There is no shortage of gifts for the craft beer drinkers on your list, and all of these ideas are a better option than those "beer of the month"-type subscription services that are almost universally a bad value and a disappointment. You're better off hitting a local specialty beer retailer and asking them for help picking some special bottles.
Even in today's world of Kindles and e-readers, there is something special about unwrapping a real book and flipping through its pages on Christmas morning, and there is no shortage of great books about beer these days. In addition to the favorites we've recommended in the past, several great new books focused on craft beer have been released.
"The Complete Beer Course": This encyclopedic volume covers the breadth of craft beer culture, from beer styles to the brewers making them to the best way to enjoy drinking them. Beer journalist Joshua Bernstein takes a man-on-the-street approach to a huge subject. The book is laid out in a dense collage of quotes, commentary and photos, and it's full of timely recommendations and reviews.
"Beyond the Pale": Written by Ken Grossman, craft beer pioneer and founder of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., "Beyond the Pale" looks at the development of one of craft brewing's giants from his start brewing in a garage to his triumphs in sustainability and responsible growth, and provides insight on what makes the craft brewing industry special.
"The Audacity of Hops": This is a history of the craft beer movement in America, and Tom Acitelli has compiled an extensive collection of firsthand accounts from the pioneers, brewers and industry luminaries that have taken beer back from industrial giants. A book for the craft beer nerd who thinks he or she already knows the story, "The Audacity of Hops" is sure to provide new insight into craft beer's explosive popularity.
Give the gift of beer
Of course what every craft beer fan really wants to find under the tree is beer, and there are many local breweries that have put together gift packages to delight the craft fans on your list (or perhaps even create some new fans).
Eagle Rock Brewery has packed its Stimulus Belgian amber brewed with Intelligentsia coffee into an attractive boxed set with a bottle of the beer, a bag of Intelligentsia beans and a special-edition glass for $30.
Angel City Brewing recently released its first barrel-aged brew in bottles, and you can pick up a two-pack of the Dark Rye Lagers (one aged in bourbon barrels, the other in brandy barrels) at the brewery's public house.
The Bruery has revisited its annual holiday gift pack, and this year's edition contains one bottle each of Mischief (its flagship Belgian blond ale), Oude Tart (a sour red ale that is widely adored), and the fifth-anniversary ale Bois (a potent blend of old and new beers). The gift packs can be picked up from the Placentia tasting room or ordered online for about $50. The Bruery also offers a beer subscription service that is actually worth the cost, especially if the recipient lives nearby the Orange Country brewery.
When in doubt, a growler full of something local and fresh is never a bad gift, and always a welcome addition to holiday parties or family gatherings. Many local breweries will also sell you a gift card or certificate to refill the glass jug, so your gift will live on after the growler is emptied. And while you're in the brewery getting the jug, why not add a shirt or hat to your tab?
For the beer geek who has everything
There is an expanding catalog of gimmicky gadgets, strange specialty glassware and high-end bottles to tempt the gift giver, and sometimes the questionable utility is outweighed by the joy of giving something truly puzzling.
The Sonic Foamer is a strange contraption that uses a pulse of ultrasonic vibrations to release the carbonation suspended in a brew for an ample, frothy head. It's a bit of a hammer in need of a nail, and even though the effect is somewhat disappointing, pressing that button and watching the beer froth and foam as if by magic is awfully compelling.
Glassware can be a tricky gift for beer fans, as beer glasses seem to multiply to quickly overtake any and all storage space available, seemingly of their own accord. But if there was ever a glass that I'd actually want to make room for, it's the Spiegelau IPA glass. A collaboration between Dogfish Head Brewery, Sierra Nevada Brewing and the glassmakers at Reidel, the oddly shaped glass is designed to showcase the aroma, color and mouthfeel of craft beer's most popular style.
A special bottle of something that's not beer can be a welcome change for someone who probably spends all their booze money on craft beer. Whiskey, beer's cousin (or uncle maybe?), is a clear choice here, and a fine bottle of bourbon or single-malt Scotch is never a bad option. There are also several breweries that make spirits of their own, and a bottle of rum from Ballast Point, gin from Anchor Distillery, or vodka from Dogfish Head are perfect for craft beer lovers. There's even White Christmas, a white whiskey distilled from Anchor Brewing's 2012 Christmas Ale.
The ultimate over-the-top bottle for a beer fan is Sam Adams Utopias, a $200 treat that's more like port or sherry than beer. It may sound like a gimmick, but the stuff is unique, delicious and a perfect fireside treat on Christmas night.