Growlers from L.A. Brewers Guild member breweries
Growlers from L.A. Brewers Guild member breweries
Sarah Bennett

Best Gifts for Craft Beer Lovers

When the turkey’s all devoured and the high-tension political conversation with your great-uncle is through, what else is left to look forward to this holiday season but retail therapy?

Most years, we wait in lines for the best prices on pointless toys and electronics. But this time, spend your shopping hours wisely and get your friends and loved ones something more useful.

Here are four L.A. Brewers Guild–approved craft beer gifts that will help them drink local all year long:

L.A. Beer & Food Festival Tickets
What better present than a full day of drinking and eating, which can be had by buying tickets to the inaugural L.A. Beer & Food Festival, happening Jan. 28. What? “All food festivals these days are beer and food festivals,” you say? Sure, while that’s partially true (hell, we even have our own Burgers & Beer Festival), imagine a more intimate melding of beer and food love, organized by the L.A. Brewers Guild, a 3-year-old nonprofit that helps support and promote L.A.’s 50-plus local member breweries.

In addition to a beer hall stocked exclusively with L.A.-made craft beer at Mack Sennett Studios, the street outside will be shut down to accommodate a dozen restaurants and food purveyors, all of which have been chosen for their commitment to promoting beer and food as the ultimate culinary duet. Planned panels include talks on everything from beer and cheese pairings to the art of fermentation.

L.A. Brewers Guild Enthusiast Membership
A must for anyone who calls himself a local beer fan, L.A. Brewers Guild Enthusiast memberships let the public buy into the coalition of local breweries and get a year of discounts and perks in return.

While most city and state guilds that offer “fanatic” or “coalition” memberships throw in a few pieces of swag and the obligatory early invite to official guild events as a thank-you, the L.A. Brewers Guild membership comes standard with yearlong discounts at many member breweries and retail affiliates (think: 10 percent off at a tasting room, $5 off at the homebrew store).

Add that in with, yes, the swag (a T-shirt, a map) and also deep discounts off tickets to L.A. Beer Week events (20% off to L.A. Beer Week’s Kickoff Fest!), and the membership soon pays for itself. Buy-ins for the 2017 Enthusiast membership are now on sale.

Cellador Ales' first release
Cellador Ales' first release
Sarah Bennett

Local Brewery Beer Club
Like wine clubs that charge you quarterly for bottles of their finest vine juice, some local breweries are starting to offer memberships that promise you bottles of each release in exchange for either a one-time annual or easy recurring quarterly payments. Places such as OC's the Bruery have been doing this for years, and members of its so-called "societies" (including the Reserve Society, Preservation Society and Hoarders Society) now stretch from coast to coast.

In L.A. County, there are two such beer clubs: Dry River Brewing's Collector's Club, which nets you quarterly shipments of three bottles (one sour, one strong, one limited-release beer) plus invitations to private get-togethers and tastings with the owners and brewmaster; and Cellador Ales' Single Barrel Syndicate, which is one of the only ways to guarantee a bottle of each of the San Fernando Valley's new all-oak-fermented beers. The website for the latter says membership is closed, but if you email the address listed and ask nicely, there may still be room for more.

L.A. Brewery Tours
Visiting a bunch of L.A. breweries in one day is a struggle, if not for the fortitude of stomach then for the fortitude of staying sober enough to drive between them all. Skip the strife of forcing one member of your group to pace themselves and buy tickets to a local beer tour, which lets you pay for someone else to do not only do the driving but the planning as well.

There are three companies that currently offer neighborhood beer tours across L.A. County — taking you between a handful of new and seasoned local breweries, with a flight of beer included at each stop — but the best is L.A. Beer Hop, which goes beyond structured party bus to bring you a designated driver who is also a well-informed beer guide, trained to educate you on L.A.'s booming craft beer scene as he drops knowledge on the road between spots. Stash your beer in the ice chest at the front of the bus and get weird as you learn about what's new in local beer.

L.A. Beer Hop offers tours most weekends in South Bay and Central L.A., and will gladly curate a custom tour for groups of six or more.

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