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Avery PorterIt’s always a nice surprise to find a great beer hidden on the back of your shelf. While moving around my beer bottles, I found an Avery New World Porter hiding in the back.

Now, this is a seasonal brew from Colorado that is available January through March, so the one I found is about a year old now. While most mass-market beers (pilsner-style lagers like Bud, Miller or Coors) are around 5% ABV (alcohol by volume) and really only have a shelf life of 4 to 6 months, this one comes in at 6.7% ABV which is a borderline beer for aging (those over 8% are ideal for aging a year or more, while beers above 10% can be aged for many years).

Well, this time I was in for an incredible surprise! The beer pours a deep ruby-black with a full foamy, creamy tan head that is just beautiful to watch rising from the bottom of my Nonic pint glass. Truly one of the more delicious beers I’ve ever smelled, the aroma of cherries, raisins, red wine and chocolate emanate from the glass. This brew has a slick, oily mouthfeel… slightly thick with tiny bubbles of carbonation that make it somewhat creamy.

The initial taste of caramel and sweet brown sugar gives way to a milk-chocolatey middle with hints of raisin and cherries. It finishes with a lingering roasted bitterness that reminds me of coffee beans and unsweetened bakers chocolate with just a tinge of licorice.

Overall, a year of aging seems to have done this beer well. When first released, the bitter hop character of the beer is somewhat prominent, but the aging has made this brew more in balance to my palate. I highly suggest picking up a six-pack in the new year, drink one now, and stashing the remaining five bottles away in a cool, dark place (a cellar is ideal, but even the back of a closet or cabinet away from any heat source can work) until next Christmas. This is one Christmas gift well worth waiting a year for!

Definition: Nonic

Nonic A Nonic is a traditional English-style pint glass that holds a true Imperial Pint (a full 20-ounces of beer). The larger size allows for the full expression of a billowy creamy head, while the slight bulge in the side helps keeps the glass from slipping from your hand (think of it as a life-saver for your beer!) A suitable glass for a wide variety of English and American brews, and quite ideal for stouts and porters.

For more about beer glassware, check out my article “Beer Glasses… Not Beer Goggles”

Beer Quote

“I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

with your pockets full of money, and your cellar full of beer!”

– An English Toast

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Going down your Christmas list (or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Winter Solstice list), and you’re having a tough time deciding what to give your beer-loving friend (or dad or uncle or boss or cousin Gertrude). Sure, there’s bottle openers, bottle cozies, beer coolers or even just a six-pack with a bow. But what about a gift that truly inspires the beer-lover in your life.

The Ultimate Beer Roadtrip

American Beer is a documentary about a group of friends who pile into a minivan with camera in hand to trek across the country with the goal of visiting 38 breweries in 40 days. While their adventures and hi-jinx are amusing, their interviews with some of the best brewers in America today will inspire the beer-lover in your life to taste some of the delicious brews described in this film, and possibly take some road-trips of their own to seek out great beer. Now available on DVD, it makes a great stocking-stuffer.

Beer Books

There seems to be more and more books about beer on the shelves every year, but there are a couple that truly stand out above the rest. Garrett Oliver, brewmaster at the Brooklyn Brewery, now offers The Brewmaster’s Table in paperback. My among my Best of the Year for 2005, the book offers an excellent history on various styles of beer, and mouth-watering descriptions on pairing beer with food.

Michael Jackson (the British beer expert, not the wacky American pop singer) has published a number of books in his years. The Great Guide to Beer is one of his better selections, cataloging five-hundred beers from around the world with tasting notes and some interesting trivia. The beer-lover in your life will enjoy checking off which beers they have tried, and which are still on their wish-list.

Brew their Own!

Almost every true beer-lover has dreamed of making their own brew. So why not help them accomplish this goal? For between $80-$100, most homebrew shops can supply you with a basic starter kit that supplies just about all the equipment needed for making batches of homebrewed beer. Add $20-$35 for an ingredient kit that will make 5 gallons of beer (approximately 48 bottles). I’m sure your appreciative friend or loved-one will be more than happy to share their homebrewed beer, so consider this the ultimategift that keeps on giving“!

And while there’s a number of great on-line resources for purchasing homebrewing equipment & supplies, I highly encourage you to visit your local homebrew shopwhen starting off. They can provide advice and guidance on what and what not to buy, and plenty of tips to pass along to the recipient of your gift on making their very first batch. To find your nearest homebrew shop, visit: http://www.beertown.org/homebrewing/shops.asp

And if buying the whole homebrewing kit is a little out of your price range, inspiration can come in a smaller package at a smaller price. Charlie Papazian’s The Complete Joy of Homebrewingis the original, worry-free, entertaining guide to brewing your own beer at home. While there have been dozens of books on homebrewing published since Charlie issued his first edition, his “Relax, Don’t Worry, Have a Homebrew”philosophy is a great way to start down the road to brewing beer at home.

A Very Special Beer

Fuller's Vintage AleFavorite beers are a very subjective matter of personal taste. But I can suggest a couple of truly unique beers that would make a great gift for many beer-lovers. First is Fuller’s Vintage Ale. This bottle-conditioned brew is released in limited quantities each year, and is well-suited for aging. Not only does the beautiful presentation remind one of a fine scotch, but the flavors that develop over the years will remind one of a scotch as well.

Samichlaus is a very special brew, brewed only once a year on December 6th. Although no longer the “strongest beer in the world”, at 14% ABV (alcohol by volume), it may be the strongest lager-style beer to be brewed. Another beer well-suited for aging, it is truly one-of-a-kind.

Cheers to Happy Holidays!