A holiday gift guide for the Toronto beer lover
It's officially time to start panicking about about what to buy people for Christmas. Have no fear though, because as long as the people on your list are into beer (and if they're not you might want to consider the value of your relationship), I've got just the thing for them. Read on and you won't have to endure the special hell that is the Eaton Centre this time of year. You're welcome.
Moleskine Beer Journal
For the more discerning beer drinker on your list, this handy notebook provides ample tools for tracking and judging every beer he or she drinks. The tastings section includes spots to record when and where you had each beer and what it looked, smelled, and tasted like. For the aspiring homebrewer there's even a section to record recipes, there's a section to keep track of what's in your beer cellar and a section of addresses -- presumably to record the names of folks to call when you crack something from the cellar. Feel free to add me, incidentally.
The Pocket Beer Guide
Toronto's own Stephen Beaumont, an authority on all things beer, co-authored this handy book with UK-based beer expert Tim Webb. Ideal for the thirsty traveller on your list, the book is a selection of tasting notes on beer from across the globe, organized by country, and includes not only info on the breweries, but a list of beer destinations and a calendar of worldwide beer festivals.
This will do fun things to a handful of cocktails, but perhaps most interesting is its potential to pep up beer. Pick up this Brooklyn-made product at The Drake General Store and the next time that special someone on your holiday list is handed a boring beer, he or she might add some of this, a little rum, and lime juice and --voila!-- that can of OV is now a Sailor's Ale.
Canada Mason Jar Jug
Also available at The Drake General Store, this kitschy "Canada" jar with a handle seems ideally suited to drinking local beer -- just don't put any beer that actually has "Canadian" in its name or you might seriously damage your hipster cred. A perfect slice of Canadiana for those who live elsewhere or a helpful reminder to friends and family who frequently drink so much they forget what country they're in.
The Hungover Cookbook
While cooking is usually the last thing you want to do when you're hungover -- indeed we can think of at least 10 things we might rather be doing -- this book might change your mind. Including recipes (or just menu suggestions) for six different levels of hangover, you'll find something here custom-tailored to your particular morning-after funk. There's also jokes, quizzes, and a handy guide to determining if it's actually a hangover or if you are in fact still drunk.
The Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook
Beer writer David Ort's concise collection of 75-beer-related recipes will probably make most of the "drinkers gift guides" you read this year -- and with good cause. Firstly, because he sent all of us other beer writers free copies of the book and these lists aren't that easy to come up with and, secondly, because it's actually a really, really good cook book. There are great recipes of varying degrees of difficulty, insights into beer and food pairing techniques and even informative sidebars about people and places important to Canadian craft brewing.
Bicycle wine rack
As the name might imply, this handsome leather accessory's stated purpose is actually hauling vino on your two wheeler, but it functions just as well with a specialty 500 or 750mL bottle from your favourite local brewery. Sure, using it in the snow seems a little dangerous, but once the sun comes out again, your beer-drinking, cycling friend will be thankful that you're so thoughtful while they strap something from the Indie Alehouse to their fixie --hopefully before they pedal over to your place.
Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon
It's a little known fact among serious alcohol enthusiasts that nothing pairs quite so well with a hoppy beer as a delicious glass of bourbon. Why not pick up a bottle of this rich and complex Kentucky bourbon for the discerning drinker on your list and let them experience how well the vanilla and candied fruit flavours chase the piney, bitter goodness of an IPA? I mean you have two hands for a reason.
It probably seems a little obvious, but that doesn't mean it ist't the perfect gift. In fact, there's probably nothing more appropriate for the beer lover in your life than actual beer. Of course, if you want to keep it local, our coverage of Toronto's beer scene this year will have you well covered for ideas (most recently we provided you with our list of 10 local beers to drink this winter in Toronto), but if you're aiming for something more exotic this holiday season, here are a few imported gems you can find right now at the LCBO (some only for a limited time).
La Fin du Monde
A Belgian-style tripel with honey, spice, and coriander notes, brewery Unibroue has recently announced that this popular beer that's been around 20 years will now be listed full time at the LCBO. $12.95 for a four pack of 341 ml bottles
Brouwerij Bosteels DeuS Brut des Flandres
Something like a beer and Champagne hybrid, this is a unique sparkling drink with a barley base that would be just as at home in your glass on New Year's Eve as the hoity-toity Veuve Clicquot you've been saving. It's got tons of citrus and grape flavour and is balanced by a the subtle spiciness of a farmhouse ale. $19.95 for a 750 mL bottle
La Trappe Quadrupel
La Trappe's Quad is a beast of a beer with rich and intense flavour. It's malty and sweet, offering aromas of banana, almond, and vanilla with tastes of raisins, dates, caramel malt, and almonds, and it finishes pleasantly with a bittersweet aftertaste. $7.10 for a 750 mL bottle
Unibroue 17 Grande Réserve
First brewed in 2007 to mark the 17-year anniversary of Unibroue, 17 Grand Reserve returned in 2011 and has since been brewed in small, seasonal batches every year. It's a rich Belgian-style ale with a roasted malt nose, a hint of sweetness and a subtle oaky finish. $12.95 for a 750mL bottle
Hornbeer Black Magic Woman Imperial Stout
An imperial stout made with smoked malt, Black Magic Woman is brewed with roasted barley malt, birch-smoked malt, peat-smoked malt, and caramel malt. All that smokiness is balanced with hops, making this strong and complex beer well-suited to pairing with dark chocolate, strong cheeses, or even just the gas-smell of a garage as you hide from relatives this holiday season. $7.05 for a 500 mL bottle.
One of the world's best trappist ales, the Rochefort 10 might have you saying Westvleter-who? And with a much larger quantity in LCBO stores than the panic-inducing supply of Westy, it should be a little easier to find (but not for long) this dark brown, and delicious Belgian beer with all kinds of aromas and tastes ranging from raisins to plums to ripe fruit to sweet sweet booze. $3.65 for a 330 mL bottle