Forget pint glasses—your cabinets are stocked with Pilsner Glasses, Weizen Glasses, Tulips, and Steins. Cases of microbrews appear on your doorstep every month. Your long weekends away are determined by the ranking of America’s Best Beer Cities. On Super Bowl Sunday, you will roll your eyes at the Budweiser commercials and instead drink craft beers, or even the latest home brew. If all of this sounds familiar, then you either are a beer lover, or you live with one.
If you live with one, you might be wondering about the next frontier for beer connoisseurs (so you can give a thoughtful gift, of course). Patrick Dawson’s forthcoming book, Vintage Beer: A Taster’s Guide to Brews that Improve over Time (Storey Publishing, March) might just have your answer. Like many other beer lovers, Dawson had learned that good beer was fresh beer. Tasting his first aged beer—a magnum of Duvel—with its “slight caramel sweetness that played off the beer’s crisp acidity” changed his mind. From there, Dawson developed a bit of an obsession with vintage beer, experimenting with aging his own, reading everything he could on the subject, and tasting as many samples as he could. If all this sounds like something your own beer lover would do, then this book might make a perfect gift.
You could just buy the book and hand it over, of course. Or, using just a bit of the knowledge contained within its pages (and summarized nicely here for you), you can turn this into a theme present that will score you points for the rest of the year.
Start with a trip.
Everyone loves a vacation, right? Though the very handy list of vintage beer bars is included in the back of the book, let’s jump there first. Where would you and your beer lover like to go? At Café Kulminator in Antwerp, Belgium, you two can order from a menu of 800 beers. There are two bars with vintage menus in Denver, Colorado, (Bull & Bush Brewery and Falling Rock Taphouse); and of course Denver was ranked by Travel + Leisure as America’s second best beer city in 2013, which gives you lots of opportunity to compare those vintage beers to some of their fresher counterparts. (To impress your beer lover with hops-laden trivia, casually mention that Portland, Oregon ranked number one.)
Now pull out the book.
Once your beer lover is hooked on vintage beers, you can present Dawson’s book along with your genius idea for aging beers at home. Vintage Beer contains fourteen rules for determining which beers are likely to age well, some of which are fairly technical. This is, of course, why the book is perfect for your obsessive beer lover. You, on the other hand, need only to know enough to carry on a conversation with your beer lover. Here are your crib notes: beers should be at least 8 percent alcohol per volume (ABV), and bottled with a cap as opposed to a cork or swing top; amber beers when aged will develop sweet, sherry-like flavors, while stouts will become chocolaty and port-like over time.
It couldn’t possibly get any more thoughtful, could it?
It could! Once you get home from your vintage beer extravaganza, you can point out the bottles you carefully selected in advance to start your beer lover’s cellar. Here are just a few of the many suggestions included within the book. Sure, it’ll be a few years before you can taste them and enjoy the pairings mentioned here, but it will be worth the wait:
Alaskan Brewing Company’s Smoked Porter: Despite an ABV of only 6.5, this beer will age well because of its smoked malt.
Hair of the Dog Brewing Company’s Adam: High residual sugars prevent the beer from thinning out too much. This is an example of an English Barley Wine, which you can pair with Stilton Cheese.
Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout: The very high 14.5 ABV allows for a slow aging process, which produces better flavor.
Dogfish Head Olde School Barley Wine: An example of an American style Barley Wine, once aged this would pair well with crème brulée.
Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout: An Imperial Stout that will age well and pair nicely with raspberry mousse.
Finally, the cellar.
While your beer lover will likely want make the ultimate decision on where to store the bottles, it couldn’t hurt for you to give it some advance thought. Temperature and light are the most important factors, and Dawson recommends a dark storage area that’s kept below 65 degrees Fahrenheit. That space in the back of your closet would probably work perfectly.
So there you have it. The ultimate themed gift for your beloved beer lover. Go all in with the trip, or just pick up the book and prepare to clean your closet. Either way, your beer lover will thank you. And who knows? Maybe one day you’ll make a commercial that will rival those showy Clydesdale antics and premiere during the year’s most important football game.