My upbringing includes fond memories of my mother hanging an advent calendar to commence a treat-filled countdown to Christmas Day – it was chocolates and sweets in those days but this year it will be a beery advent. A friend of mine who has a Costco membership picked up a 2021 Brewer’s Advent Calendar for each of us and we are now a few days into the Advent.
Advent (I had to look it up) is a season observed in most Western Christian denominations as” a time of expectant waiting and preparation for both the celebration of the Nativity of Christ at Christmas and the return of Christ at the Second Coming”. The term advent is a version of the Latin word meaning “coming”. Short video history about Advent calendars. Advent traditionally takes place during the twenty-four days leading up to Christmas Day. OK — I can go with that – no problem.
The pop culture treatments of advent are many and varied. Just about any cartoon character you can imagine, TV shows, sports teams, pets, hot sauces, body lotions, jams & jellies all get the treatment — so why not beer?
I read about the Brewer’s Advent Calendar last year around Christmastime and followed the recommendation in the story to put a tickler in my calendar for mid-September. The story said that this would be about the time they would show up at Costco and provided a warning that they were limited in quantity and could sell out quickly. I am not a Costco kind of person, but a friend of mine goes there so when the tickler popped up I asked him to look out for one for me. I have had my box stored in a cool, dark place since early October. It was a jolt to the old memory a couple of days ago when my friend asked if I had started opening the pigeon holes to get to my daily Advent beer.
I have caught up quickly and I can relate that I am enjoying both the beers and the ambitious but well-conceived product. A well-designed, heavy-duty cardboard box houses twenty-four beers. Each beer is behind a numbered door that is pre-scored to be easy to open. The beers come from twenty-four different small German (and an Austrian) breweries that I am not familiar with. There is a nice variety of styles including helles, marzen, vienna lager, fest bier, pilsener, Keller beers, hefeweizen, dunkelweizen, weizenbock, rauchbier, bock, doppelbock, and (gasp) even an IPA. Upon reading the box instructions, I learned that I could use a free smartphone app called BeerTasting to learn more about and capture my ratings and impressions of not only these Advent beers but any beer (150,000 beers from over 14,500 breweries and counting). Once I started exploring the app, I quickly learned that I could participate in free, online live tastings each day during Advent with the brewer of each of the beers. How cool!
All of the beers are packaged in 1/2 liter (sixteen-ounce) cans. This facilitates the long journey, and as several of the brewers in the live tastings have noted, preservation of the quality of the beer. Hopefully, all of the beers are well within their “drink by date” — so far, I have noticed no issues. The box cost just under $60 with tax – not cheap, but a very fair price I thought for 24 imported pints and the nice additional touch of the live tastings.
Something I think I discovered is that the brewery printed on the can label is not always the brewer of the beer. Some of the breweries do not have canning capability so a third-party brewer has canned some beers and their name appears on the label rather than the actual brewers. I found instances where beer rating apps/sites have misattributed the brewer accordingly. Also, don’t be surprised if there is variation between the beers listed on Kalea’s website and what comes out of the calendar — I get the idea that they may have needed to make some substitutions. I don’t find that any reason for concern. My biggest issue is that I wish I had a way to get more of some of the beers I have tried so far.
This integrated product is the brainchild of a small company based in Salzburg, Austria called Kalea. Listen to the founders, Alexandra and Peter describe what they are up to (3 minute video):
What I really like is that this is a story about a small business founded by obvious beer lovers who are working with small brewers who have little or no exposure in the US. In addition, I think there is a nice array of breweries and styles represented. IMHO, people in the US have a very shallow exposure to German beer culture and this project can only help in the direction of a remedy. Doing the live tastings with brewers hosted by a beer sommelier is a totally cool idea — no slick production — just people talking to people with an opportunity to ask questions and make comments. I would encourage any beer lover to tune in on the BeerTasting Club YouTube site. It’s better if you have the beers and are tasting them in real-time, but I would find it interesting regardless. The live tastings will be at 10AM MST daily through Christmas Eve.
In order to make it easier to navigate just the videos of interest to drinkers of the USA version of the 2021 Advent Calendar, I set up a YouTube playlist for anyone to use. The replays of the tastings are mixed together with a variety of other content on Kalea’s YouTube site, so the playlist will help you to find them in the correct order.
Merry Advent and Hoppy New Year!