Father's day gifts: a beer, wine, and spirits guide

I love the Father's Day Gift Guide that editor Heather Tyree compiled. It's full of unusual DIY kits: Dad can learn how to make his own beer, cheese, bread, sushi, jerky, you get the idea. But not all fathers are so hands-on. Below are some alternative gifts that should appeal to those who subscribe to a more leisurely parenting style.

Krups BeerTender: You may know them for their coffee makers, but Krups also makes this absurdly slick personal keg.

Pros: I like the design; it's a modern-looking dark cylinder with a handle. It's easy to use: Place keg into machine, pour beer. And though it may be overkill for some (especially those are just fine with cold cans and bottles), this gadget keeps your beer cold, at a consistent temperature, and tells you how full (or empty) the keg is, as well as how old the beer is (when you added the fresh keg). Great digital interface too.

Cons: It works only with Heineken 5-liter kegs, for now. And it's $279.

Versinthe Absinthe: You can tease your dad and ask him if the new wave of absinthes taste anything like the original stuff did back in the late 1800s.

Pros: This is a slightly brown, mild-tasting version of the anise-flavored spirit (though fairly strong at 90 proof). Drink it as you would any absinthe: Place a sugar cube onto a slotted spoon over the rim of a tall drinking glass, pour absinthe slowly over cube, watch the cloud ("louche") form, and dilute with water to taste (3:1 or 5:1 ratio of water to absinthe is common).

Cons: Late to the revival market, considering that Kubler, Lucid, and other brands have been on shelves for a while now.

Outlaw Wine Books: Two new books struck me original, entertaining, and iconoclastic.

Gary Vaynerchuk's 101 Wines: You may have seen this hypercharged, weirdly charismatic wine lover online at Wine Library TV. Now he has a book, of course. Gary is one of those critics who believes there is no wrong answer. His book is organized into 101 wines that he likes, with eye-catching categories such as: "smells like poop" (Lachini Vineyards, Estate Pinot Noir, 2005, $45) and "My, What a Big Pinot You Have" (Ojai, Pinot Noir Clos Pep Vineyard, 2005, $52). Paperback, $13.56.

The Wine Trials: Subtitled "A Fearless Critic Book," this guide scientifically, and systematically, lashes out against conventional wine criticism, arguing that people do not really prefer expensive wines. The first 59 pages are dedicated to explaining the test tastes and findings. The next 120 pages or so have one-page profiles of inexpensive ($3 - $14) "winning" bottles. By Robin Goldstein with Alexis Herschowitsch. Paperback, $14.95.

James Oliver Cury is the executive editor of Epicurious.com. He is a member of the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards Committee and has been a judge at the Culinary Institute of America, the Jack Daniels World Barbecue Championship, and the Food Network's Iron Chef show. He's written for dozens of magazines, including Esquire, Playboy, Details, Entertainment Weekly, Maxim, Men's Journal, SPIN, Glamour , US Magazine, Food & Wine, and Every Day with Rachael Ray.


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