Carla Jean Lauter

The Beer Babe

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What NOT to get a beer geek for Christmas

Warning: I know that some of you out there have probably already purchased some of the things on this list for people that you know. You might have even gotten some of these things for me. This list is for fun – but maybe it might help you out next time. 

Everyone has one person in their life that they know a minimum amount about, but have to get a holiday gift for. Susie is really into Game of Thrones, Jack likes to ski, and [Insert relative here] is really into beer.

So, you stroll into the store or browse around online and think…

“Hmmn, I should probably get something beer-y for my [insert relative here].”

But before you pull the trigger on that item that you saw in the “Gifts for Men” section, check out this list of what to avoid.

1. Big brewery memorabilia

This comes in all shapes and sizes. Bar mirrors, koozies (more on those in a minute), bathrobes, bikinis, lighters, popcorn tins… and is all really unnecessary.

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Why not: Even if it says it’s collectable, it’s not collectable. And it probably isn’t worth anything in the long term. Basically, if you can buy it in a modern store, you’re basically paying for a piece of advertisement for a brewery the beer geek probably hates with a passion. Don’t be that guy.

If you’re not sure: If you’ve seen an advertisement for this particular brand of beer on television, it is very likely not something your craft beer geek friend is drinking. Guinness, Harp, Heineken, Stella all fall into this category along with big brothers Bud, Miller and Coors.

2. Bottle Openers

I know what you’re thinking. This may seem like the “Gifts Under $20” sweet spot you’ve been searching for but it is not. Especially not the novelty ones that say things or burp when you use them, the gimmicky ones that open in odd ways but will probably break in a few days.

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Why not: Most of the time, beer geeks have more than enough ways to open beer, and they’ve found their favorite few openers and are sticking with those. I have a drawer full of openers (come to think of it, I should really thin those out…) and would not mind stopping that involuntary collection from growing.

A few exceptions: Is it made by a local craftsman or is otherwise artistically unique? Then it may be exempt and appreciated. Is it from someplace you’ve traveled that the giftee has not been to – as in, you went to Fiji and brought back a bottle opener from the amazing bar you found there? Then that’s fine, too, because it’s a lot more thought than the endcap at Kohl’s where they sell “man gifts.”

3. Beer-scented things

Beer tastes great. Breweries smell wonderful. So it follows that things that have many different flavors and scents would follow. But, it’s a trap.

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Why not: Somehow, the miracles of flavor and taste science just have not perfected that faux beer smell and unfortunately they are often based on the most generic “beery” smell possible. Especially in candles. If you don’t see actual pieces of hops and/or grains in the candle, run. If you smell it and it reminds you of your college years, the morning after a frat party, trust me – that’s not the smell we’re looking for.

A few exceptions: Kind of like the bottle opener rule – if these are made at your brewery or with actual hop oils and things and it actually smells good to you, then you’ve found the jackpot. Anything else? Imitation beer crap. Eew.

4. Coozies / Koozies

A foam thingy that keeps the beer that you’re drinking cold when you’re holding it for a long period of time in presumably hot weather. No. And no, it doesn’t matter if it says something funny on the side. The five I’m not using all have funny sayings, too.

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Why not: First of all, it’s a “unitasker” as Alton Brown would say. And who seriously takes a beer out of the fridge, takes the time to put it in a coozie and then drinks it straight from the can? It’s not big enough for fashionable tallboy cans, and frankly, most of us are not drinking straight from cans while standing outside in our driveways for long periods of time. Also, it’s just one more drinking “accessory” that no one really needs.

Exceptions: None. No, not even the zip-up-ones for bottles. Or the ones that attach to your hands. Or whatever this is.

5. Anything bragging about being drunk

You’ve seen these probably on t-shirts in stores at the mall, or written on things like coozies or bottle openers. These posters and slogans were fun in college, when drinking alcohol was a means to the end of getting to a state of drunken stupor.

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Why not: Beer geeks are more mature than you’d think. Most craft beer geeks that I know drink a lot of beer – but they’re doing it because they genuinely like beer. Most are embarrassed to be caught drunk off their ass, and the last thing they’re going to wear or put on their fridge is something talking about how trashed they are. Plus, borderline alcoholism just stops being quite as funny after you pass 25 years old or so.

If you’re not sure: Ask yourself: is the point of this joke / slogan about getting drunk? If so, skip it. If it’s about geeky beer things, then it might slide but in general, it’s best to steer clear if you’re not sure.

6. Pint glasses

I’m talking about the ones that are just plain old regular beer glasses and usually, again, have a brewery logo (for some reason Guinness makes a MILLION different kinds of these) or say something funny.

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Why not: Any beer geek is going to already have an unmanageable mass of these glasses. They give them out at beer releases, sometimes at festivals, and many a relative have thought that beer drinkers should like glasses to drink beer out of. But similar to the bottle opener example, seriously, we’re all set. We love beer. We’ve made sure we have vessels to drink it in. Many even buy special different glasses that are better for drinking beer out of already.

A few exceptions: If you got it on a trip to somewhere exotic, or traveled to what is actually the giftee’s favorite brewery, then you’re in the clear. But most of the time I just think about how little cabinet space I have and about how those poor glasses in the back must be so lonely.

Some general guidelines

  • Be on the lookout for tacky things
  • Steer clear of “drunk” references
  • Anything flavored or scented generically as “beer” is scary
  • Meaningful details and hand-made or well-crafted items in these categories are fine

Thankfully, many other beer writers have written great posts this year about what you *should* buy the beer geek in your life. If you have a favorite list, feel free to share it in the comments and I’ll post it in the footnote of this post.

Best of luck – cheers!

 

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What about Novare Res Bier Café?

A postscript on “24 Hours in Portland” and why Novare Res Bier Café didn’t make the list.

Yesterday, I posted a list of breweries, bars and brewpubs that you should visit if you’re only in Portland Maine for part of a day – and have limited time to get the sense of Maine’s craft beer. Among the feedback that I got was the criticism that the well-known beer bar, Novare Res Bier Café wasn’t on my list – which people assumed I’d forgotten or perhaps had something against it.

I’m here to say that omitting Novare Res from that particular list was a conscious decision – and should (I hope) be taken as a compliment for a couple of reasons. [Read more…]

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24 Hours in Portland, ME

It is easy to miss some of the best beer in Portland if you only go by what you’ve heard about. Due to the insulated nature of our state – most breweries (especially the crop that have opened in the last three years) keep their beers in Maine or New England, and many are on-premise or growler only, which doesn’t make it easy for non-locals to find them. The places or beers that out-of-state visitors have heard of are a combination of those that have a) been distributed the farthest, b) have been in existence the longest, or c) are the most sought after or talked about. That doesn’t necessarily mean that those are the first places that should be on a visitor’s list, however. [Read more…]

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