Holiday cocktails at Big Spring Spirits (Photo by David Silber)
Every year, when I gather with my family for the holidays, there is always a special gift under the tree for me. It is never wrapped in an elegant way, maybe just a bow on top, but what is inside is a wonderful surprise—six surprises to be exact. Yes, it is a mixed six-pack filled with craft beer that I have never tried before—my family sure does know me well.
The funny thing about that gift I get every year is I think my brother in-law enjoys giving me the gift just as much as I enjoy receiving it. He really tries to find different beers that I’ll like and then wants to know what I think of them after I taste them. Sometimes I’ll share them at a holiday gathering, and we can all try to taste different flavors and judge what we do or don’t like about the various ales. It’s a fun time for all.
A mixed six-pack is just one way to spread a little holiday cheer with a gift for the craft beverage lover in your life this year. If you are traveling to visit family and friends this holiday season, a fun gift idea for someone who loves craft brews is to bring them the taste of Centre County with a mixed six of our local beers.
Not too long ago, the only option for local beer in this area was Otto’s Pub and Brewery, which is still an excellent choice. But now, you can make it a true variety pack with beers from our many different breweries and brew pubs—Elk Creek Café and Aleworks, VooDoo Brewing Company, Axemann Brewery, Happy Valley Brewing Company, Robin Hood Brewing Company, The Dead Canary Brewing Company and Antifragle Brewing Company.
While not all of our local breweries offer the traditional twelve-ounce cans or bottles that you usually find in a six-pack, crowlers and growlers are another great way to share the tastes of Centre County. Growlers especially make a great gift because the reusable jugs emblazened with the brewery’s logo are a collector’s item for beer nerds liked me (just make sure you know how long the beer will stay fresh in a growler before you decide to buy, so you can share the gift while it is in prime condition).
And don’t fret if your family and friends are not beer drinkers. Our local cideries and wineries offer plenty of flavors to share as gifts or bring to holiday parties. After all, what could be a better gift for a wine connoisseur who is a Penn State fan than a bottle made right here in Happy Valley? Mount Nittany Vineyard & Winery, Seven Mountains Wine Cellar, Happy Valley Vineyard & Winery and University Wine Company are great places to find the perfect pairing for your holiday dinner.
Our local cideries—Good Intent, 814 Cider Works, Mad Mcintosh and Keewaydin Cider Mill (found at Otto’s)—offer a variety of flavors that are sure to fit the mood at your holiday party.
To splash up the gift even further, pair the beverages with cool merchandise like glassware or a hoodie from your favorite local craft beverage maker.
A fun holiday tradition I have is saved for Christmas morning at home with my closest people. As we open presents and enjoy homemade cinnamon buns, I pour a little Big Spring Spirits Talleyrand Cream Bourbon in my coffee (served in a special Christmas reindeer mug, of course).
The smooth taste of the cream bourbon (kind of like Baileys Irish Cream, but made with bourbon instead of Irish whiskey, giving it a slightly richer and bolder taste) in my coffee gives me extra cheer on the one day of the year when I don’t work, don’t exercise, and just relax at home with my family.
A bottle of the Talleyrand Cream Bourbon makes a great gift as well, as does any of the bottles from our two local distilleries, Bellefonte’s Big Spring and State College’s Barrel 21. With a multitude of different spirits on hand, both locations have interesting flavors that are sure to make any mixologist happy this holiday season.
If you are in town for the holidays and looking to do something special with adults, you can hardly do better than heading to either location with your gang for a specialty holiday drink that is made with care. The cocktail makers at both distilleries can craft a cocktail (seasonal or otherwise) that will knock your special holiday socks off. Much fancier that my simple cream bourbon and coffee that I make at home.
If you know someone who is ready to really see what the local craft beverage scene is all about in Centre County, look no further than the Central Pennsylvania Tasting Trail. The trail features four family vineyards, two cideries, four breweries, and two distilleries in the area and continues to grow.
A Central Pennsylvania Tasting Trail Passport is one of those gifts that keeps giving all season long. Trail members can stop at each establishment over the course of a year for a taste of their local product and a small gift. At each location the passport is stamped. After the book is filled, the lucky trail member earns themselves a nice hoodie that shows how much they appreciate keeping it local. It’s a fun way to see all this area has to offer. Passports can be bought at any member location or at centralpatastingtrail.com.
If you still are unsure about what to get your favorite craft beverage lover, there is one thing that is easy and is never, ever a disappointment—a gift card to their favorite local establishment. It is sure to put a smile on their face, and maybe they’ll even bring you along for a taste of your own.
Cheers and happy holidays! T&G
Vincent Corso enjoys drinking local and meeting new people at central Pennsylvania’s many interesting establishments. This column appears in the December 2022 issue of Town&Gown
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Holiday cocktails at Big Spring Spirits (Photo by David Silber)