Beer Break

Beer Break Vol. 2, No. 8
Thinking outside the bottle

Nov. 29, 2001

The suggestions in our (growing) Real Beer Holiday Gift Guide aren't intended to be comprehensive. They are meant to put you in the proper frame of mind. If you don't have fun shopping for the beer enthusiast on your holiday list then you aren't really trying.


So get started now. Here are a half dozen more suggestions to prime your brain:

- A MEMBERSHIP IN THE CAMPAIGN FOR REAL ALE. This is a better gift for somebody who lives in Great Britain or intends to visit soon, but also works for U.S. citizens. Members gets the monthly publication "What's Brewing," discounts on nifty CAMRA gear and a membership card that should impress friends and local bartenders. Plus the dues support a consumer organization that continues to play an essential role in preserving traditional ales. Membership for a year costs 18.

- BEER CHEESE. Not just any cheese, but actual Trappist monastery products. If a store near you doesn't carry cheese made in Belgium, don't despair. The Abbey of Bethesmani in Trappist, Ky., has a variety of choices, including whole wheels of aged cheese. They don't sell beer but do ship bourbon fudge, and all from the wonderful URL of

- TAVERN PUZZLES. Also known as Blacksmith's Puzzles, these are available from specialty stores and also online. You occasionally see them in quality pubs such as Clark's Ale House in Syracuse, N.Y., but it is a lot less embarrassing to be baffled by one in the privacy of your own home bar. They cost about $15.

- A CLASSIC BOTTLE OPENER. Although a growing number of craft brewers bottle beer with twist off caps, and even a few sell beer in cans, most often you need an opener to pop the top on a bottle of real beer. You can spend a little (like for a stocking stuffer) or a lot for one of these. Nearly 1,200 listed on an average day at

- A BEER FRIDGE. Wait, it doesn't have to cost a lot. Used refrigerators sell for very little and you can add a temperature controller for about $50. Compare that to the modest wine "cellar" that holds 30 bottle of wine and sells for $327 at Lowe's - or the much higher prices that fancier wine cellars command. Of course, you have to know your friend has room for the fridge. Details.

- A HOP PILLOW. The aroma of hops help people relax and fall asleep. You may have to sow your own pillow, using a tightly woven fabric. If you are worried about preparing hops, Puterbaugh Farms in Mabton, Wash., sells a mixture designed to be used in a pillow.

Tasting notes
Brewed by Sinebrychoff in Finland

Michael Jackson writes:

A spiced version of one of my favorite brews, in the Baltic Porter (or Imperial Stout) style. Huge, darkish, head. Jet black color. Very creamy, coffeeish, aroma. Chewy, creamy, body. Lots of the typical burnt-fruit character. The flavor is given an extra kick by the spicing of ginger, cinnamon and cloves. The ginger seems most evident. Koff is one of the more hoppy Baltic Porters. The spices seem to accentuate the typical lingering dryness in the finish.

Brewed by Russian River Brewing in Gurneyville, Calif.

Roger Protz writes:

A dry, yet creamy chocolate aroma balanced by peppery hops, with tart fruit, hops and bitter chocolate dominating the palate. The long finish has hops beautifully balancing the rich, creamy malt and espresso coffee flavors. Deeply satisfying, quenching and marvelous restorative, as befits a beer style fashioned as a pick-me-up for the 18th-centry market porters.