Christmas has arrived yet again, and there’s a good chance that — if you’re like me — you’re doing a moderate (or, perhaps, excessive) amount of scrambling for last-minute gifts or provisions to bring to holiday parties.
Last week, I offered gift suggestions from local breweries such as stainless steel tumblers, winter hats and hoodie sweatshirts. This week, I’m going straight to the source: Give the gift of beer this holiday season.
Here are five Maine beers sold in attractive packaging that will please even the toughest beer geeks on your list. Currently each one is available at the Bier Cellar on Forest Avenue in Portland, though many are also available at beverage stores throughout southern Maine.
Allagash Hibernal Fluxus || Allagash Brewing Co.
$16.99 || 750 milliliters || 8 percent alcohol
Allagash features a number of specialty beers available in shapely bottles with cork tops. Each would make a great gift, but I suggest Hibernal Fluxus, the newest addition to the lineup. This winter-friendly, Belgian-style stout brewed with figs boasts palatable flavors of roasted malt, chocolate and coffee, with a sweet undercurrent from the figs. Ditch the figgy pudding and opt for this figgy stout.
Hesperus Barleywine || Rising Tide Brewing Co.
$8.99 || 375 milliliters || 11.2 percent alcohol
The cold holiday season pairs perfectly with a burly barleywine, and Hesperus from Rising Tide Brewing Co. is a wonderful example of this style. This year’s Hesperus is made of barleywine aged in oak barrels, blended with a fresh batch of barleywine to create a robust beer with a big body and a healthy alcohol bite. And the cork top will make you look fancy as hell.
Forge Russian Imperial Stout || Foundation Brewing Co.
$18.99 || Four pack of 16-ounce cans || 10 percent alcohol
This is a gorgeous imperial stout. What it lacks in posh packaging it makes up for with heaps of complex, beautiful flavors. My palate picks up cocoa, espresso, roasted malts and a nice piney hop presence. Where some imperial stouts are a boozy mess, Forge has a refined clarity, allowing each tasting note its own space inside the bold symphony of flavors.
Brett Loves Hops || Austin Street Brewing Co.
$18.99 || 750 milliliters || 6 percent alcohol
Though a sour IPA brewed with 100 percent brettanomyces yeast isn’t a dark winter beer like the ones above, this one gets on the list, because 1) it’s a great beer, 2) it’s currently available and 3) it comes in a beautiful bottle great for gifting. Brewed with brett yeast, it has plenty of sour notes along with subtle barnyard funk. Austin Street rotates the hops in each batch of Brett Loves Hops, and this release features Citra and Vic Secret hops, adding a fresh tropical fruit bouquet to the wily brett yeast.
Liquid Swords Barrel-aged Farmhouse Ale || Oxbow Brewing Co.
$17.99 || 500 milliliters || 7 percent alcohol
This dry, tart beer is a blend of Oxbow’s finest barrels and makes a great gift for sour beer fans. Brewed with brettanomyces yeast, Liquid Swords is aged in oak barrels for two years. It’s considered a Grand Cru style, which connotes a beer of high quality. This is a great sipping beer perfect to share at a holiday party. Oxbow also puts painstaking detail into their locally printed labels, making a bottle of Liquid Swords a striking gift.
With the world-class craftsmanship local brewers offer in their beer and packaging, these beers rival wine in terms of refined flavors and elegant bottles to give as gifts or bring to holiday parties. Splurge on one of the bottles above and give people what they really want for Christmas: locally brewed beer.
OTHER BEER HAPPENINGS
Allagash Night at Rhum Food + Grog
8 to 11 p.m. Friday, 4 Free St., Portland. On Facebook.
Rhum Food + Grog teams up with Allagash Brewing Co. to offer a night of award-winning beer, live music, food and Allagash merchandise giveaways. This could be a great way to snag a last-minute stocking stuffer as you take a break from holiday shopping. Expect an extensive lineup of Allagash beer along with cocktails from the Rhum menu.
Fore River Brewing Co. named South Portland Small Business of the Year
Tasting Room Hours: 2 to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 45 Huntress Ave., South Portland.
Fore River Brewing Co. has been given the distinction of being South Portland’s 2016 Small Business of the Year. In a recent ceremony, the Huntress Avenue brewery was honored along with other South Portland businesses. This victory illustrates that not only do local breweries churn out delicious beer, but they also help lay a strong economic foundation in local communities. Be sure to stop by the tasting room and congratulate brewers John LeGassey and TJ Hansen along with the rest of the Fore River staff. Congrats, guys!