"ON THE FIRST DAY of Christmas, my true love gave to me," Bob and Doug McKenzie famously sang many years ago, "a beer in a tree."
Yo, you don't have to go to that much trouble. Here's Joe Sixpack's annual holiday gift guide for the suds fan on your list.
Choose bottles with a common theme: Christmas beers, wheat beers, beers with dogs on the label. A couple of years ago, I gave my brother-in-law the deacon a selection of holy beers, including St. Bernardus, St. Feuillien and St. Pauli.
Many delis carry premixed selections of American or Belgian beer. Look for the gift set from Samuel Smith's, with bottles of Old Brewery Pale Ale, Nut Brown Ale and Oatmeal Stout as well as an authentic brewery glass and two coasters. Lindemans boxes a set with bottles of Framboise and Pomme and a gold-rimmed flute.
McKenzie Brew House (Malvern and Chadds Ford) packs a trio of 750ml bottles, including its highly regarded Saison Vautour, in a bucket along with a pair of pint glasses, food-and-beer pairing suggestions and two Sunday Passports with deals and discounts ($39).
An authentic Sierra Nevada Pale Ale tap handle is $15 at SierraNevadaGiftShop.com.
Keep your growler cold with a Harpoon insulated tote bag ($12.99 at HarpoonBrewery.com).
Then raise a toast with an authentic hand-painted German stein from Keystone Homebrew (779 Bethlehem Pike, Montgomeryville).
The "Beerometry" T-shirt at CraftBeerClothing.com is for true geeks. Yesterbeer.com has a fine collection for those who remember old breweries like Gretz, Atlas, Circle City and Katz.
Then, dress them up with a Guinness silk tie ($24.95) from BeerTees.com.
"Hops and Glory" by Pete Brown (MacMillan, $16). Brown's heroic trek to find the true history of India pale ale isn't just a beer book, it's a helluva tale. (Note: Not available in U.S. bookstores; order via Amazon/Canada.)
"B is for Beer" by Tom Robbins (Ecco, $17.95). A children's book about beer for adults.
"Christmas Beer" by Don Russell, autographed copies ($10) available through JoeSixpack.net.
Likewise, you can make beer out of almost anything. Get started with a beginners kit ($69.99) from HomeSweetHomebrew.com.
Stone Brewing makes barbecue sauce flavored with its famous Smoked Porter ($7 at StoneCompanyStore.com).
The cheesemongers at DiBruno Bros. (South Philly, Rittenhouse Square, Comcast Center) say it's beer, not wine, that goes best with cheese, especially their Beer Lovers Cheese Set ($69.99). The package includes a half-pound each of six gourmet cheeses, including Gorwydd Caerphilly, a Welsh cow's milk cheese that pairs well with Belgian golden ale, like Duvel. Available online at Dibruno.com.
Look for "Beer Lovers Britain" by Jeff Evans of InsideBeer.com ($9.98) or Bob Skilnik's "Does My Butt Look Big in This Beer" ($7) at DrinkHealthyDrinkSmart.com.
For a great laugh, download the audio version of "I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell" by Tucker Max at Audible.com.
Or get serious with a class at the Tria Fermentation School (16th and Walnut, Center City). Gift certificates are available online for as little as $25 at TriaCafe.com/store.
Finally, make sure you never forget a gift again: Sign your pal up for a membership in a beer-of-the-month club. I can recommend BeerOnTheWall.com and RareBeerClub.BeverageBistro.
com, both of which ship into Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
Friday's Joe Sixpack column noted that several beer-of-the-month clubs deliver beer in Pennsylvania. However, state law (72 Pa. C. S. Section 9011) continues to prohibit the receipt or possession of beer that has not been properly taxed, thus banning home delivery of beer by mail. It's the experience of both Joe Sixpack and many Pennsylvania beer drinkers, however, that the regulation is not strictly enforced against individuals. Proceed with caution.
When you wake up on Christmas morning and realize that special bottle you bought for your best friend is, um, empty, you've still got an option: Download a gift. German beer mustard is a must for pretzels. A stoneware crock of spicy mustard made with black beer is $13 at Zingermans.com. You can turn beer into almost anything, according to the artisans at Etsy.com. Just search the site for "beer" and you'll find handmade earrings made from bottle caps, soap made from Stella Artois and a recycled Rogue bottle holding a candle with the aroma of Fritos ($25). "World's Best Beers" by Ben McFarland (Sterling, $29.95). A massive tome profiling 1,000 beers from every continent, thirst-inducing photography and profiles of selected breweries. You can never have enough T-shirts; they're a must at beer festivals, and they're perfect for soaking up spilled beer. Almost every brewery Web site offers cheap ($2-$5) keychain bottle openers. You'll find an impressive selection at BottleOpener.com, including a very cool, credit card-size opener that fits in your wallet ($10). The Ziotek Popdrive, available at Amazon.com, is a combination bottle opener, key holder and 1 gigabyte thumb drive ($9.95).