So, I wound up with $130 in gift cards for MoreBeer, the homebrew shop that I go to in Concord. I'm not planning on buying anything big, as I already forked over a pretty big investment earlier this month. I'm just going to use that money for my usual expenses there. (What beer will I make next? I'm debating between an American Wheat and an American Ale.)
My sister-in-law was my Secret Santa, and she's pretty good at scoping out the gifts for me. (I should point out that she bought me my first book on homebrewing, which led me into the hobby. My wife and I frequently joke that it's all her fault!) She got me $50 in gift cards and a couple of nice beer glasses. One's a tall mug for my 22 oz. beers; the other is a tall Hefeweizen glass:
She also got me a cool book by Michael Jackson (the recently departed beer expert, not the singer/dancer/child molester). Although I already have one of his books, this one covers a lot of different ground than the one that I already have.
What's cool, and stirs my feelings of patriotism, is that the country that he seems to be the most enthusiastic about is the U.S.A. Of course, there are writeups about the beers of Germany, Belgium, and England that makes you want to hop on a plane A.S.A.P., but the U.S. definitely gets its due. Of course, some mention has to be made that our most popular beers are pretty blah. Here's a quick excerpt:
"Today, neither European brewers nor most drinkers on either side of the Atlantic have yet grasped that tomorrow's most exciting styles of beers will be American in conception. At first glance, this seems unlikely. The great Czech brewing cities of Plzen and Budweis may wonder just how thinly their names can be stretched in the U.S. When will the "line extensions" reach breaking point? LightBeer; Dry Beer; Ice Beer; Clear Beer; Low-carb Beer. Each of these contrivances is an apology that says: 'Our beer is too heavy, too sweet, too dark...'"
I agree with this viewpoint. In my experience, I've gotten a lot of friends and family members to try some beers that are a little more adventurous than the standard Bud. Of course, there are some who will always prefer their beer to be as un-beerish as possible, but I've had more than a few reactions of pleasant surprise. I think that there are a lot of people out there who would really like craft beer if only they were exposed to it. As the guy who writes the beer column in my local paper likes to point out - think of you store's bread aisle. Do you even picture Wonder Bread being a major part of it anymore? Probably not. Generally speaking, Americans are demanding fuller flavors and more exciting tastes. Beer might be lagging behind, but it's definitely starting to get into the race.
Shoot, if Concord has a good brewpub that serves not just solid local brews, but a nice variety of Belgian imports, you know we've gotta be heading in the right direction.
So, go U.S.A! And thanks, Bre, for the book!