It’s that time of year again. Days are getting shorter and chillier, nights are getting darker, and Seasonal Affective Disorder is settling into our bones like Irish damp. Fortunately our ancestors were prepared for this time of year and made festivals of light, love and sharing – Christmas and advent among them. Which means it’s also time for something I get excited for every year – my annual beer advent calendar!
I thought about it. I hemmed and hawed and wondered if it was worth going there again. And in the end I realized that, yes, I did want to go through it again. For all its ups and downs, it was a good time.
And so, I present to you –
Beer Advent Calendar 2016
That’s right, folks, we’re doing it again! Advent Calendar part two: electric boogaloo. Also known as ‘an excuse to enjoy new beers while also getting into the holiday spirit’.
This time around I put a bit more thought into building the list of beers to include. I’m a little IPA-ed out so I focused more on stouts and porters this year – more malt and less hops was the driving factor for this year’s group. As with last year (and my regular beer consumption) I focused mostly on Ontario craft beers, with some special guest stars from countries whose beers I quite enjoy (England, Belgium) and some beers I picked up on some recent travels to New York State.
So, without further ado, here is this year’s list.
The starred beers are ones I’ve never tried before.
The Mayan Chocolate Chipotle is another international inclusion (from England) but I didn’t realize that until after I’d taken photos, so it gets lumped in with the other stouts and porters.
Royal City Brewery is one of my favourite craft breweries, and is run by a guy I went to university with. If you see their stuff in the LCBO or find yourself in the Guelph area I highly recommend checking them out.
I anchored some specific beers on the more special days (Christmas Eve and Day, December 21st, weekend days) and then filled in the gaps, making sure not to have two similar beers on back to back days. The idea is to keep comparison low so I enjoy everything as much as possible.
Despite putting it together myself I don’t remember which beer is on which day, with a couple of notable exceptions.
Sadly, while writing this post I had a beer casualty. I was woken up by a loud bang one night to discover that the top of the can holding the Resurgence Sponge Candy Stout has blown clear off, leaving beer oozing over my floor. Sad, just judging by how it smelled as I cleaned it up (BAD) I think I dodged a bullet there.
A few weeks ago I came across an old blog post about what options us Ontario folk have if we’re looking to buy a beer advent calendar. In short: none. It turns out that the LCBO can’t stock beer in packages of more than six bottles because of an agreement with The Beer Store and, for some reason, The Beer Store doesn’t seem interested in creating and selling an advent calendar for its beer-loving public. Disappointing.
So this year I decided to take matters into my own hands and make a beer advent calendar of my very own. (I feel the need to own my Christmas love by acknowledging that this will be one of three advent calendars I’ll enjoy this year, having already bought a chocolate one and a tea one.)
Ready to rock!
Together with my friends Cori and Adam I paid one of the larger LCBOs in the city a visit to pick out the 24 beers that would make up the calendar. It was great having these two along for the adventure – not only did it make the assembly much more enjoyable, but I also felt way less sheepish about buying so much beer in one go since they were doing the same thing.
Do you think we have enough?
Adam and Cori, so excited to be beer shopping with me.
Since I love craft beer, and since there is so much great craft beer in this neck of the woods, I aimed to have as much Ontario craft beer in the calendar as possible. I also wanted to include as many wintery beers as possible – stouts, dark lagers, winter ales, spiced ales, that sort of thing. I was ready for the possibility of a slim pickings kind of beer-choosing situation, but as it turns out, it wasn’t difficult filling the calendar at all. I easily found 24 beers to include, plus a 25th ‘bonus beer’ to enjoy on Christmas day.
AND SO IT BEGINS
The Final Tally
The final cost was about what I expected at $72.25. There were more expensive beers that I want to try but in the name of keeping things from getting out of hand I aimed to keep the cost per beer below $5. Together with the $2.20 cost of 100 brown sandwich bags we all used to mask our purchases I’d say this was a fairly affordable way to enjoy the holiday season – and all the delicious beers it entails – especially when I consider that I would be buying beer throughout the month anyway. This is just pre-buying, really.
Here’s a list of the beers that made their way into my calendar.
The Lighter Ones
Brickworks Ciderhouse Batch:1904 Dry Cider
Nickel Brook Cause & Effect Blonde Ale
Muskoka Cream Ale
The Pumpkin Ales
Black Creek Brewery Pumpkin Ale
Grand River Brewing Highballer Pumpkin Ale
The Christmas and Winter Ales
Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome Ale
Wychwood Brewery Bah Humbug Christmas Ale
Innis & Gunn Rum Finish (not technically Christmas or winter, I know, but it still feels fancy)
Granville Island Lions Winter Ale
Side Launch Pale Ale
Kensington Brewery Fish Eye Pale Ale
Sawdust City Lone Pine IPA
The Dark and Brown Ales
Wychwood Brewery Hobgoblin Extra Strong Ale
Side Launch Dark Lager
Shillow Beer Co. Bitter Waitress Black IPA
Hockley Dark Ale
Left Field Eephus Oatmeal Brown Ale
Mill Street Tankhouse Ale
Great Lakes Brewery Pompous Ass English Pale Ale
I’m sad to say I missed getting a shot of the last two beers, vanilla porters from Mill Street and Double Trouble. You’ll have to wait until I get them in my calendar to see them!
Building the Calendar
There was much debate between Cori, Adam and I over whether to purposely assign each beer to a specific day, or to randomly assign beers ourselves, or to go one step further and to have someone else randomly assign the beers. In the end I went with a hybrid situation. I planned out the beers I wanted to have on Christmas Day as well as December 1st and 21st and then began randomly putting beers into bags, trying not to remember which one went with which day. There were also a few beers that Adam and/or Cori also bought, so we assigned some of those beers to the same day so that we could check in with each other with our opinions as the month progressed.
Building advent calendar is serious business.
All in all, only six of 25 beers are from outside Ontario, and only five from outside Canada. The special guest star countries are Scotland (Innis & Gunn), England (Samuel Smith and the two Wychwoods) and Germany (Erdinger).
I’ll see YOU in December 😉
The only downside is that now I have to wait until December to enjoy these beers! My impatient self is not pleased with having to wait.
I’ll be posting what I get each day on Instagram and checking in the beers on Untappd – follow me there to join me as I taste my way through December.