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Gastro Giving

Spirits—and other food and drink—of the season

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With just a few shopping days left before Christmas, you might be wondering just how you're going to complete your holiday shopping. Why not give some local flavors? Team TW is here with suggestions.

Barrio Brewing. It's been 26 years since founders Dennis and Tauna Arnold launched their brewery out of the longtime campus bar Gentle Ben's, with three beers to their name (Tucson blonde, Red Cat Amber and Copperhead Pale Ale). The brewery, which now has a larger warehouse space and tasting room, has quickly become one of the go-to spots for good food and even better beer. Fast-forward a quarter century: Barrio has won two Great American Beer Fest awards, including gold in 2008 for Nolan's Porter, and the beer is sold in cans at respectable outlets across the state—though you can still swing by and pick up a six-pack or growler of your favorite beverage as well. 800 E. 16th St.

Whiskey del Bac. Hamilton Distillers hit upon a genius idea: Malting barley over mesquite instead of peat. The result was Whiskey del Bac Dorado, a mesquite-smoked, aged scotch that has been winning awards across the country since it was first released. Esquire called it the seventh-best whiskey in the United States and Distiller.com tasted "a nice smoky sweetness reminiscent of campfire-toasted s'mores to which a perverse adult has added a smear of chipotle en adobo." We've yet to find anyone who's disappointed to receive a bottle. Also available: classic unsmoked aged and clear smoked unaged varieties. 2106 N. Forbes Blvd.

EXO Coffee Co. This Sixth Avenue staple housed inside what was a toy factory and a marketplace in the 19th century, has long been known for its wholesome coffee drinks and quaint (and quiet) ambiance. EXO's coffee is roasted on-site, and sold at the Sixth Avenue location, as well as vendors throughout the city. Their coffee is just as it should be—strong and savory. EXO—which takes its name is taken from the exothermic reaction from roasting coffee beans—also carries a variety of breakfast staples, including sandwiches and bagels. Whether you're in need of a caffeinated pick-me-up or just some good, local music, EXO has you covered. 403 N. Sixth Ave.

Crooked Tooth Brewing Co.'s beer makes the perfect gift for anyone who's known for at least a decade what really happens to Santa's cookies. The brewery's co-owners nerd out with their unique and tasty recipes, incorporating shaman-blessed Palo Santo and getting inspired by Dungeons and Dragons characters. Owner Julie Vernon suggests a few of her favorites for last-minute, edible gifts: She calls the sour stout Crime in the City, brewed with blackberry, lemon peel and cardamom, one of the best brews they've ever had; Dwarvish Ale is an English strong ale with a caramel-toffee biskit note and an oak finish and a 9.5 ABV. The 6.1 ABV jamaica sour saison, Lazer Soundwaves, won the Best Specialty Beer award at Hotel Congress' last Born and Brewed. These are just a few of their original beer recipes, imbibed with sweet and sour, hops and whiskey, bliss and dedication—recipes that Julie and her husband Benjamin have been perfecting for almost 20 years. Full growlers cost about $25 to $28 (including the cost of the $7 Crooked Tooth growler). 228 E. Sixth St.

Scented Leaf's chocolate-covered strawberry pu-erh is made with real bits of strawberries and dark chocolate curls. This tea pouch is well suited for tea fans and novices alike. Who doesn't like chocolate-covered strawberries, anyhow? It's a safe gift to get for anyone who enjoys drinking tea or eating dessert. The pouches even range up to 16 ounces, if you're trying to keep well stocked for years. 308 E. Congress St. and 943 E. University Blvd.

What last minute gift will make your loved one think of you fondly every morning when they wake? No, not an alarm clock. That would have the opposite effect. OK, I suppose a puppy would be nice, but their cat may not like it. You guessed it—coffee! The one thing everyone (who matters) gets out of bed for, rain or shine. And of course you'll want to support your local coffee roaster who's won Best of Tucson for best coffee for as long as anyone can remember. Raging Sage Coffee Roasters roasts their fair-trade coffee beans in a Tucson warehouse, and they have a vast, rotating selection of roasts. You may want to try their dark-roast holiday blend. One-pound bags of coffee typically range from $12 to $18. Buy them at the coffee house, 2458 N. Campbell Ave., or online at ragingsage.com.

Tucson Tamale Company. Sure, you can stick with the tried-and-true traditional green corn or beef tamales—and there's nothing wrong with that. Or you can try out the astounding array of creations available at Tucson Tamale Company. The New Delhi is an Indian feast with curry, potatoes and peas. The Little Italy features sausage and marinara. The San Carlos includes shrimp. You get the idea: Owners Todd and Sherry Martin have reinvented the tamale—and we're eternally grateful. 2545 E Broadway Blvd., 7159 E. Tanque Verde Road, 7286 N. Oracle Road.

-Compiled by Christopher Boan, Jeff Gardner and Danyelle Khmara

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