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Suds with Sophie: Giving the Gift of Beer

If you’re struggling to find a holiday gift for the craft-beer lover in your life, don’t fret! I have a few ideas that just might work out perfectly. 

Purchasing beer for a friend can be difficult because of the large number of styles – and interpretations within those styles – that are available. Unless you’re familiar with a particular craft beer at a supermarket, I’d avoid grabbing just any old six-pack. If possible, try to find out what your friend has been drinking recently to choose a brew that will be a pleasing, special gift.

I’m a big fan of Untappd, the premier social-media site for beer. Untappd is great for personal use – to keep track of beers you’ve tried and to leave reviews – but it can also be great for finding out what your friends are drinking and what’s on their “wish list.” If you have access to a good bottle shop, you can likely find some wonderful choices to fit the bill! 

Otherwise, for those who have a style in mind, I’ll list a few of my recent favorites to give some direction. I like to go to The Wine Cellar in De Pere for its great selection and quality. 

Among sour beers, I’ve recently fallen in love with Tripping Animals, a brewery in Doral, Florida, whose sour beers are creative and delicious. I have yet to find one that I don’t love. 

For crafty and creative IPAs, I recommend Door County Brewing Co., which has managed to strike the perfect balance between flavor and bitterness to create big, beautiful IPAs that don’t destroy your taste buds with extreme bitterness.

Dark-beer lovers will most likely have heard of Hubbard’s Cave in Niles, Illinois, but that doesn’t mean it should be out of consideration. I recently tried its Mocha Pot de Crème and was absolutely floored by how delicious and well balanced the sweetness and alcohol were. 

If you want to try something different, Humble Forager – a new favorite this year for its smoothie sours – has been cooking up some seriously good (and alcoholic!) stouts that are perfect for the colder weather. 

Another option is to buy some merchandise and/or gift certificates from a brewery. These can be from your friend’s favorite brewery or a way to share one of your favorites. Breweries often sell a variety of clothing, accessories and merchandise, so even picky friends will be satisfied.

Among my favorite gift options are beer Advent calendars. If you’re thinking about boxes with little chocolates behind numbered doors, you’re thinking along the right line, but instead of chocolate, these boxes are filled with a different beer for every day. These would normally be given ahead of Christmas, but you can still give the box on Christmas if you won’t be seeing your friend before then. 

The Advent calendars come mostly in 12- or 24-packs. There are quite a few on the market, including brewery- and theme-specific options. Young Blood Beer in Madison has a mix pack of 12 of its delicious beers, and there are even packs at bottle shops filled with only German lagers!

I love this idea so much that I’ve created a 12-beer Advent calendar that’s available for sale at the newly named Bad Moravian, a craft-beer bar next to the Ephraim Coffee Lab. For this calendar, I went with a general theme of winter and Christmas beers. The box contains a good variety from 11 breweries with mainly darker styles, but not just your typical stouts and porters.

Happy holidays!