Photo: The Bruery
Photo: The Bruery

Hoppy Holidays: A Beer Lover’s Gift Guide

‘Tis the season of giving, at least that’s what you’re supposed to do. But you know what you’re not supposed to do? Give crappy gifts. We’ve all heard people say, “It’s the thought that counts,” to mask their disappointment after getting a tacky tie or coffee mug.

It’s always a safe bet to put a little extra thought into your gifts, and to really know your audience. If you’re shopping for a beer lover this holiday season, we have you covered. From local options to items you can have delivered to your doorstep in time for an exchange, the beer-themed gift ideas below will have you looking like a thoughtful giver, and that’s what it’s all about, right?

Beer Memberships

“The Bruery’s societies (our beer clubs) are the heart of our business,” says Ethen Adams, The Bruery Store’s area manager. “We love to experiment with flavors and aromas in our beers, and push brewing to new levels.”

Instead of giving someone a six-pack you picked out, why not let the brewers do it? With a beer membership from The Bruery, new experimental beers will be sent several times a year, giving your favorite beer fan an excuse to try variations outside of their comfort zone.

“While many of us have tried and trusted brands, I dare say that a true beer lover is always on the lookout for the next beer that will wow them,” Adams says. “We’re taking this beer journey alongside our members and as such, we try to treat them like a part of the family.”

The Union Market-based shop is also offering a 10 percent discount on their last quarterly installment of the 2018  Preservation Society, bringing the total to $70. Readers of On Tap can sign up online at The Bruery’s website with the discount code OnTapPS18. Each quarterly package comes with three bottles, including a barrel-aged strong ale, a sour ale and a limited experimental beer.

Other memberships on our radar include the DC Brewers’ Guild membership and the international Microbrewed Beer of the Month Club. Learn more about the latter at www.beermonthclub.com.

The Bruery Store at Union Market: 513 Morse St. NE, DC; www.thebruery.com

Beer Gear

This one might seem obvious, but let us preface that not all merch is the same. A few breweries in the area are extremely meticulous, setting an extremely high standard for others to keep up with.

“There’s a deep connection between a community and its local breweries, and we’re forever grateful for the passion that people feel for our business,” says Chris Van Orden, Port City Brewery’s manager of marketing and beer strategy.  “We spend a ton of effort making the best beer possible for them, so we want to make sure everything else we offer all meets the high standard.”

Merch is a regular discussion topic at the brewery’s weekly meetings, where the team always tries to plan two seasons in advance. While a ton of places only offer shirts and hats, Port City sells socks, hoodies, dog collars and other unique items.

“We’ve found a few designs with a broad appeal that we keep in stock, but we’re constantly looking for new items that set us apart,” Van Orden says. “So there’s always something new on offer: lapel pins, bike jerseys, socks. We’re delighted each and every time a person decides that they enjoy Port City enough to wear our name on their back or carry our logo on their growler.”

With a strong brand backed by great beer, Port City gear will allow you to represent a local spot with strong ties to the community.

Other spots we recommend for merch include DC Brau and ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar.

Port City Brewing: 3950 Wheeler Ave. Alexandria, VA; www.portcitybrewing.com

Walking Tours

There are a number of breweries to tour in the DMV, but for a next-level experience, organize a walk through the famed Heurich House Museum for the beer head in your life.

The Dupont Circle mansion was built in the 1890s by German immigrant and local brewer Christian Heurich. His family lived there until 1956, and the house still includes all original interiors and a number of family collections.

Though the Christian Heurich Brewing Co. location was torn down in 1962, the museum features a rotating exhibition of more than 1,000 items including bottles, cans, signs and other branded objects from the old DC brewery. The collection is on loan from local collector Jack Blush, but the museum is currently fundraising to acquire and display it permanently.

Patrons can tour the museum for free (donations are welcome), but you can also treat your beer-crazy friends and family to an hour-long brewmaster tour that concludes with a beer tasting. Groups of 10 to 20 can enjoy the tours for $30-$40. For specifics, email events@heurichhouse.org.

Other places to tour include the Flying Dog “Beer Geek” iteration in Frederick, Maryland or Brookland’s Right Proper Brewing Company.

Heurich House Museum: 1307 New Hampshire Ave. NW, DC; www.heurichhouse.org

Beer-Focused Dinners

“Wait a second, Trent. Didn’t you say that played-out gifts weren’t what we were talking about here?” Yes, but you have to stick with me on this one as there’s a method to the beer-crazed madness here.
DC has welcomed a litany of terrific eateries over the past few years, and some of them include some particulary intriguing beer menus.

Chief among them is Tiger Fork, a Hong Kong-inspired restaurant in Blagden Alley featuring numerous Asian beers on the menu.
Think of this as tackling two problems at once: you want to get a gift for a brew head, but you also want to eat delicious Asian food.

Another restaurant with an eclectic selection is Capitol Riverfront’s The Salt Line, whose beer selection pulls from all over the country. Not to mention, they have a delectable menu with dishes that pair fantastically with just about every brew you can think to order.

So yes, we’ll admit dinner isn’t super high on the creative side, but you can’t forget to eat when you’re drinking a well-crafted beverage.

We also highly recommend the buzzworthy Bad Saint in Columbia Heights and Himitsu in Petworth for their eclectic beer and food selections.

The Salt Line: 79 Potomac Ave. SE, DC; www.thesaltline.com
Tiger Fork: 922 N St. NW, DC; www.tigerforkdc.com

Ask The Expert

We asked Theresa McCulla, historian for the American Brewing History Initiative at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, for a few beer-themed gift recommendations.

“Be a better enthusiast through books,” McCulla advises. “The past few years have seen a bumper crop of books about beer: brewing manuals, books about important historical events like Prohibition and the craft beer revolution, and brewers’ memoirs.”

Beyond books, McCulla recommends some of the things we’ve already talked about including places that can pair food with beer, eclectic merchandise and tours. One suggestion involves helping to make the brewer happy.

“Bottles are classic, [and] cans and crowlers are handy, but brewers prefer when you drink their beer out of the proper glassware. Research the correct glassware for your favorite kinds of beer and make sure you have them on hand when happy hour rolls around.”

Lastly, McCulla says to look up anything philanthropic your favorite brewery may be involved with that you can contribute to.

For more information about the American Brewing History Initiative, visit www.americanhistory.si.edu.