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We should all make beer Advent calendars

So you're a week late. No matter, there are still weeks of beer-a-day surprises to enjoy.
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Photo by Joe Stange

Photo by Joe Stange

My kids are wild about their Advent calendars, but they’re a novel curiosity to me. My family never had them when I was a kid. Feeling a bit cheated, I had to ask Mom.

“I just wasn’t a big fan,” she said. Why not? “Had enough going on when you were little,” she said. “Too lazy.” This from a full-time working mother who raised three kids with my full-time working dad.

And the holidays, you know, they get busy. They can be stressful.

I can see why my kids love the damned things. Never mind that most of the chocolate is crap; they don’t know that. They’re hunting for treasure when they hunt for the next number each day, then they get to open that little door and find out what’s behind it. Pure joy. For the kids it’s one more layer of Yuley, wintery, Christmassy-ness that goes with all those other layers that make this time of the year especially special for them.

It’s different for grownups. For us—and we vary widely in this weakness—it’s only occasionally that all those layers of holiday feels are able to break through our daily fretting over Things That Must Get Done. Maybe it happens with a gift to a loved one, or maybe it happens with something as insipid as a spiced latte juxtaposed with a Sinatra tune. But occasionally it happens. You get a little buzz of a familiar, childlike spirit that is peculiar to this time of year.

Maybe that’s why Germany—famous for its Christmas markets and wholly unconcerned about going overboard with this sort of thing—is crazy about its Advent calendars. Germany is lousy with the damned things. The typical one has 24 individually wrapped pieces of chocolate hiding behind little cardboard doors, in a box decorated with Santa or a Christmas tree or Baby Jesus or Queen Elsa or… At my local supermarket the selection includes Penthouse and Playgirl advent calendars whose little doors reveal daily nekkidness, I guess, and maybe chocolates, too. Holiday spirit for the whole family.

But you know what really helps tap into that spirit? Alcohol. Therein, I think, lies the beauty of the beer Advent calendar. Yes: There are beer Advent calendars, which combine Germany’s two favorite things: (1) beer, and (2) Advent calendars. And some of these German-packed beer Advent calendars have even made their way to the States via Costco.

You can buy one, or you can make your own. But why?

If you’re like me, you really don’t need help drinking beer each day of December. It’s easy. But there is something fun about getting to open a new surprise treat each day of the season. Like holiday music applied in careful moderation, and a bit of snow here and there, this can add a certain something to this time of the year. Feelings, even.

Now, I’m sorry for writing this a few days into Advent already. But it seems to me that there is a great opportunity for us here.

Whether we consider ourselves to be geeks or snobs or screw it, we just like to drink beer—one thing that DRAFT readers should know is variety.

There are some people who really ought to be in charge of deejaying at parties, because they know the music. That’s not you. But there are some people who really ought to be in charge of picking a couple of dozen different beers for friends and loved ones to try, day by day, during the holiday season. That is you.

Variety can be fun, but there is dark side to that coin: It can overwhelm. In this age of multitudinous options, there is something liberating about simply being told what to drink.

So, let’s make these things. But I’ll be honest: I’m not a handy person. That’s why Santa invented the Internet, so that we can Google this stuff and figure out how other people did it. These are the sort of people who create pretty things and can probably fix their own toilets too and might be coloring in one of those adult coloring books. You know, Pinterest types.

Here is the gist of it: Choose 24 different, excellent beers and put them in some kind of container. Then number each one, from 1 to 24. Mix up the numbers out of order, because part of the game is hunting for the next one each day.

If you receive one, you crack open No. 1 on December 1, and so on, until the last one on Christmas Eve. If you get a late start—[checks watch, already December 7]—well jeepers, guess you’d better catch up. Ideally you could fit this box into a refrigerator, or a cellar, or maybe just keep it outside, if it’s cool enough.

Now, some people get fancy. You can cut apart poster tubes wide enough for bottles or cans, paint them red and green, and glue them together in a tree shape. That’s a lot of work to do, so, you know, go ahead and do that and send me one.

Or you can simply wrap a box in holiday paper and stick numbers to the top of each bottle. Like this. That looks more reasonable and less Martha Stewartish, the latter behavior being downright suspicious in some circles.

Ultimately I’m not sure the package matters all that much. The value we add is in choosing—curating, if you want to be highfalutin—very tasty beers from a broad spectrum. There is education therein. And moderate amounts of alcohol.

The beer Advent calendar is the holiday representation of a friend—ideally a trusted one—offering you a recommended beer, every day, for 24 days. No need to fuss over what beer to drink, that’s done for you. One less reason to stress during a stressful season.

Or maybe it can help you relive a piece of your childhood. Or, in my case, enjoy it for the first time. Because that’s some bullshit, Mom.

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