Giving beer is a tricky endeavor. Not only are there a zillion options at a good bottle shop, but you don’t want to be duped into buying a shelf turd by a sales associate trying to move old stock. The right bottle is more than just a good beer. The right bottle is also something nice they can hang on to for the right occasion, which means fresh IPAs and most hoppy numbers are out the window. If you have a beer lover in your life and feel completely lost, let us help. Here are 10 wonderful beers to give as presents. Toss in a nice bottle opener and that’s a damn fine gift.
Cascade Apricot Ale
Since 2006, Cascade has churned out some of the finest sours this country has to offer. Eschewing trends in favor of a stylistic vision, Cascade has stuck to its formula of using fresh fruits and unique ingredients to craft seriously tasty and seriously tart offerings. Why is a sour the perfect gift? Well, for starters, a sour can sit around longer than those dry-hopped IPAs that fall off in a matter of weeks, so they’re not required to pop the cap before the new year. Also, because of the ingredients and time required, a sour is usually on the pricier side, so giving a bottle is a little nicer than giving, say, a 6-pack of Heineken. While we selected Apricot Ale, feel free to choose any Cascade bottle you come across; they’re almost all stellar. While not plentiful, you shouldn’t have the hardest time tracking down a bottle from the Portland-based brewery
Sam Adams Utopias
While far from easy, tracking down a bottle of Utopias isn’t impossible, thanks mostly to the un-beer-like price tag. At $200+ a bottle, it’s not exactly the gift for a casual acquaintance. But if you have a beer-loving family member, boss, or someone close to you, this is the bottle they’ve never splurged on for themselves. Sold in an attractive mini still, the “beer” inside will remind them more of a post-dinner liquor than a standard brew. Not only does that mean they can savor it for some time to come, but also it’s a beer experience they’ve never had. We recommend calling around to bottle shops before you go out, as the beer is far from a staple. And since it didn’t make an appearance in 2016, it may require some hunting to acquire.
Hair of the Dog Adam
Hair of the Dog, like Cascade, has always marched to the beat of their own drum. Less interested in the latest hop variety to add to their base IPA and whatever the hot item is to be dropped in a stout, the legendary brewery focuses on big, bold, unusual beer styles. So while you can pick up Blue Dot India Pale Ale, we’d really recommend something like Adam. Adam is an Old Ale best served after a meal. It was the first beer Hair of the Dog released when they opened in 1993 and it packs notes of chocolate and cigars. It’s just the kind of drinking experience winter demands. If you have access to their beers, and you want a gift that really will impress, try to snag Adam and one of its variants—Adam From The Wood or Cherry Adam From The Wood—to gift a unique drinking experience.
Trader Joe's Vintage Ale
We know what you’re thinking: Give them a beer from Trader Joe’s? Hear us out. Everyone’s favorite crowded, bell-ringing supermarket has a total sleeper beer on its hands. Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale, which is released before the holidays every year, is exceptional and the price ($5.99) can’t be beat. If you’re attending a party hosted by a beer lover and need a small gift, this is it. Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale is brewed by Uniqbroue, the same Canadian brewery that churns out the tremendously delicious classic La Fin Du Monde, and that’s a good thing. The Belgian-style dark ale is loaded with seasonal notes, like baking spices, ginger, caramel, and cocoa. A true beer fan won’t scoff at it, but if they do, it will only last until they pop the cork.
The Bruery 9 Ladies Dancing
In 2008, The Bruery had an idea. They wanted to create a series of beers based on the “12 Days of Christmas.” The first, Partridge in a Pear Tree, hit shelves that holiday. The following year, they released 2 Turtle Doves. The next, 3 French Hens. And so on and so forth. The really unique part, however, is the idea behind the series, as the beers are meant to be consumed together at one epic tasting. That means the older brews age nicely while the ones yet to come can be consumed a bit fresher. Now it’s going to be very, very tough to find someone willing to part with one of the early beers in the series, but you can start a friend or family member out with this year’s offering, 9 Ladies Dancing. The American Strong Ale is a dessert-like treat with cacao nibs, coffee, vanilla, and lactose added in an attempt to mimic tiramisu. Maybe make it a tradition and grab them each new bottle for the next three years.
St. Bernardus Abt 12
There was a time when Westvleteren 12 was the most sought-after beer in the world. The Quad, which was almost exclusively available from the trappist abbey in a remote part of Belgium, took on near mythical status. Those days are gone, replaced by longing for the latest hop monster from some brewery in the States, but the difficulty in acquiring a Westy hasn’t changed. This holiday season, give someone a gift with a little bit of a story. St. Bernardus Abt 12 is basically Westvleteren 12—and you can actually find it in a store. The reason for this stems from a 30-year period when St. Bernardus brewed for St. Sixtus, which is the now-home of Westvleteren. When the monks at St. Sixtus started brewing on their own, it is said that those at St. Bernardus kept using the recipe that was shared with them for their own beer. While there are differences, they are minimal. The beers are strikingly similar. Their major difference: availability. So snag someone a bottle of St. Bernardus Abt 12 and let them know they’re basically drinking a Westy.
Corsendonk Christmas Ale
This is the holidays in a bottle. Long our go-to Christmas beer, Corsendonk Christmas Ale packs notes of plums, cloves, and cinnamon. Honestly, cracking a bottle will transport you back to mom’s kitchen on a cold winter night. A bottle should only run you about $15, so it’s the perfect gift when you’re not looking to break the bank but still want to give something they’ll enjoy.
Founders Breakfast Stout
We’re not going to send you on a wild goose chase to track down the latest stout from Bottle Logic, Kane, or Trillium. What we will recommend is a stout that everyone loves, Founders Breakfast Stout. The iconic brew clocks in at #76 on BeerAdvocate’s Top 250 Beers, which is mighty impressive when you consider how difficult most of the first 75 beers are to obtain. A 6-pack of Breakfast Stout is the gift that will be enjoyed by craft enthusiast and beer novice alike. With bitter chocolate and roasted coffee notes throughout, the beer is perfect for a snowy night.
Brasserie Dupont Avec les Bons Voeux
Depending on where you live, the hardest part of purchasing a bottle of Avec les Bons Voeux is pronouncing the name when you ask for it. It’s one of those bottles that gets passed up in favor of something new and trendy all the time. That’s a damn shame. The saison, which comes from the brewery that makes one of the world’s most legendary saisons, Saison Dupont, is an absolute treat this time of year for fans of the funk. It’s a seasonal saison, which is a bit of rarity. It’s spicy, velvety, and loaded with flavor. A bit of a warning: saisons aren’t for everyone. We’d recommend making sure they dig the style before you go gifting them a barnyard in a bottle.
Avery is known for their big, bold, in-your-face stouts that happen to be perfect this time of year. Our favorite, and the one that’s briefly hitting shelves now, is Tweak. Tweak is a beast at 17.81% ABV and packs notes of coffee and bourbon. Besides being a pricey 12-oz. bottle (expect to pay around $15, if not more), it’s a beer that can sit and mellow a bit, making it a solid gift that can be held onto for a special occasion. Oh, and it’s mind-blowingly good.