Beer Giving…always happy!

Cheers! I’d hoped to have something more significant posted today, I’ve been working on a bit about how important distribution is for a brewery and how that might change based on some factors that aren’t obvious to the layperson. I know enough to go for days, apparently, and every thing I manage to cover in rough outline begs for more research and a few late-night brainstorming sessions…I don’t know as much as I’d like sometimes, and in order to feel comfortable I’ve got to invest serious time that my current life platform doesn’t provide easily. It’s currently rather cold out here on the coast and killing time with a few dollars to spare can be a challenge in a small town like Astoria.
So instead I’ll write about beer as a gift. It IS that time of year, and most of you reading this will be out and about in the next few days. Like any retail business, most breweries depend heavily on some seasonal sales. Aside from the visit to throw back a much-needed pint after a day of frantic shopping, most breweries offer some sort of take-out option for their beer that can be easily gifted the next time you see a friend. It’s really hard to go wrong with this option, as someone in your immediate vicinity is surely a fan of beer and who would turn down a six-pack or crowler full of local beer? Not someone on my Christmas list, to be sure…
Don’t get me wrong, you shouldn’t be waiting until Christmas to be gifting beer to people you know. And complete strangers. You’ll make an easy friend if you buy a pint for the person sitting next to you, and the guy toiling away in the back to make the beer won’t mind a bit if you buy them one either, even if it’s just a symbolic thank-you. As a cook, I appreciate a thank-you, and cash tips are nice, but if a server tells me a patron bought a pint for the cook I’d be pretty damn impressed with myself.
So how do you send beer to someone? Ideally, most independently-brewed beer is ‘live’ beer, which is to say it’s not pasteurized or treated significantly to expand it’s lifespan. That said, modern canning and packaging methods have drastically improved reliability and stability, even if the contents aren’t refrigerated continuously. Some beers can handle more abuse than others, but as a rule you want to keep your beer cold as long as possible, drinking soon after purchase. Modern brewing has given us beers that are inherently short-lived as a byproduct of the ingredients. Very hop-forward beers are often meant to be consumed within a month or two of production, while pilsners and ales may sit for a 6 months or more, and porters, stouts and barrel-aged beers have an indefinite lamount of shelf time before they’re due to drink.
Personally, I don’t have anyone local to give beer to, so I spend some effort shipping beer. The postal service technically prohibits shipping liquid products, specifically booze of any sort, but flat-rate shipping boxes offer an easy way to send a small selection of local bombers or tallboy cans quickly and cheaply across country without much worry about mistreatment. Properly wrapped, there is little risk your package will be damaged and disposed of, which is a legitimate risk. UPS and FedEx aren’t known for treating packages kindly, and I’ve never had a flat-rate box arrive with damage…but your experience may vary, so use your own judgement.
Packaging can be easy enough, I run down to the dollar store and grab a 10-pack of kitchen sponges for a dollar and some big ziplock bags. A couple copies of the local weekly paper to fill in any gaps in hand, and you can send a decent amount of beer for around $20. A beer nerd will always cherish a package with beer they’d never otherwise get to try, or old favorites they can’t get where they’re at now. I tend to try most of what I send beforehand, so I could include my own tasting notes if I was really thoughtful – but I usually geek out and send spoilers before the box arrives. If I manage to get the packages together before drinking all of the beer, another pitfall I hopefully don’t have to explain…
So while you’re sitting around the table, ask your family or friends what kind of beer they like, and think about them while you’re out battling the consumer masses. There is no shortage of reasons to buy locally-made craft beer as a gift for the people you care about, and it impacts the economy in ways more significant than your other purchases might. It’ll give you a reason to stop in someplace you haven’t been before, or just ask questions at your local bottle shop. I hope to add more reviews and even reader-submitted information about local breweries across the country eventually, but until then, head over to twitter and dig around, you can find almost all of them readily available to get you their beer.
Now I’m off to throw burgers and fries at people who who’d rather I do the cooking tonight. Have a safe and warm weekend, wherever you are this year!

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