height of cool.
There’s no shortage of beer-related schwag on Etsy. A couple of standouts are perfect for the rec room, garage or by the beer fridge. The Wisconsin beer map print is simple, cool and just $20. Pair it with a rustic beer bottle opener complete with a corrugated metal cutout of Wisconsin and you’ve got a basement bar brimming with state pride.
Export the Locals
Buying gifts for those who live out of state provides ample opportunity to impress them with beers they might not have access to. Because it’s only sold in Wisconsin, and because it has developed a sizable cult following, New Glarus beers are an obvious choice here. But how about shipping out a pair of Great American Beer Fest gold medal winners like Third Space Unite the Clans Scottish or Raised Grain Paradocs Red Imperial IPA? Maybe you’re more inclined to send some City Lights Coconut Porter, Good City Motto Mosaic Pale Ale or other local standouts. You have plenty of options.
The Controversial Gift Card
Some consider a gift card an impersonal cop-out when searching for the perfect gift. But (because I generally struggle mightily with presents), I vehemently disagree. It doesn’t have to be used solely on beverages at a local beer store, although that’s fine too. A gift card to a place like Ray’s Growler Gallery (8930 W. North Ave.) gives the owner access to tasting events and general fun and frivolity. And, a gift certificate to Draft & Vessel (4417 N. Oakland Ave.) ensures plenty of good brews and provides an excuse to hang out at one of Milwaukee’s coolest beer spots.
Books are a popular holiday gift. Two new ones expertly explore the beer scene in Wisconsin. Matthew Janzen’s State of Craft Beer is a striking leather-bound coffee table book. The 272-page book is filled with vivid images from all over the state depicting the entire brewing journey. Just like Janzen, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel scribe Kathy Flanigan traveled all over the state to write Beer Lover’s Wisconsin. Learn about the breweries, bars and beer festivals all around the Badger State.
The Gift of a Whale
An extremely rare beer (aka: whale) is a perfect gift for any beer aficionado at any time of the year. Getting your hands on one isn’t always easy. Dig around on the internets for a minute or two and you’ll find a fair share of sites devoted to trading and purchasing hard-to-find brews. But, let’s keep the whale hunting local. The Milwaukee Craft Beer Exchange lets locals post what they’re looking for and what they’re willing to trade. The majority of the posters on the site offer fair trades and aren’t trying to gouge anyone. Isn’t the Midwest nice?
For the Budding Brewer
I’ve mentioned brewing kits from Brooklyn Brew Shop before, but that’s because they’re ideal for those who want to learn how to brew their own beer but have commitment issues. The one-gallon batch size means that you don’t feel too bad dumping a beer if it doesn’t turn out—inevitably that will happen at least once. The kit is a great way to find out whether brewing is your thing without investing serious cash in a more advanced system.