Holiday gift ideas for the beer lover in your life

The season of giving is upon us. Here is my list of beery gift ideas for 2011. Admittedly, some of these are timeless. While there’s nothing new about getting someone a homebrew kit, I offer some advice. Some of my other gift ideas are new, having only been published or invented in the past year.

The Oxford Companion to Beer
$39.00 on Amazon

Your know-it-all boyfriend only thinks he understands the history of IPA. He might imagine himself really smart about beer, but the recently published  Oxford Companion to Beer will put him in his place. For the hardcore beer geek in your life, it will provide countless hours of educational reading with over 800 pages of intense beer information.

The book’s 1,400-and-something entries were edited by Garrett Oliver, Brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewing, who is widely recognized as a rockstar brewer and leading beer scholar. According to the book’s Foreword, which was written by celebrity chef Tom Calicchio, “The Oxford Companion to Beer provides an exhaustive account of not only beer’s history but its science and its art.”


The book has proven wildly popular and is already in its third printing after being released just a few months ago. We did a post about the Oxford Companion to Beer back in October. Read it here. Available at Amazon or check with the local book store. I bought my copy at the Book Larder in Fremont.

The Great American Ale Trail
$14.00 on Amazon

The Great American Ale Trail is sort of like a hitchhiker’s guide to beer. For the most part, information is divided state by state. The author, Christian DeBenedetti, lists all of the top places to drink beer from sea to shining sea. There is greater focus on the regions with which DeBenedetti is most familiar. Luckily, he’s an Oregon native so there is plenty of focus on the Northwest and California, the area’s where we Washington beer drinkers would most likely find ourselves searching for good beer.

There is no way that you could list all of the great beer destinations in America. This is just one man’s educated opinion. Still, it’s fun to read about places you’ve been before or might never go. It makes you want to hit the road. If you ever go on a cross-country beer adventure, The Great American Ale Trail might come in particularly handy.

Growler on Board
$29.99 online

It’s all about safety. A growler full of beer is a dangerous thing to have rolling around the back seat of your car. The Growler on Board Beer Transportation Unit is produced by a local, Seattle-area company. It’s pretty new, hasn’t been on the market for long, is available from just a few retail outlets and only recently became available online, so your beer-loving hubby will probably be the first kid on the block to have one.

After a tragic accident that cost us a one growler of beer and one hour of work cleaning it up, we have now equipped the Washington Beer Cruiser with a Growler on Board. We love it. Why wouldn’t we? We did a post about it. Read it here.

Go to the Growler on Board website to find a retail location or order one online.

Bottleshop Gift Certificate
$ Your Choice

Giving the someone a gift certificate to the local bottleshop is actually not the same as giving them beer. We beer lovers can spend hours browsing the shelves, looking to see what’s new, quizzing the bottleshop staff about this and that. A $40 gift certificate might take me two hours to use before I even get the beer home.

Bottleshops are awesome. Any excuse you give me to go there is very much appreciated. The Beer Junction (blog sponsor) even lets you order gift certificates online.

$350 – $1,700

You probably already know if your significant other wants one of these. Likely, it has been a topic of conversation. I won’t waste time discussing the virtues of in-home kegerators, or the marital  distress I’ve seen them cause, instead I will just offer some advice. Get a good one. There is a reason why prices vary so drastically. Some of the less expensive models that I’ve seen are actually pretty good while others are nothing but trash.

Truth is, about $500 will get you a decent kegerator. A really good one from a commercial manufacturer like Beverage Air will set you back $1,000 or more. It’s money well spent. Shop around. Don’t get a cheap one just because it’s cheap. Try to get the best one your money will buy.

If you really want to go big, consider getting the stainless steel Viking Professional Series freestanding beverage dispenser. Woof! Expect to pay $1,700 plus shipping unless you can find one locally.

Tap Cleaning Kit
$40 – $75
It is a sad fact of life. It is the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about. People don’t clean their lines as often as they should. A lot of bars don’t even do a responsible job of cleaning the beer lines. Your kegerator-loving hubby, buddy or sibling should be cleaning their lines about once every 1/2 barrel. It can be a pain in the butt, I know, but there are kits out there designed to make it easy. has a number of different kits available.

Home Brewing Starter Kit
$ 100 – ?

In drag racing there’s a saying: speed costs money, how fast do you want to go? The same is true with homebrew equipment. Sure, it’s not that expensive if you focus on the essentials of what is really needed to get brewing, and you can vacillate between the ease of extract brewing and the virtues of all-grain brewing, but in the end it’s really about how much you want to spend.

You can get into a starter kit for under $100 but how long will that satisfy your brewing Jones? Shop around if you want, or just head straight to Larry’s Brewing Supply in Kent and listen to their advice. Recognize what you’re getting yourself into. In brewing there is a saying: “Give a man a beer and he’ll drink for 20 minutes. Buy a man a homebrew starter kit and he’ll end up building a nano-brewery in the backyard.”

SABCO Brew-Magic V350MS

Go big or go home. Dare to dream. The first time I saw one of these systems was when I visited Ancient Lakes Brewing in Quincy, WA. It is hard to tell whether this is a very small commercial brewing system or a homebrewing system on steroids. I’d call it a pilot brewing system – capable of brewing small, test batches of beer for commercial breweries. Whatever the heck it is, the SABCO Brew-Magic system is very cool.

There are way too many features and details to mention here. Like I said, go big or go home.

Check it out on the SABCO website.



  1. Hi Kendall. Just as important as supporting small local independent brewers, in my opinion, is supporting other independent businesses.

    I encourage your readers to buy books from their local independent booksellers – University Bookstore and Elliott Bay Books in Seattle carry both of these titles!

    Thanks for another great year!

  2. ouch $6 grand!

    3 15.5 kegs worth $50 at best (craiglist), a little steal and some welding skills, pipes, values, and such, I bet someone could build this for $500, less the digital controls that I see in it… :- )

    $6,000 ouch

    but it looks cool.

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