With only a few hours left for your Christmas shopping left, how about the obvious and easy gift for the beer enthusiast on your list: Yes, BEER.
Let’s start with some non-Christmas beer. You may not have pumpkin beers on your radar, but they don’t have to be just for fall and Thanksgiving. I have enjoyed pumpkin beers more this year than in the past and it might be because there is an even bigger selection of this style. I’m not a big fan of the overly spiced “pumpkin pie in a glass” beers, instead I prefer the sour pumpkin styles and those with more subdued spice.
One of my absolute favorite pumpkin beers is Jolly Pumpkin La Parcela (pumpkin beer aged in oak barrels, 5.9% ABV). There are still a few bottles of around Michiana, and can pair quite well with a holiday meal.
You would naturally expect that with its name, Jolly Pumpkin would brew a pumpkin beer. However, for the first several years of this brewery’s existence, it didn’t. It actually became quite a joke, and people would ask for its pumpkin beer at festivals. Until recently, brewery employees would have to reply that they didn’t have one. Now they have been brewing a pumpkin beer for a few years with real pumpkin, spices and cocoa.
Brewery Vivant of Grand Rapids, Mich., brewed another one of my favorite pumpkin beers of the season — Pumpkin Tart (pumpkin saison, 7% ABV), however, this was a small batch release and there may not be any more of these cans available. I’m almost certain that you can find Southern Tier Rum Barrel Aged Pumking (10.7% ABV) on the shelves in Michigan, and Schlafly Pumpkin Ale (8% ABV, IBUs 16) on the shelves in Indiana. The rum notes of the Pumking makes this an especially nice choice for the holidays.
For the same reason I’m not a big fan of many pumpkin beers, I don’t care for much of the spice found in many holiday Christmas beers. For those that do, here are a few to choose from:
- Great Lakes Christmas Ale (7.5% ABV, IBUs 30)
- Southern Tier 2XMas (8% ABV)
- Bell’s Christmas Ale (5.5% ABV, brewed using 100% Michigan-grown barley)
- Dark Horse Brewing 4 Elf (9% ABV, winter warmer)
- Thirsty Dog Brewing 12 Dogs of Christmas (8.3% ABV, IBUs 21.5)
There is also a barrel-aged version of 12 Dogs of Christmas. These are bottled and numbered in 1.5 Liter magnums and there are still several available at Chalet Party Shoppe. I have a bottle from last year and I am planning to open sometime over this year’s holiday season.
If you live in Michigan, you should still be able to find Deschutes Brewing Jubelale (winter warmer, 6.7% ABV, IBUs 60).
There are also many gift packs on the store shelves that make nice gifts. One of my favorites this year is Boulevard Brewing Company, which includes a snifter and four bottles from its smokestack series — Dark Truth (imperial stout, 9.7% ABV, IBUs 60), Sixth Glass (Belgian dark strong ale, 10.5% ABV, IBUs 22), Tank 7 (saison, 8.5% ABV, IBUs 12) and Double Wide (double IPA, 8.5% ABV, IBUs 71).
Another box set that is a bit more limited is Stone Brewing Bastard Box set, which contains four 22 oz. bottles:
- Arrogant Bastard (strong ale, 7.2% ABV, this is the original beer of this name)
- Double Bastard (strong ale, 11% ABV, originally brewed in 1998 to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Arrogant Bastard Ale)
- Lucky Bastard Ale (American Strong Ale, 8.5% ABV, blend of Arrogant Bastard Ale, Double Bastard Ale and OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale which is then heavily dry-hopped, released in 2010 in celebration of the [lucky] 13th anniversary of Arrogant Bastard Ale)
- Bourbon Barrel-Aged Arrogant Bastard Ale (7.8% ABV, blend of non-barrel-aged Arrogant Bastard and Arrogant Bastard that has been barrel-aged in Kentucky Bourbon barrels)
The barrel-aged version is only available in the box set.
There are other gift sets available, and many bottle shops allow you to mix and match 6-packs to customize your beer gift. There really is no right or wrong gift when it comes to beer, just have fun with it. If you need assistance, most quality bottle shops like Chalet Party Shoppe (Elkhart County), City Wide Liquors (South Bend), Drake Party Center (Kalamazoo, Mich.), and Mega Bev (Kalamazoo, Mich.) will have qualified staff that are happy to help.