Holidays, huh? That tropiest time of the year, when people are depicted on commercials as either being JUST SO BUSY with all their holiday festivities that they barely have time to blow the hair out of their eyes before giving the camera an "Oh boy, am I harried" head shake or as the most romantic/thoughtful/compassionate people in the world. The time of the year when people pointedly and aggressively say "Merry Christmas" to anyone who dares to wish them happy holidays.
For once, I'd like to be invited to an Attractive Christmas Sweater party. And has anyone stopped to think that maybe the Grinch wouldn't be such a jerk of there wasn't some guy singing a song every 5 minutes about what a jerk he is?
At Christmas, I don't like giving or receiving stuff for the sake of giving or receiving stuff. I enjoy making things by hand or by scratch when I can - I homebrew, make pasta and cheese, bake bread, and sew. If I can figure out how to make something by hand, I try it out. In some cases (see below), I decide it's not really worth the effort, but in other cases (see below the above below) I really enjoy the process.
After making a board of beer-related DIY gifts on Pinterest, I decided to try out three DIY gifts.
Gift 1: DIY Beer Coasters
To make the coasters, you need some 4x4 bathroom tiles, glue, cork or some other backing for the tiles, and a variety of cardboard beer carriers. The project is pretty easy. All you have to do is cut the cardboard carriers to size, glue them onto the smooth side of the tile, and then glue the cork on the other side of the tile.
I got like three minutes into this DIY gift before I started thinking about who in the world would be an appropriate recipient for this gift. If I'm going to get a gift for someone who is into beer, I'd probably just spend the money I spent on the supplies for this craft on a nice bottle (or bottles) of beer. The materials for this project weren't expensive by any means, but the opportunity cost of being an adult making this sort of gift seems very expensive. Plus I couldn't imagine giving someone homemade beer coasters as a gift, unless I was giving them just to see how awkward I could make the event by watching the recipient try to sound jazzed about receiving them. I'm not above it.
The bottom line: This may make a fun craft project for kids on a rainy afternoon (although making coasters out of beer packaging seems a little odd for a child's activity, you weirdo). I wouldn't waste your time on it as an adult. It's the adult version of giving a Christmas tree handprint picture as a gift.
Gift 2: Beer Brownies from Joy the Baker
I've made these brownies before and they are delicious. You really can't go wrong with anything that calls for a stick of butter, a cup each of white and brown sugar, and beer, of course! These are rich, moist, and amazing. If you're interested in the recipe, you can find it here. When I made these brownies this time, I made a couple of substitutions. I LOVE those whack-and-unwrap chocolate oranges that you can buy at Christmas time, so I substituted one of those for the semisweet bakers chocolate. Since I wanted to highlight the orange flavor in the brownies, I also used UFO Hefeweizen from Harpoon Brewery. Using a wheat-based beer had the added benefit of making the brownies very fluffy and almost cake-like in their texture. The last substitution I made was to use hickory smoked sea salt in place of the regular salt to see if the smokiness came through in the final product (it didn't).
The bottom line: Make sure you buy enough ingredients to make two batches, one to keep and one to give away.
Our household is a mustard household. There are no less than five different kinds of mustard in my refrigerator right now: plain yellow, spicy brown, horseradish, Dijon, and now a fresh batch of this beer horseradish mustard. When unsuspecting people ask for mustard while at our house, they are not prepared for the barrage of follow up questions: What kind? Spicy? Have you tried this kind? No? But you still want the plain old mustard? Are you sure?
I've made this recipe several times and have my process down. I've made it with red wine vinegar and malt vinegar (not at the same time, gross), and I prefer the malt vinegar. To me, the red wine vinegar was too prominent in the recipe and the malt vinegar melded with the other ingredients better. I also made a few substitutions to this recipe. Instead of the generic "lager beer" called for in the recipe, I used Dogfish Head's Pennsylvania Tuxedo IPA. When I make this mustard again, I probably won't use as hoppy of a beer - I think it made the flavor a little too bitter. Instead of using just whole brown mustard seeds, I used a mixture of black and brown mustard seeds because I had both available. Black mustard seeds are supposed to have a more mellow flavor than brown mustard seeds. After measuring out the horseradish, I also threw a little bit more of the horseradish liquid into the blender because I love horseradish. A word of warning that people with common sense (i.e. not me) probably don't need: don't stand over the blender and accidentally inhale as you take the lid off after blending everything because the horseradish fumes will make you feel like all your nose hairs have been singed off and you'll cough like crazy.
The bottom line: This is great recipe to make and then divide into smaller jars to give to people. Otherwise you're giving someone at least two cups of horseradish mustard.
What are some of your favorite beer-themed gifts to give as presents (besides beer)?