Holiday gift shopping should never cause the anxiety that it does for so many of us. There’s always that one person you need to shop for who likes ... nothing. Sure, you can rely on blah fallback gifts that leave you feeling vaguely ashamed: something from Bath and Body Works or the Craftsman tool section.
However, there’s also one common thread that brings everyone together during the holidays, from Mormon to Muslim. And it’s also your answer for that last-minute gift—beer! And I’m not talking about running to the grocery store and buying a 12-pack as a present. Give a person beer and they will drink for a day. But give them a brew kit and they can be drunk for a lifetime.
Southwest Grape & Grain is Albuquerque’s newest beer- and wine-making supply store, and it’s a haven for gifts that keep on giving. Ever since Kevin Davis opened his store in May, homebrewers have been lauding his selection for beer styles. Davis is an avid homebrewer who saw the need for a true service-oriented shop—one that not only sells the equipment you need, but helps you evolve your brewing prowess. Kevin holds $10 brewing seminars monthly (check his website for dates). In fact, one of his beginner classes brewed an Irish Red that was so good it took a bronze medal at the State Fair judging.
Homebrewers can experiment with Southwest Grape & Grain’s inventory of 120 yeasts and 60 types of malted barley. Trying your hand at an oak-aged beer? Davis has quite the variety of oak chips for sale. Or is Belgian Abbey Ale more your style? He’s got the right yeast, authentic Belgian candy sugar, maybe even a monk’s robe somewhere in the back. The store sells a complete equipment set and beer extract kit that comes out to be around $150. (Comparable DIY wine setups are also available.) Yeah, you can get a plastic kit at the big box store, but believe me: Those kits are crap. Making “beer” that way is akin to pouring hot water into a Cup O’ Noodles container and claiming you invented soup.
Davis carries more than 32 kinds of hops—more than enough to make a killer hoppy beer. So I attempted to brew my own, a Double IPA. I was very pleased with my finished product—once I finally got the kinks figured out. I couldn’t get the beer to flow from the keg, but a call to Grape & Grain had me tapping fresh beer in no time. It turns out I had hops clogging up the line, and Davis walk happy to walk me through it. Just another reason to buy local—the owner also runs the help desk, and he has the know-how to troubleshoot any homebrewing problem. So even if you’re giving the gift of beer to the biggest klutz you know, you don’t have to sweat it. Within a few weeks, they’ll have the satisfaction of drinking a great beer they made themselves. And you’ll see a return on your investment. Homebrewers love to give their beer as presents.