Take a look inside some of the Sacramento area's best new breweries
Holiday shopping for the craft beer fanatic in your life can be tougher than you think.
Glassware seems obvious, but if you have been into craft beer long enough, you’re probably looking to purge rather than expand your collection. Gift cards are reliable but impersonal and home-brewing kits threaten to go unused, while bottles and cans that should be stored upright and fresh are hard to hide. And don’t even think about buying a magnum of Anchor Christmas Ale. No one wants to drink that much cinnamon.
With all that in mind, we put together this list of beer-related gift ideas in a variety of price ranges. Hopefully it will help make holidays brighter for the beer lover in your life.
Stocking stuffers ($20 and less)
Stone Brewing mustards ($5 each)
One of the largest independent craft breweries in the country, Stone Brewing offers a wide variety of food products infused with their beers, including hot sauces, BBQ sauces, beef jerky and these mustards. The whole grain mustard is made with Stone IPA, the chipotle pepper version contains their Pale Ale 2.0 and Delicious IPA spikes the Dijon. (shop.stonebrewing.com)
Modern Times coffee ($15-20)
Every beer nut in Sacramento has sampled his or her fair share of Modern Times beer, but not many have tasted the excellent coffee produced by company – a unique blend of brewery and roastery. Packages of whole beans start at $15 with their Black House blend, the same coffee that goes in their flagship oatmeal stout, while single-origin and barrel-aged coffees cost a little more. (www.moderntimesmerch.com)
Sneak in some exercise on your next bottle-shop run with this insulated six-pack bottle and can carrier from Denver-based brewery Great Divide. The carrier should sling over the center bar of most bikes, while a handle in the center converts the piece into a totable bottle bag. (shop.greatdivide.com)
Embarrassed by your friend or family member who keeps trying to order Stella Artois at Pangaea? Bring them up to speed with this “boot camp for beer geeks,” which crams a lifetime of beer education into 12 tasting lessons. (Available at retailers including Amazon.com)
Gifts (More than $20)
Beer Cap Map ($35)
Turn that drawer full of discarded bottle caps into art with Beer Cap Maps. These “birch plywood, state-shaped display boards” are riddled with dozens of bottlecap-sized holes, allowing you to show off both your state pride and your somewhat alarming extent of your craft beer enthusiasm. (www.beercapmaps.com)
Hopped Up Coffee ($26 for two 12-oz. bags)
If peanut butter inside of chocolate is good, then chocolate inside of peanut butter must also be good. That’s the basic logic behind Hopped Up Coffee, a dual-brew that turns the coffee-beer trend on its head by infusing ground coffee with hops and barley. The coffee comes in Chocolate Stout and Black IPA flavors. (Available at www.uncommongoods.com)
Knee Deep tap handle ($25)
As the undisputed kings of craft beer in the Sacramento area, Knee Deep is also the most aggressive seller of branded merchandise, offering everything from Knee Deep wall-mounted bottle openers to Knee Deep putter covers and a whole lot more on their website. It gets tacky fast, but a classic Knee Deep tap handle is still an essential piece on any craft beer collector’s memorabilia shelf. (kneedeepbrewing.com)
Many brewmasters and brewery owners began as homebrewers, so get this one for the aspiring Ken Grossman or Vinnie Cilurzo in the family. Member benefits include discounts at partner breweries (local participants include Sudwerk and Flatland), exclusive event invitations and a subscription to their in-house magazine Zymurgy. (www.homebrewersassociation.org)
On Nov. 10, the fourth annual Sacramento Coffee Beerfest payed homage to the melding of the two greatest brewed beverages in the world. The event sold out, even though a change in venue to the Brickhouse Gallery and Art Complex in Oak Park roughly doubled the capacity from previous years.
Genre classics like Ballast Point Victory at Sea and Mraz Coffee Pot Porter mingled with weirdo small batches like Flatland Café Picante, a Mexican hot chocolate stout, and Two Rivers Brown Noise cider, made with Naked Coffee. Tilted Mash’s Eskimo Brothers coffee milk stout won the audience award, and the Elk Grove brewery released a Cherry Tart variation the following week for a fortuitously timed victory lap.
Beer of the week
The three best beers I tried at the Coffee Beerfest included High Water Aphotic Porter with cold-pressed coffee, Alaskan Heritage Coffee Brown (this year’s Great American Beer Festival winner in the Coffee Beer category) and Heretic Alternating Current, which is my pick for beer of the week.
A monstrous yet silky-smooth imperial stout made with coffee from Vacaville-based First Crack, then aged in Heaven Hills bourbon barrels with Madagascar vanilla beans, Alternating Current tips the scales at 15.1 percent ABV. This sublime slow-sipper pours a midnight black with complex chocolatey, boozy and roast-y aromas and flavors that will only improve with patience.
Daniel Barnes is a freelance writer, film critic, beer enthusiast and one half of the blog “His & Her Beer Notes.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.