Friday, December 12, 2014

Beer Advent Calendars - Bottled Disappointment

Add caption
Please tell me this advent calendar gets better
Actually angry now
Bottled disappointment

Those are just a few of the comments that have been splattered on Twitter over local craft beer advent calendars in the first 11 days. So why all the anger? Well you see, boys and girls, when beer kiddies open that magical door and mark off one day closer to that fat guy coming down the chimney, they want WOW! Pizzazz! a beer that is unique and delicious. I get it, I want that too but when you dissect it, it’s not very realistic.

A local craft brewery has limited time, space and resources to make 24 unique beers. Yep, they can team up with another brewery – and one box was a collaboration of two breweries – but that adds additional complexity and coordination. They need to agree on the marketing, box, beers, price and on and on. If you want to have a box of BC beers, all unique, maybe that’s something the Guild would have to coordinate assuming they want that headache.

Bottom line, pick a local box and you’re going to get very few unique beers. Granted, some of the choices in the box were meant more for a sunny beach than chilly weather, but there aren’t many local imperial stouts around and the ones we have are seasonal.

On the other hand, I’ve seen tweets from people out of the province, and those new to craft beer, who haven’t had a lot of these beers and they appear to be quite happy with the selection. Win some, lose some. I’m actually feeling badly for the heat the local breweries are taking. They wanted to make a fun box but they didn’t design it to please the beer geeks (which is why I didn’t buy it). Guess that’s hard to market up front unless you state that it’s a collection of your old favourites or something to that effect.

For those that have sworn off an advent calendar next year, here are some ideas:

1. If you want a new beer every day, don’t buy the local box.
2. The imported box will have unique beers in it but haven’t been known for picking beers that travel well (i.e. low ABV) and they sit in Alberta for months before you see them in a pretty box. Take that into consideration.
3. Trade with a friend – you’ll both be surprised. Try to shop out of province if you can so they get unique beers.
4. No friends? No problem. If you have a bad memory like me, buy 30 beers and randomly pull 24 and stuff them in that box you have from this year (yes, save this year’s box). Every beer you pull out will delight you because you bought them so they must be good. Now swim around the bowl again, goldfish, and tomorrow’s beer will also be a surprise.
5. If you have your cellar list in a spreadsheet, select your small bottles (unless you want a bomber every night) and use a random generator to select from your list.
6. If you’re part of a home brewing club, many of them do an advent calendar with their members’ home brew. Here’s hoping your fellow home brewers don’t suck. Also, be polite, tis the season to be jolly and all that.

There are 13 days left in your calendar. You’ve already spent the money for the pretty box, which you can keep for next year, so try to have some fun with it. Beer pong? Hope you all get a couple more unique beers in there and less ones that anger you.
the first 6 days from our calendars
I, on the other hand, am enjoying the boxes my husband and I made for each other. It was a good way to get 48 bottles out of our hoarding inventory and so far it has included gems like Lost Abbey, Crux, De Molen, Westvleteren, Hair of the Dog, Avery, De Struisse – ok, I’ll shut up. Ah, the benefits of making your own.


  1. Great reality check, Lynn. The best bet for BC beer geeks who have "been there, done that" when it comes to local brews is to go on a shopping trip to Bellingham, Seattle, or Portland and get 24 singles. They could then randomize things by getting a group together who also bring 24 singles, put them all together, mix them up, then alternate, selecting one blindfolded at a time until everyone has 24.

    As you pointed out, our local beer advent calendars are good for export. They are also good for the 79% of people in BC who don't drink craft beer, even better if the Craft Brewers Guild were to put one together for these people and for export, like the mixed 12-packs they have already done. With all the breweries that came online this year, and the ones opening next, it will be easier to fill the 24 slots.

  2. I agree Lynn - tough to come out with 24 unique limited release beers for just this occasion. Overall, we do have it pretty damn good. So good, in fact, that we set our expectations unrealistically high.

    My only complaint would be the price point. At $75 / case (just over $3 per beer), I expected more limited stuff. Granted, $3 per beer works out to $18 for a 6-pack which isn't that ridiculous for quality local craft.

    However, I am still holding out that they saved the best for last (get the routine stuff out the way early).

    1. I hear you - the price is high for what has been mostly readily available beers. Some of the extra cost can be attributed to new packaging, manual labour and coordination with the other brewery but $25 more seems high.

  3. I only purchased this year's as I attended the launch event. It's probably my last time buying one. I say probably because who knows what will happen. Great article though. Help people to make a better choice in the future.

  4. I also loved the fact that our party was the only event they booked for the day - yes, just one event each day - which meant the entire staff at venues in San Francisco was focused on our event.