Aside from puzzling over gifts for those of my friends who scorn the pleasures of barley and hops, holiday shopping for me is fairly straightforward: buy beer. Beyond the eminently sound gift of beer, however, lies a whole realm of possibilities. Part One of this short series on holiday gift ideas is sure to keep the Bookworm Beer Enthusiast occupied between sips. (For those of you who missed Part One, it’s here.) Part Two of the series puts some of those ideas to work.
As with Part One, so too with Part Two: I’m going to assume that not all readers are avid homebrewers. But why not become one? Homebrew kits come in all shapes and sizes. Most kits will get you started for just shy of $100, sans ingredients. Chances are there’s a homebrew shop near you, but if not, a number of reputable outfits will ship to you, including Midwest Supplies, Northern Brewer, Austin Homebrew Supply, MoreBeer, High Gravity, and Brooklyn Brewshop.
If cash and space are restricted commodities, you can get friends and family members brewing up batches of IPA in a Manhattan-sized studio apartment with some of the one-gallon kits available on the market. If the recipient doesn’t like the hobby, at least the person will have a cool one-gallon jug and a batch of beer to drink. But these kits generally suffer from one very major drawback: no hydrometer. I began my brewing adventures on just such a kit, and promptly brewed up a batch of bottle rockets. Hubris had gotten the better of me. If I can cook, surely I can brew. Who needs a hydrometer? Let’s just say it wouldn’t hurt to read up a bit – especially about the importance of hydrometers – before whipping up your first batch. (See the Papazian gift suggestion from Part One). If vendors of these otherwise convenient little kits are reading, just stick a hydrometer in with the package! It won’t make the kit any less affordable. And it might keep someone from losing an eye.
For those who like to experiment with food and beer pairings, Lebkuchen from Leckerlee in NYC makes a unique addition to the epicure’s repertoire. Lebkuchen is a seasonal baked good that originated with the Franconian monks of the Middle Ages. Somewhat akin to gingerbread, regional bakers keep their wares distinct with honey, aniseed, coriander, cloves, allspice, almonds, or candied fruit. Lebkuchen is a fixture of many a Christkindlmarkt stall across the Germanic countries at this time of year, where the aromas of Lebkuchen mingle with mulled wine. The baker behind Leckerlee’s Lebkuchen went straight to the Franconian source for inspiration, spending a year developing her recipe for Nürnberger Lebkuchen. Now those of us on this side of the pond can find Lebkuchen that complements the rich, caramelized fruit-accented malt notes of a German Doppelbock. Barley wines and Scotch ales from the other side of the North Sea also make nice drinking mates for Lebkuchen.
Coffee and Lebkuchen sometimes find themselves dining at the same table, too. If that’s the case where you reside, a mug from Planet Beer will signal to others that you haven’t given up on the malted fermentables.
And what’s a good lager or ale without a decent drinking vessel? Normally I’d recommend proper glassware, but a glass-bottomed tankard introduces a sprinkle of historical legend into your pintly partakings. The glass bottoms ostensibly played a role in avoiding military conscription in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain. As legend has it, recruiters pressed the unsuspecting into service through a number of subterfuges, including placing a shilling in the bottom of a tankard. This “King’s shilling” was a form of earnest payment (a deposit of sorts) given to potential recruits who agreed to enlist in the Royal Navy. If the drinker drank deep of the draft, he “took the King’s shilling,” unwittingly sealing his agreement to enlist. The glass bottom allowed the wilier denizens of the dockside taverns to “refuse the King’s schilling.” Alas, I don’t yet have a logo for A Tempest in a Tankard, but check back next year for tankards festooned with something fitting. In the meantime, Amazon lists plenty of purveyors of these prized drinking vessels.
© 2013. F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.