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The Essential Holiday Gift Guide for Local Beer Lovers

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Shopping for a fanatic can be nigh impossible -- they already have everything, right? Fortunately, the beer fan consumes the collection, so there's always room for more.

Still, to give the best gifts one needs a background on the subject, and not everybody knows the difference between Centennial Hops and Cascade, nor cares about why a tulip glass is superior to a shaker. The Hot Dish is here with a guide to what your closest beer-loving friends want for the holidays.

See also: Bad Weather Brewing is bringing its taproom to downtown St. Paul

10. New Glarus Picking up a six-pack or a lambic has become a traveling tradition on par with the obligatory truck stop outing for cheese curds and beef jerky. New Glarus Brewing may be among the top 20 beer producers in the country, but they still only sell their goods in the state of Wisconsin with no plans to expand. Save somebody a trip across the border and deliver six-packs of Spotted Cow and Fat Squirrel, or go big with the Raspberry Tart Treat or Coffee Stout.

9. Literature Part of the fun of beer culture is its storied history and wide variety of styles. You can learn the geography, legal quirks, unique ingredients, and brewing processes behind today's beers. Locally there are several quality publications on the subject, ranging from homebrewing how-tos to travel guides. Local mead maker Steve Piatz published The Complete Guide to Making Mead this July, and Michael Agnew released a Midwest-focused A Perfect Pint's Beer Guide to the Heartland. And no Minnesota bookshelf is complete without Doug Hoverson's photo-heavy history text, Land of Amber Waters.

8. Art Like beer literature, beer art in Minnesota is alive and well. Grab some Adam Turman prints such as his Four Wheelmen of the Beerpocalyse, for sale at the Four Firkins; or some artwork from St. Paul's Dwitt, for example his Enjoy Minnesota Craft Beer print; or find other Minnecentric items at stores such as the Beer Dabbler.

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7. Brewery Merch The best gifts come from understanding and personal connection. Why not head to a local brewery and pick up some swag? Give your beer lover friends a sweatshirt, grilling apron, onesie, or pint glass, and not only will you rep a cool local company, but you'll have an excuse to hit up that brewery again with your friend to show off where you got the gear. Brewery merchandise is often directly tied to our local artists, as with this Sisyphus Brewing hoodie featuring Turman and Jawsh Lemke's Paul Bunyan mural. Get gear at Summit, Tin Whiskers, Bent Brewstillery, or most other taprooms around town.

6. Growler(s) While you're at the brewery, don't forget to pick up a growler, that glorious refillable 64-ounce jug of beer. Many breweries sell fresh beer that's hard to find at bars across town. For a local friend, try getting a limited offering such as Fulton's Libertine or Insight's Yuzu Pale Ale. For out-of-towners, get something more representative of year-round offerings -- a Lift Bridge Farm Girl, Indeed Daytripper, or Dangerous Man Chocolate Milk Stout. One note: Growlers have a limited shelf life once filled, so hold off on this purchase until Christmas week. And since growlers are a social drinking experience, meant to be shared, if you play your cards right, you'll be enjoying this gift as well. [page]

5. A Build-Your-Own Six-Pack Nothing makes a better beer gift than beer itself. While a growler is social, there's always the search for new beers to try, whether local or from afar. The beer-centric stores about town, such as the Four Firkins, feature build-your-own six-pack options, where a customer fill a cardboard carrier with six different beers. The charm here is you can share your favorites, get something new and exotic, and get a recommendation from an expert. Narrowing it down to just six (or 12) can be difficult, so we had Michael Wagner at the Four Firkins share a few suggestions to get a sixer started: He recommends St. Bernardus Extra 4 (a Belgian enkel), Trappistes Rochefort 10 (a Belgian strong dark ale), Ayinger Celebrator Double Bock, and Guinness Foreign Extra to start out your unique grouping of beers.

4. Homebrewing Supplies Going all the way back to elementary school, to-do kits and recipes have always been popular holiday gifts, a promise of a new year filled with new hobbies. Homebrewing is the adult version, and Minnesota has several quality shops with supplies for veterans and rookies alike, including Midwest Homebrewing Supplies and Northern Brewer. Nick Stephan of Northern Brewer suggests beer and wine starter kits for curious first-time homebrewers and notes that the Big Mouth Bubbler fermentor or gift cards work great for experienced folk.

3. Brewery Tours Visiting a single brewery with friends is fun. Visiting several is more fun. The catch? Transportation. Why not get somebody else to take care of that for you and meet some fellow beer geeks en route? Minnesota offers several package tours of breweries near (Summit, Fulton, etc.) and far (Brau Brothers, Castle Danger, Schell's). Check out some options from locally owned tourism companies such as GetKnit, Bitter Minnesota, Twin Cities Brewery Tours, and The Duluth Experience.

2. Passport Clubs Everyone loves a gift that keeps giving, and passport clubs are a fantastic way to fund a young business while giving that boozing friend a place where everybody knows their name. The idea is simple: Many start-ups sell "shares" or "passports" that offer beers in return for cash, at a value well above retail. Bad Weather, for example, is moving to St. Paul next year and one can opt in with a $1,000 investment and receive two pints of beer per visit, for life. Sure, that's a little pricey, but similar offers are available from Barley John's, Insight, Fair State, and LTS in Rochester among others, with varying costs and rewards.

1. Dave's Brew Farm Okay, okay. This is most likely out of your price range. But if you want a friend for life, here's your chance to show your best bud or partner or relative that you think he or she should take those homebrewing skills to the next level. Dave's Brew Farm, 60 miles east of the Twin Cities, is a nanobrewery and farm that went up for sale this fall. Dave wants to pass the torch to a new locavore-minded brewer, and the farm setting just beyond the metro is a unique opportunity to pair community-sourced ingredients with artfully crafted, handmade beverages -- which is exactly what this movement is all about.

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