When holiday shopping this year, make it beer

Here are the three worst Christmas gifts I ever received:

—Socks, and this happened multiple times.

—A clothes brush. (What’s the message here?)

—Cranberry-colored, paisley suspenders. (Apparently, my jeans were sagging.)

Don’t be this person.

I remember some time in the late 1990s being told by my then-wife that I was really tough to buy for, so she bought me a case of my then-favorite beer (pretty sure that meant Killian’s Irish Red at the time) and a box of my favorite snacks.

Now, that’s a thoughtful gift.

When I took a first step into the new Against the Grain Brewery Bottle & Gift Shop during its grand opening on Black Friday — and yes, beer is probably the only retail item that might get me out on that wretched day of shopping madness — I thought, “Now, this is where a person could find a nice gift.”

Seriously, no one needs a Cracker Barrel gift card, unless it’s for my parents. At the new AtG space, which is located a few steps to the left of the brewery’s main entrance on East Main Street, you can pick up a bomber, a four-pack, a T-shirt or a beach ball.

That’s right.

The small shop is lined with barrel staves, with barrels forming a table in the center, and a tasting counter is along the back wall. A pair of coolers on one wall face a corner filled with Against the Grain swag. 

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Taking a good look in the coolers, I found row after row of Against the Grain core brews, from Citra Ass Down to The Brown Note, which you can buy as single cans or as four-packs. There are plenty of bombers available from the All Funked Up series, plus special beers like Gnight Ryder and Kentucky Ryed Chiquen (complete with feathers covering the top of the bottle).

There are even kegs ready to carry out of the small space, which previously was used for private events. Cash (or credit) and carry.

In addition, there are a few select non-AtG beers for sale, such as Crooked Stave Sour Rose, Marz Community Brewing’s Jungle Boogie, Stillwater Classique and Pabst Blue Ribbon. Or, if you’re feeling particularly fancy, you can grab a sixer of Miller High Life tall boys or grab a single “40”. (High Life is the everyday beer of choice of Against the Grain’s brewing team, or so I’ve heard.)

Jessy Harding, who manages events and merch for the brewery, said in a press announcement, “Gone are the days of boring tee shirts and collapsible dog water bowls. Our beer is never boring and neither is our merch.“

She’s not kidding.

In addition to the Against the Grain beach ball that I spied in the corner of merch, I also found such items as glassware, sunglasses, metal signs, T-shirts, beanies, duffel bags and fanny packs. Man, if you gave someone an Against the Grain fanny pack for Christmas, it would be epic; heck, maybe I’ll buy one to keep all my Christmas socks in.

But the point of all this is that, even if you’re a mom who doesn’t know what your trendy 20-something’s favorite beer is, you can always gift a special release, such as the Amburana 70K, a version of the brewery’s imperial stout aged on amburana wood. They’re in limited supply, and if the recipient of your gift isn’t into big stouts, they could always trade it, right? I grabbed one of the last remaining bombers of Bo & Luke during my visit. I could gift it, but I will likely sit on it for awhile, then drink it during the first blizzard of the season.

Better yet, for every $50 in gift cards you buy through Christmas at the bottle and merch shop, you get an extra $10 gift card. Heck, that’s a great deal if you’re shopping for yourself or for any beer enthusiast on your list. 

Starting out, the shop will be open Thursday through Sunday, noon to 9 p.m. Look for occasional tastings to help you know what to buy, and know that the goal is to eventually expand hours and have the ability to serve on-site — meaning you will one day be able to enjoy a beer while you shop.

Of course, don’t forget Louisville Beer Store in NuLu during your holiday beer shopping, which currently has a big selection of seasonal and Christmas beers (you can enjoy a pint there now). And it’s worth mentioning that Liquor Barn now has an app through which you can get beer arranged in gift baskets and delivered. 

Socks or no socks, it’s going to be a merry Christmas after all. •

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