There are 24 beers in a case, and there are 24 days in modern Advent calendars. Coincidence? Either way, nothing says “the holidays” like craft beer and DIY projects!
I always loved advent calendars as a child, and the tiny rewards offered each day were like a tiny fix before the present hook-up of Christmas. Beer geeks today are recapturing that youthful exuberance by building their own Advent calendars and filling them with craft beer!
If you’re not familiar with the whole Advent calendar tradition it is simply a calendar that tracks the days leading up to Christmas. There are usually windows or openings for each day that when opened reveal a picture, part of a story, or a small treat or candy (or our favorite: Lego). Started as a religious tradition the celebration of Advent, like many other things related to the Christmas holiday has become secularized in modern times.
Poetry and chocolate is nice and all, but give me a tasty beer any day (even over Lego). Many other craft beer fans feel the same way, and the idea of a beer Advent calendar has taken off in recent years. You can even find commercial examples of the concept that pair a beer sample-pack with the Advent calendar format, though none of the ones we’ve found have really impressed us. There are no shortage of DIY versions, so why not make your own? It’s a fun way to get in the holiday spirit, and who doesn’t like a little festive craft project?
The Beer Advent Calendar
The concept is simple: gather 24 beers and package them individually. Starting on December 1st, open one beer each day until Christmas. There are a few questions that you need to answer before beginning the project; the first, and most critical, is is: will the person opening the beers be the same as the one buying the beers?
Naturally, if you want to be surprised by each day’s bottle then you’ll have to get someone else to do the buying and the assembly. If you’re in this boat we recommend the sly move of sharing this post with the person who’s most likely to undertake such a gesture of love and friendship on your behalf.
Once you’ve sorted out if you’re making your own calendar or giving one as a gift then the next question is which beers should be included in the project? You can include a different beer for every day, or even just a single type of beer for all the days. While the latter method certainly lessons the thrill of discovery, some beer is better than no beer at all! The middle-ground method of mixing a 2-3 six-pack with 6-12 singles is a great option that is a good mix of discovery and simplicity.
Winter seasonals, special releases, and the recipient’s favorite beers are excellent choices to fill the calendar with. Some strange imports or unheard of brews can be a good choice to add a little mystery and variety too. It’s a good idea to do the shopping for the calendar at a bottle shop that sells single 12oz bottles; Vendome, Sunset Beer Co, Bills Liquors, and Total Wines are all good options.
Home Brew Style
Simply how do you want to wrap and present the beers is the question. Let’s take a look at some of the many creative examples that we’ve found.
Box of Beer
The simplest way to set-up your own beer Advent calendar is use a case-box fitted with a decorative cover with an opening for each day. This can be as bare-bones or as crafty and elaborate as you’re comfortable with:
There is a step-by-step write-up on building this style of Advent calendar over on Adventures in Domesticity, but the process is pretty self-evident.
The Pretty Display
Another popular option is to individually wrap the 24 beers and display them festively. This method is a good one if the beers that you’re using are not all a uniform shape and size. Redditor flightlevel350 put together this version (below left) and notes, ” So all of the pre-fab, commercially available beer advent calendars were sold out around my area so I decided to try my own. It may not have the surprise factor that it would have with one of the others, but I’m happy with it.”
Since the beers that make-up this version were already known to him, flightlevel350 didn’t bother to conceal which beer would be opened each day. Fellow Redditor vancookalex took inspiration from this design, but wrapped the bottles in simple brown paper bags (free from the bottle shop) and displayed then near his tree (above on the right).
Blog Rethinks Crafts has a neat example that is a hybrid of these two design-styles:
This version was given as a gift, and the creator “also included beer notebook made from six-pack packaging so he could critic each beer and take notes… something beer enthusiasts do.” What a great idea for a gift!
A New Design
*Update: 12-3-12* A new design for a beer advent calendar was brought to our attention over the weekend by the folks at Laughing Squid. They posted about an amazing DIY effort on Instructables by dudecrafter-extraordinaire Michael Warren. Michael’s design uses shipping tubes to hold 24 different cans of beer, and we instantly fell in love with his idea.
This version of the DIY beer Advent calendar is a little more labor intensive, but it is perhaps the easiest design to give as a gift since it is so self contained. You could very easily adapt the matrix of cardboard tunes to hold bottles of beer as well (and a giant-sized version that holds bombers could be an amazing holiday focal-point!)
Check out Michael’s full build instructions at Instructibles!
A Beer A Day…
This reappropriation of childhood traditions for our stressful adult lives is a great way to recapture some youthful joy and to reconnect with the spirit of the holidays. The small but potent reward of a bottle of craft beer can mean a lot at the end of the day, and packaging the beer in layers of tradition and ritual that tie into childhood memories make it even more powerful. The craft beer advent calendar is a great way to celebrate the season, and it makes for a really amazing gift. Plus it’s a fun little project!
December starts in just a few days, and there is no time to waste if you want to put together your own version! Alternatively, but along the same lines as the Advent calendars, you could put together a “12 beers of Christmas” gift to celebrate the days between Christmas and the Epiphany (or just as a great excuse for the project.) This gift has an added benefit of not beginning until December 25th making it perhaps an even better gift for the craft beer lover in your life!
Would you rather give the gift of a craft beer advent calendar or get one to open yourself?