DRAFT PICKS: All I want for Christmas …
OK. We did this last year. I’ll try to help out again this year.
It’s Christmastime, and you may be a bit frantic as to what to give that special person in your life — your beer appreciation buddy.
There has to be one special person deserving of a special gift that you haven’t quite sorted out yet - a husband, wife, brother, sister or simply a good friend.
It might even be me!
Actually, I received a great beer-focused gift already this year from a good friend — “The Craft Beer Cookbook.” One-hundred recipes for cooking with good craft beers. I’m excited for what the future holds!
Here are a few suggestions for really cool, beer-orientated gifts that will be sure to make any serious beer lover smile on Christmas morning.
- This is something I’ve always hoped for - my own Williams-Sonoma Stainless-Steel Growler. How cool! For $24.95 you get a “ ... retro-style airtight growler made of durable brushed stainless steel. Just fill, flip up the swing top and clamp shut. The food-grade silicone seal traps in freshness and effervescence. BPA-free stainless-steel body is nonreactive and won’t impart unwanted flavors to your home brews. Replaceable food-grade silicone gasket on lid ensures a tight seal.” This honey holds 64 fl.-oz. cap. (2 liters) of your favorite brew.
- But what about if you’re heading out camping? Hydro Flask offers a 64-oz vacuum insulated stainless steel growler that ... delivers its promise to keep your favorite beer cold and carbonated for up to 24 hours . It’s perfect for transporting beer on long hikes and overnight trips, and it will also carry hot beverages.” I’ll stick with the beer. At $49.99, Hydro Flask is a bargain - especially if you’ve ever been out in the woods wishing for a cool, fresh beer.
- Have you ever been caught without a bottle opener, and you’re not one of those heroes who opens beer caps with your teeth, eyelids, belly-button or other body parts? The iOpener is built right into your iPhone case. “The iOpener is a sleek, protective case with a retractable bottle opener. They cost $29.95-$39.95, depending on what you’re looking for in an iOpener.”
- And speaking of bottle caps - I hate it when they are all over the floor of the deck. DropCatch is “ ... a wall-mounted bottle opener with a magnetic back to catch bottle caps. The junior model can hold up to 15 caps and the senior can hold up to 52 caps. $38-$64.”
- Here’s a cool one! From the Beer Stick website: “ The Beer Stick is a testament to simpler times. When quality wasn’t a premium it was the standard. Built with heavy-duty resources, it’s one hard-working piece of lumber that says you’re serious about beer. ... So go ahead. Toss out those five and dime trinkets and trade up to an opener that carries some weight. Treat your beer with respect. This sturdy piece of lumber, which pries off caps without bending them, is perfect for the collector.” $12.
- And when the day is done, you can clean up with a bar of craft beer soap from Swag Brewery. Choose from single bar options like Beer Soap with IPA and Ground Hops ($7) or spring for a variety six-pack ($34).
There are a lot of really cool beer-focused gifts out there. If you find something else that really tickles your fancy, let us know about it as well. Have fun shopping, and when you’re done ... try one of these suggestions.
Take The Black Stout
If in your wanderings you happen to see a bottle of Take The Black Stout — with a Game of Thrones label — grab it; buy it; take it home and cuddle with it.
This is a limited edition Belgian Dark Ale that is apparently going to be a one-time shot for the Ommegang team.
More’s the pity. This is wonderful stuff!
Take The Black pours a dark, dark black with just a hint of garnet red shooting through when held up to the light — just kinda bouncing off the edges. There is a decent amount of light brown head that disappears pretty quickly but is impressive in its color toning until it does dissipate. There really is little lacing ... if any.
The smell is rich and malty. There is a real creaminess to the scenting while at the same time one can easily pick up a smoky background. There is just a hint of yeasty aroma, and a touch of booziness in the scenting.
Take The Black offers up some of the best that a good stout has to offer — great roasted coffee and malt taste, a good background of chocolate (but nothing overwhelming), and just a touch of some form of licorice sneaking in from the rear (anise?). This is a little woodsy, but really a great beer to serve with a nice hearty stew.
My tasting companion and I really reveled in the rich creaminess.
Take The Black is highly, highly recommended ... if you can find it!
Good luck. And again, if you find it, buy it.
P.S. Just beefier photographing the bottles, I read the label and indeed they do declare the use of Star Anise and licorice root. If you like licorice, this is a giggle with just a hint. If you don’t like licorice, don’t turn away from this purchase. The taste really isn’t strong at all — just a background splash.
Highland Black Mocha Stout
Highland’s Black Mocha is simply another example of the great stuff being produced in Asheville — a rival to Grand Rapids for the title of Beer City, U.S.A.
This delicious stout pours pitch black with a thick layer of dark beige or light brown head. The foam lingers just enough to influence the scenting process in the very best way. It is very, very creamy.
There is a hefty nose of rich chocolate and just a hint of roasted, even burnt, malt aroma. This brew is quite expressive in the nose and very inviting.
The taste largely follows the aroma — rich in coffee tones ... even espresso strong coffee. There is a strong taste of quality drinking chocolate. Not hot chocolate, but rather drinking chocolate. (There is a HUGE difference.)
There is just a hint of welcome bitterness, and a touch of booziness which is a bit surprising considering this isn’t the heftiest beer of its style — only 5.6 ABV.
I enjoyed this Black Mocha tremendously. It is medium bodied and quite creamy for the type and style (although less velvety than some of the same style American Stouts I’ve had recently).
This really is a good winter beer — not a “warmer” but a fine in-front-of-the-fireplace stout just the same.
Very well worth the investment.
This might be a good one for a holiday sampler.