This permanent page is a compilation of previous blog posts updated and amended (on 17/12/2018) for Christmas 2018, but hopefully also useful for birthdays, mother’s day, father’s day, Groundhog Day…
Even though it’s only October, we’ve started getting emails from relatives asking if we’ve updated our Christmas wish lists.
If you’re in the same boat, or you’re looking for gift ideas for a beer-loving friend or relative, here are some suggestions and tips.
- For everyone: we have to mention our book Brew Britannia, don’t we? It’s just shy of 300 pages of proper reading, covering the history of British ‘alternative’ beer in the period from 1963 to 2013. Here’s what Tim Hampson said:
— Tim Hampson (@beerhero) October 15, 2014
- For Londoners (new for 2015): The new edition of Des de Moor’s guide to London’s Best Beer, Pubs & Bars is an entertaining read and a useful guide. Here’s our review.
- For homebrewers: The Homebrewer’s Guide to Vintage Beer by Ron Pattinson is a wonderfully readable summary of his sometimes intimidating body of research into brewing history. The recipes which make up the meat of the book are great too. (Our review is here.)
- For serious homebrewers: Michael Tonsmeire’s American Sour Beers is an extremely detailed, fastidious guide to brewing all kinds of sour and otherwise funky beers. Heavy going, but the kind of people who brew twice a week will relish the challenge of setting up a multi-year brewing and blending programme in the shed…
- For all homebrewers (new for 2015): Randy Mosher’s complete guide, Mastering Homebrewing, following on from his much-admired Radical Brewing, looks like a safe bet for beginners and experienced brewers alike. Here’s Stan Hieronymus’s review.
- For History buffs: first published in 1939, Maurice Gorham and Edward Ardizzone’s books The Local was reprinted in a nice hardback edition in 2010. Here’s Ewan’s review, and there are some quotes from it here. N.B. Return to the Local, from 1949, contains much of the same material, with some updates and additions.
- From the archives: we’ve previously suggested Pete Brown’s Shakespeare’s Local and Brian Glover’s Lost Breweries of Britain.
- We’ve previously recommended the British Film Institute’s collection of archive documentaries Roll out the Barrel.
- Network DVD’s Ealing Rarities series includes a couple of long-lost classics of note: the 1939 comedy Cheer Boys Cheer! (about the rivalry between two breweries, and reviewed by us here); and The Saloon Bar, a light mystery film from 1940 set in a pub.
Other fun stuff
- A general point: avoid novelties! No-one needs generic beer glasses with ‘hilarious’ slogans; can-holding baseball caps; or random household objects with BEER printed on them for no particular reason.
- These wooden beer crates hold nine or twelve 500ml bottles and are a bit cooler than cardboard or plastic boxes – perfect for beer hoarders or home-brewers. (But it’s probably polite to put some beer in at least one of them if it’s intended as a gift…)
- A well-chosen themed bottle opener can have its place — we have a screaming ghost who opens bottles with his ferocious teeth — but the ones we’ve loved have tended to be purely practical. This one resembles a key (£7.50 from Suck UK) and so is always with us on trains and boats and planes; and this miniature Leatherman keychain tool is similarly portable (£27 as part of a gift-pack).
- Many artists and printmakers have limited edition beer-themed products such as this lovely letterpress poster which reads GIVE ME HOPS (£50, limited edition of 200), or this drawing of the Free Trade Inn in Newcastle pub (£35, edition of 300), or this of the legendary Fat Cat in Sheffield (£10).
- This vintage-style enamel beer sign from Fuller’s is very cool (£30).
- Home brew starter kits make good presents. At the cheap and cheerful end, there’s this from Wilkinson’s at £69, which looks fine; while this at £214, from Hop & Grape, is for those who want in at the deep end.
- There are some beer-themed T-shirts available ranging from specific brewery merchandise (Magic Rock, Fuller’s, Thornbridge) to this from Last Exit to Nowhere which references a fictional brew from the 1979 science fiction film Alien:
- Ebay is full of interesting vintage items from brewery-branded mirrors at several hundred pounds a pop to smaller collectable items such as these Watney’s Red Barrel keyrings. Lots of quirkier items really are one-offs, e.g. an unused Whitbread brewery work shirt from the 1970s that we saw recently.
The Main Event – Beer
- A general rule: try to find brands that can’t be bought easily all-year-round. You can’t go too far wrong buying something that is described as limited edition and/or that is eye-wateringly expensive: at the very least, it ought to be interesting.
- A warning: avoid nicely packaged budget supermarket gift sets, which often feature smaller bottles of relatively weak, not-especially-good beer in fancy boxes. You’d be better off buying a slab of cans of lager, or one really nice beer, in terms of value for money. (But have a look here for our tips on which supermarket brands are worth buying.)
- Many online retailers have curated bundles of, e.g., Belgian, American or Belgian beer.
- Fuller’s Past Masters historic recreations are always interesting and a new one, 1910 Double Stout, is due any day now.
- On the high street: Marks & Spencer have a rotating range of posh-looking-but-affordable beers in 750ml bottles and presentation boxes any of which we’d be happy to find under the tree on the big day.
- Mini-kegs, like those sold by Adnams at quite reasonable prices, can be good fun – buy two and turn Christmas Day into a beer festival.