Christmas is just days away and it's too late to buy a gift online, but that doesn't mean you're out of luck. There are several locally available options for that special beer lover. -- Alan Shaw
(Shutterstock.com)Gift cards for beer
My first suggestion is probably the most obvious. Gift cards -- whether to the best local craft beer bars or best beer stores -- help keep both giver and receiver happy. Buy a gift card and you don't have to spend a lot of time trying to guess which beers to buy for someone, and you won't have to worry that you bought brews that your beer lover won't want. As someone who can spend hours in a store just figuring out what I want, gift cards make things a lot simpler.
(Herald-Tribune archive)Swing-top bottle stoppers
What do you do when you don't want to drink a whole 750 ml bottle of beer at one sitting? With more and more craft beers bottled in these larger-format vessels, and with some of the beers being quite strong, I find that drinking the whole thing at once could be too much. Pour it out? Never! Here's the answer: While designed for wine, swing-top stoppers (which I prefer over stoppers meant for Champagne bottles) work great to seal a bottle of beer that you don't want to finish. You can buy them for a buck or two each at practically any store that sells wine. They work great on 750 ml and 22 ounce bottles, keeping the beer carbonated for a day or two (keep it refrigerated) so you can drink it later. Pro tip: Just make sure you don't buy a vacuum-style stopper, which will suck all the carbonation out of a beer.
(AP photo)Tour a local brewery
The greater Tampa Bay region is seeing an explosion of craft brewing. The best way to learn about them is to visit, though there are too many to hit up in one day unless you want to end up in the hospital. Visiting and touring a brewery or brewpub is a lot of fun, and of course you get to drink some super-fresh beer. But where to visit? Use a resource like the Florida Brewery Map and List from my friend Gerard Walen of Beer in Florida to plot out your sites. Don't want to drive far? Check out our local brewpubs Sarasota Brewing Co. and Darwin's on 4th, and soon-to-open Little Giant Brewery in Bradenton. Pro tip: While brewpubs are usually open every day, many breweries only do tours a few times a week. Check with them before you visit.
- Beer glasses
If you're spending good money on craft beer, you're cheating yourself of perhaps half of a beer's qualities by drinking it straight from the bottle or can. So what type of glass should you get? I've gone in to greater detail on the world of glasses before, but you can get by with just three types: Pint, snifter and weizen. I'm growing partial to the simple look of glasses that don't have any decoration (logos, gold rims, etc.) on them. I've seen beer glass sets (with prices ranging from cheap to crazy) at Target, Whole Foods and Total Wine & More, but you'll be able to find suitable glasses at many other places, too. Does your favorite beer lover already have a collection? I say you can never have too many beer glasses, though my wife, the Beer Widow, would disagree. Pro tip: There's been some online controversy recently over the shaker pint, those straight-sided beer glasses you see everywhere. Critics argue that the glass is actually just about the worst thing to use for beer. My thoughts? Go with an imperial pint glass (see the image above) instead.
(Staff photo / Alan Shaw)Growler of beer
Lots of breweries make beers that never sees the inside of a bottle or can: they are only put in kegs. And unless you are one of the few awesome people who have draft beer at home, you'd be out of luck if you wanted to drink, say, Cigar City Minaret in your house instead of in a bar or restaurant. Well, a growler lets you bring draft beer home. A growler is a reusable bottle that is filled at the tap. In the rest of the country, a growler is 64 ounces, but thanks to our crazy laws in Florida, we only get 32- or 128-ounce versions. You can get growler fills at a few local beer bars like Growler's Pub and Mr. Beery's. Sadly -- again thanks to Florida law -- brewpubs like the Sarasota Brewing Co. and Darwin's on 4th are not allowed to sell beer to go. But you can get growlers at production breweries like Cigar City. So surprise your beer lover with some beer he or she won't find in a store.
Last-minute Christmas gifts for beer lovers
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