Someone on your holiday gift list loves beer. Or perhaps it’s just because you love beer, and you’re convinced that the right selection could open a friend’s eyes to the diversity and delight of your favorite drink.
The problem is, a six-pack with a bow on top doesn’t exactly say “Have a Classy Holiday.” The bottles may contain award-winning beer, but at a glance, all too often a holiday gift first delights the eyes, then warms the heart.
The whisky lads and lasses have been especially active in this realm for years. They’ve known that a bottle of fine whisky is a fine gift, but a bottle in a box with an elegant glass is much more festive. But the beer boys and girls? Well, not much has been released in past years for the present-giver. Oh, sure, there have been many special beers brewed in a special style with a holiday or winter name, but gift packs that included the beer plus a few assorted goodies were lacking.
That’s changing, and changing for the better for beer lovers. Craft brewers and some of the beer importers now offer special holiday packaging and gift sets.
Gift packs offer consumers two benefits,” said George Saxon of Phoenix Imports (Corsendonk and other beers) “the first being an easy and relatively inexpensive way to say Merry Christmas (or Happy Birthday, etc.) to relatives, friends and business associates with, in most cases, a value added package of specialty beer and glassware or other useful item. Second, if the gift giver is beer savvy, it’s a very tasty way to say ‘I think enough about you to give you a very special beer.’”
Corsendonk, a big flavorful abbey ale from Belgium, is one of Saxon’s imports, and each year he brings to the U.S. several gift packs. There is the Corsendonk Geschenkdoos Gift Pack, which includes one 750-ml bottle of both Corsendonk Pater and Agnus and two tulip glasses, and also the Corsendonk Degustation Gift Pack, with one 33-cl bottle of both Corsendonk Abbey Brown and Abbey Pale Ale and one tulip glass. A Christmas theme is incorporated into the Corsendonk Christmas Ale Gift Pack (six 25-cl bottles and one goblet) and the Corsendonk Christmas Ale Gift Tin (one 750-ml bottle and one goblet. Gift Tins are also available for Corsendonk Abbey Brown and Abbey Pale Ale.
Sometimes a gift box of beers changes minds.
The best story I’ve heard,” said Patrick Casey of Legends Limited, who sells the Historic Ales from Scotland Gift Pack from Heather Ale Ltd, “is from the guy who showed up at a high class dinner party and brought the required nice bottle of wine. He also brought an Historic Ale Gift Pack (11.2-oz bottles each of Alba, Eblulum, Fraoch Heather Ale and Grozet). When the hostess saw the beer, her nose went in the air. However, after trying them she asked him upon leaving. ‘Where did you buy those wonderful beers?’”
Even the major brewers are getting into this. Anheuser-Busch InBev offers the Best of Belgium From Anheuser-Busch InBev. There are eighteen 12-oz bottles in this gift box, three each of Stella Artois, Leffe Blonde and Hoegaarden.
“I think the gift packages are great sampling tools,” said Greg Zannella of Northeast Distributing in Connecticut. “Some work better than others. Most consumers don’t have access to special glassware for brands like Sam Smith, Lindemans, Chimay and others. The gift package allows the consumer to create the ‘beer bar’ experience at home, from the bottle to the glass.”
The Samuel Smith Selection Box includes one 550-ml bottle each of Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout, Nut Brown Ale and Pale Ale, plus a Samuel Smith “Victorian pint” glass and two Rose of Yorkshire coasters in a die-cut box. The Lindemans Gift Box contains one 355-ml bottle each of Lindemans Framboise and Pomme plus a stemmed glass. And the Chimay Sampler Pack has three 11.2-oz bottles, one each of Chimay Red Cap, Chimay Triple and Chimay Blue Cap, plus a goblet.
Beer gift packages with glassware are an incentive,” said Joe Santos of Julio’s Liquors in Westborough, Mass., “and there seem to be more of them from the imported beers than craft beers.”
One German beer gift pack comes from the famous Weihenstephan Brewery in Freising. The Weihenstephan Gift Box includes 500-ml bottles of Weihenstephaner Hefeweizen, Original, Kristall, Dunkel, Vitus (or Korbinian) plus one hefeweizen glass.
And there are many gift sets from Belgium, the land of specialty ales: the Christmas in Belgium 5-pack includes five 11.2-oz bottles of (it varies each year but has included) De La Senne Zinnebar Xmas, De Ranke Pére Noël, Serafijn Christmas Angel, Kerkom Winterkoninkse and Slaapmutske Kerstmutske; the Exclusive Belgian Ales pack contains six 11.2-oz bottles from Brouwerij Van Steenberge, including Bruegel, Augustijn, Gulden Draak, Bornem Triple Abbey Ale, Bornem Double Abbey Ale and Piraat; the Poperings Hommel Bier Gift Pack sports two 750-ml bottles of Poperings Hommel Ale plus a stemmed glass; and the Ename Tripel Abbey Beer Gift Box contains one 750-ml bottle of Ename Tripel Abbey Beer plus a stemmed glass.
Although not a gift pack or box, Gouden Carolus Cuvée Van De Keizer Blauw is available for special gift-giving occasions in not only the standard 750-ml bottle, but also in 1.5-liter, 3-liter, 6-liter and 9-liter bottles. A 9-liter bottle of beer makes a statement as a gift.
American microbreweries are not totally left out of the loop during the holidays, however. At the end of each year, our craft brewers brew their fair share of richer, stronger, small-release beers. Historically, these beers were often brewed for employees and friends of the brewery, but with American beer drinkers reporting that their favorite beer “style” is a seasonal beer, and the most popular form of packaging being the variety pack, the winter season offers breweries a chance to offer novel styles in assortments that make entertainment easy.
Saranac Brewing (New York) each year releases the Saranac 12 Beers of Winter variety pack containing two 12-oz bottles each of Saranac Belgian Ale, Big Moose Ale, Maple Porter, Winter Lager, Rye IPA and Black Lager. Rogue Ales (Oregon) has Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve Ale in a Wooden Box — one 22-oz bottle and a glass. New Glarus Brewing (Wisconsin) packages the New Glarus Gift Pack with two 750-ml bottles of New Glarus Belgian Red and Raspberry Tart plus two Champagne glasses. Full Sail Brewing (Oregon) has the Full Sail Gift Box with two 22-oz bottles of the Brewmaster’s Reserve beers (Wreck the Halls and Old Boardhead Barleywine), two pint glasses, a Full Sail tee-shirt, a few coasters, stickers and a keychain bottle opener. Stoudts Brewing (Pennsylvania) puts out the Stoudts Four-Pack, which contains three 12-oz bottles each of Stoudts American Pale Ale, Pils, Scarlet Lady ESB and Gold Lager Munich Style Helles.
A few other of this season’s beery gift packs are:
A Rather Curious Collection Of Holiday Ales 4-Pack — four 500-ml bottles of (varies each year but has included) Ridgeway Bad Elf Winter Ale, Ridgeway Santa’s Butt Winter Porter, Ridgeway Lump Of Coal and Ridgeway Warm Welcome Nut Browned Ale
Anderson Valley Gift Box — Anderson Valley Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale, a pint glass and a tee-shirt
Wychwood Hobgoblin Gift Tube — one 500-ml bottle plus a tee-shirt
Unibroue Gift Pack — eight 12-oz bottles of Maudite, La Fin du Monde, Trois Pistoles and Éphémêre Apple
Heineken Festive Draft Keg — Heineken in a 5-liter can
McAuslan Vintage Ale — an 11.5-oz bottle in cardboard tube
Left Hand Holiday Pack — 22-oz bottles of Left Hand Sawtooth Ale, Good JuJu Ginger, Imperial Stout and Milk Stout
These gift packages of great beer are a wonderful way to say Happy Holidays.
Gregg Glaser is the News Editor for All About Beer Magazine.