Holiday Gift Idea: A Craft Beer Mixed Six

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On Wednesday the Beer Institute announced that the number of permitted breweries in the U.S. has reached an all-time high of 2,751, up from 2,309 in 2011. Not that we needed a stat to validate this craft beer resurgence, but it's reassuring nonetheless. "Resurgence", you say? Yes, our forefathers were all about local beer. The brewery record we just broke was originally set in 1887.

See also: - A Guide to North Texas Craft Beers

You know what that means, right? Picking a beer will continue to be fraught with anxiety. But, the holidays present a golden opportunity to work through this predicament.

Quite a few local stores offer an abundant craft beer selection, like Lone Star Beverages, The Bottle Shop, Central Market, Whole Foods and Sigel's. A little off the beaten path, Hall's in Colleyville gets some good reviews, as does Mr. G's in Plano (although they got bought out by Spec's earlier this year, so not sure of the status of things). And Dr. Jeckyll's Beer Lab in Pantego has been quietly growing their craft beer following for years now. And, of course, there's the empire known as Spec's.

What's great is that most of these shops, with the exception of Hall's, allow customers to create their own mixed six packs from a (sometimes large) selection of single bottles. The clear upside being that customers can try six different beers before committing to an entire six pack.

Rick Ali, owner of Lone Star Beverages in Carrollton, has more than 1,500 different beers in stock that run the gamut and admits it can be daunting. "We have so many different beers to choose from," he says, "and sometimes you just don't know what the hell to get."

Fortunately, Ali and his staff help customers work through the choices and even have "shelf talkers" that give customers pointers. In fact, most craft beer stores have helpful employees -- if they don't, well, you make your decisions on where to shop. Every place should have helpful, knowledgeable employees.

Prices vary based on the beer, but you can definitely get a great mixed six-pack for around $10.

One thing to keep in mind is that a lot of local beers aren't bottled (yet). A few local brewers have recently learned (see Lakewood and Deep Ellum) that bottling lines can be quite ornery. Sure, Lavern and Shirley made it look so easy. But, that was Hollywood -- or Milwaukee.

As of now, Deep Ellum Brewing Co. and Rahr are the only local beers in bottles.

However, that's where Craft and Growler comes in. This first-of-its-kind to the Dallas area is a local craft beer filling station, which you can actually take home.

Now, if you don't have a beer aficionado on your list that would appreciate an assorted six-pack of craft beer as much as you would, then I'm giving you permission right now to go buy yourself a present to put under the tree. One condition, you have to wait until the 25th to open it. Or give it to someone who hates beer, so you get it by default. Sort of like my friend who gave her husband a vacuum cleaner and he, in turn, gave her a table saw the next year. It's a win-win. For you and craft beer.

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