Holiday gifts and books for the discerning drinker on your list

Beer Nerd

A drinking game that improves beer knowledge and hones tasting skills? I'll drink to that! Beer Nerd combines beer tasting with trivia and classic board game play. Players maneuver around a board with — what else? — beer cap game pieces while answering questions about beer, ranging from beer-related trivia to the nuts and bolts of brewing itself. To succeed, players must also be able to identify pre-selected beers in blind taste tests throughout the game, through appearance, aroma, taste and mouthfeel. Play a few rounds, and you might just come out with some serious knowledge and a razor-sharp palate. It's $35 at chroniclebooks.com.

Vodka Zinger

If there's a fruit that exists in the world, you can probably buy a vodka flavored with it. But your loved ones deserve better! The Vodka Zinger is a sleek, brushed metal carafe that includes an infusion chamber with built-in blades. Add fresh fruit, herbs and spices to this part, pour vodka into the other, shake them together and let it sit for an hour. Voila! Fresh, infused vodka without all the artificial flavors and extra sugar. It also works on other spirits, like rum and whiskey, as well as wine and even water. Habanero-peach Pinot Grigio, lemon-lime bourbon or just plain old coffee-pineapple vodka? I don't see why not! Get it for $25.95 at zinganything.com.

Out of Print coaster set

Let your friends and family channel their inner Bukowski and give their next cocktail or pint an old-school, literary twist. The set includes eight coasters housed inside a case designed to look like a hardcover book; the thick, water-resistant coasters feature vintage book covers from a variety of modern classics. What drink goes with Pride and Prejudice? How about On the Road? Have a few sips and let inspiration decide. Get them for $20 at outofprintclothing.com.

Woodzee Robert Mondavi Private Selection X sunglasses

Being a wine connoisseur has always been cool, but it's not until you slip on sunglasses literally made out of wine barrels that you enter the realm of unquestionably hip. These Woodzee-brand, wayfarer-style shades are made from recycled oak wine barrels used to age Robert Mondavi Private Selection Coastal Crush Red and feature polarized lenses in your choice of four different colors, each offering UV400 protection. They're $120 at woodzee.com.

Sonic Foamer

It's well known that aroma is a major factor in taste, and with beer, much of the aroma is stored in the head. Enter the Sonic Foamer, a peculiar little device that keeps your beer's head fresh and fluffy, all the way down to the last sip. It's admittedly a little gimmicky, but there's no denying how fun it is to press the start button. With a sharp, low hiss, several streams of tiny bubbles rocket to the surface of your beer, and a dense, creamy head quickly materializes. Does it make the beer more aromatic? Yes, it actually does — and that means more easily perceived flavor throughout the drink. It also comes with a completely useless but fun bonus feature, allowing the user to change the color of the glowing LED light underneath the unit with the press of a button. It's $39.99 at sonicfoamer.com.

Books on beer and booze

The Pocket Beer Guide by Stephen Beaumont and Tim Webb ($14.95, Sterling Epicure): This pocket-sized guide includes ratings, descriptions, and insight on more than 3,000 beers from breweries around the world. It's organized by region and includes explanations of the local styles, as well as places to visit while traveling — folks with globetrotting friends, take note. The food pairing section includes suggestions on beers to pair with your breakfast, so you know these guys take beer seriously.

The Complete Beer Course by Joshua Bernstein ($24.95, Sterling Epicure): The name says it all. This book will turn a complete novice into a bona fide beer expert by the time they hit the back page. Detailed and thoroughly entertaining information on pretty much every aspect of beer and brewing is included, making this a solid buy for the budding beer enthusiast.

Boutique Beer by Ben McFarland ($29.99, Barron's): A fun, insightful romp through the world of beer, with explorations of styles, brewing processes, tradition and trivia, and entertaining chats with some of the world's most respected brewers (the story of how Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø conceived Evil Twin Brewing is hilarious). Know anyone who wants to know what Cantillon's Jean van Roy's top 5 favorite beers are? (Hint: I do!) This is their book.

The American Craft Beer Cookbook by John Holl ($19.95, Storey): This cookbook compiles 155 recipes from breweries, brewpubs and restaurants, all designed to pair with beer (pairing suggestions are included with each recipe). Many of the recipes feature beer as an ingredient, like the avocado tacos from Stone Brewing Co., made with fried avocado battered with panko and Arrogant Bastard Ale.

Beyond the Pale: The Story of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. by Ken Grossman ($24.95, Wiley): A casual, entertaining tale of the rise from humble beginnings of the United States' second-largest craft brewery. If you've ever enjoyed a crisp, American pale ale, you've experienced the influence that Sierra Nevada has had on the American craft brewing scene. In the book, founder Ken Grossman tells you how it all happened.

World's Best Ciders by Pete Brown and Bill Bradshaw ($30, Sterling Epicure): Let's not forget about cider! Authors Brown and Bradshaw explore more than 500 ciders from around the world, with an impressive amount of information included about cider production, tasting, history and even terroir, as well as interviews with some of the world's top cidermakers about their craft.

American Whiskey Bourbon & Rye by Clay Risen ($24.95, Sterling Epicure): This book is a near-complete crash course on American whiskey, from history and tradition to production and tasting to the nuances of actually reading whiskey labels (bet you didn't realize how much information was on there!). Risen then describes in depth and rates more than 200 of these whiskeys by color, aroma, body, taste and even price. — Justin Grant

Holiday gifts and books for the discerning drinker on your list 11/26/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 26, 2013 4:47pm]

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