WHAT?: Beer: The Story Of The Pint is a compelling look at the history of beer in the U.K. and Ireland by noted beer author Martyn Cornell. Cornell has the rare gift of being able to combine witty, accessible writing with a historian’s obsession with detail and documentation. He also devotes a chapter at the end to debunking several myths about beer history. The book’s a couple of years old, but it’s a classic that any beer geek should have on his or her shelf.
WHO’S IT FOR?: Beer lovers with a thirst for the truth.
PRICE: Hardcover (2003), $39.95. Paperback (2004), $16.95.
Make a game of it
WHAT?: Brew-opoly (Canadian Edition) is a beer-centric version of a certain unnamed popular board game (no, they’re not actually affiliated with those other "—opoly" folks). Instead of buying hotels, houses and streets, you buy Canadian microbrews, set up brewpubs and breweries — and collect free pretzels. You also may be forced to pay a skunked beer fine. Plenty of potential for drinking games in this one. It’s the Canadian version of an American game.
WHO’S IT FOR?: A silly beer drinker with time to kill.
WHERE?: Indigo, Mind Games (three GTA locations), other retailers.
Give the gift of a whole litre
WHAT?: The elegant, 1-litre Hockley Valley Dark Gift Bottle is full of toasty dark ale. It’s a variation on the classic English "mild" style, a name that refers largely to its low hop and alcohol levels — definitely not its flavour. This beer is usually only available in 500-ml cans.
WHO’S IT FOR?: Someone who enjoys dark beer. Someone who’d like a nice vase.
WHERE?: LCBO (#679019)
Keep it local
WHAT?: The Granite Gift Box contains a 1.9-litre "growler" jug from Toronto’s Granite Brewery brewpub, along with a gift certificate good for a fill-up of one of the Granite’s nine English-style ales. There are also four Granite pint glasses and four coasters. The Granite recently celebrated its 15th anniversary here. Its Halifax location is the country’s second-oldest brewpub.
WHO’S IT FOR?: A fan of English ales.
WHERE?: Granite Brewery, 245 Eglinton Ave. E., Toronto
WHAT?: This Chimay Gift Pack contains all three varieties of Chimay Trappist ale — blue, white and red. There’s also an official glass from the brewery at Scourmont Abbey in Belgium. While the dubbel-style "red" is often found at the LCBO, the tripel-style "white" and vintage strong ale "blue" are much harder to find.
WHO’S IT FOR?: Fans of Belgian beer
WHERE?: LCBO (#560383)
WHAT?: The Historic Ales From Scotland gift pack contains four unique beers made from recipes that pre-date the use of hops. They’re made by the brewers of Fraoch Heather Ale, a distinctly floral-tasting brew that can usually be found on LCBO shelves. In addition to Fraoch, however, this pack contains a beer flavoured with gooseberries, another with elderberries and, perhaps most distinctively, one made with spruce. It tastes (and smells) like a weekend in Muskoka.
WHO’S IT FOR?: A beer drinker with a sense of adventure.
WHERE?: LCBO (#893719)