Oxbow Brewing Company | Crossfade
Blended Farmhouse Ale (Dec. 2014) | 5% ABV
Well, I finished my last Thanksgiving-leftover sandwich last week, the one that consists entirely of mashed potatoes and turkey because the stuffing and the gravy ran out days before. To me, that’s the truest end of the Thanksgiving holiday which got me thinking about Christmas. The lights, trees, time with friends and family and, of course, gift giving.
A gift of a beer can be low hanging fruit for craft beer nuts for sure. Even with little to no forethought, it’s unlikely they will be entirely disappointed with most selections. But I’m also starting to think there are a few key things you can think about if you want to truly find a great gift beer, like the Crossfade I received recently.
I drink a lot of Pacific NW, and specifically Seattle, beer because I live here. If you are reading this in Louisiana, you probably don’t. It’s just a simple function of the size, distribution systems and desire to maintain a local operation that are characteristics of the industry… well at least until the AB-InBev/SABMiller behemoth buys everyone. This means if you’re buying for someone, you’ve probably got a good knowledge base of what’s good in your area. If the person you’re buying for lives somewhere else, there’s also a good chance they don’t have a lot of opportunities to enjoy your local favorites (more on that in a moment).
Oxbow brews in Portland, Maine and is only found in five northeast states and D.C. I’d never had their Crossfade, or any of their beers, or really even heard of them. This particular bottle made the trip from Portland, ME all the way across the country to Portland, OR and finally up to Seattle. That’s a great story and even more special when I realize that someone thought “This is the beer he should try from where I live.”
Find something unique (Maybe even weird)
If you’ve purchased something local for someone who lives elsewhere, you’re well on your way to meeting the requirement of being unique. But, please, don’t stop there. Brewers are doing some crazy things with flavors, yeasts and aging, and buying beer as a gift is really a time to pull out all the stops. There are a few reasons, the first and most obvious of which is beer drinkers love to try new things. Secondly, those extra bits of effort from the brewer really demonstrate the beer wasn’t bought off-hand and that you wanted it to be an experience versus just a drink. Lastly, gifted beers are perfect for sharing and this is the season for it. Got something with questionable ingredients or a nap inducing ABV? Crack it open with a couple of friends for everyone to sample and the gift just gets paid forward.
Crossfade fits this category as well. A blended Saison is already a pretty unique concept, but the use of wild yeast means this is a truly unique beer. Also, the particular bottle I enjoyed was from December 2014, fittingly a year old. Even if I cultured the yeast left in the bottle, there really would be no way to recreate this beer as is or that a new bottle of the same brew would match exactly what I had; that’s pretty cool.
Get something good
Notwithstanding my recommendation above about possible weirdness, I’d highly recommend going with something weird in a good way. This of course is when thinking about the person you’re buying for really counts. Do they like hops? Are you sure? Then maybe don’t go with that taste bud demolishing imperial IPA. Think about the kinds of beers they like and try to find something that pushes those boundaries a little, but something you think they’ll like. Like I said earlier, most craft beer drinkers are pretty open to new things (and sharing is caring) so don’t stress out about it too much if you’re not 100% sure either.
For me this is what really sealed the deal for Crossfade. It’s definitely unique and something I’ve never seen before, but it’s also delicious. It’s cloudy and golden with a clean white head. Definitely lives up to the billing of being hop forward without overwhelming the floral sweetness with a crisp bit of sourness at the end. Very dry finish with just a little bit of funkiness to really make it multidimensional and give it a feel of the barn where Oxbow brews.
And it’s really that easy. Giving gifts is about the connection between you and the recipient and an opportunity to give them a little bit of joy. You could probably more broadly apply my recommendations above to non-beer gifts as well, as the same principles would apply. And don’t rule out gifting a bottle of homebrew either, which definitely would hit at least two out of three!