Boozy advent calendars to get through Covid-19 restrictions
Twinkling lights, ringing bells and total darkness just after lunch. Yep, it’s that time of the year again. This time though, with new Covid restrictions being implemented across the globe, those 24 December days leading up to Christmas are set to look just a little different from what we're all used to. So, to help you get through this madness, I rounded up some of this year’s most delicious boozy advent calendars. Take Christmas easy, one sip at the time.
One of the UK’s leading direct-to-consumer craft beer retailers is offering two advent calendars: a standard one, priced at £64.90 (or £59.90 for members) and an Ultimate edition at £129.00 (£109.00 for members).
The former features a lovely selection of UK pale ales, IPAs, stouts, lagers, sours and wheat beers, plus some very interesting international exclusives (Guineu, La Pirata, and Peninsula breweries from Spain, Puhaste from Estonia, Galway Bay from Ireland, Stu Mostow from Poland), and a few collaboration brews.
The Ultimate Advent Calendar turns the volume up in both abv and intensity, with featured styles ranging from imperial pastry stouts to Belgian tripel, and from DIPAs to barley wines. Exclusives and collabs are the majority here: HonestBrew x Verdant NE DIPA is an utterly satisfying juicy deliciousness and the mixed-ferm from Ca’ del Brado (a sour and barrel-ageing specialist Italian brewery just half-an-hour drive from my hometown, Bologna) is intriguing and complex. Ah, and there’s also a beautiful American stout from Duration and a yummy NE pale from Spain’s Naparbier.
Christmas might be the right time to go a little off the beaten track and gift yourself something unusual. Crafty Nectar’s Ultimate Cider Advent Calendar is a real voyage of discovery, with its 24 ciders from some of the UK’s top makers such as Kentish Pip and Tom Oliver.
16 of these are brand new products and six are exclusives, but the calendar also includes Crafty Nectar’s own labels.
No.7 is a smooth, medium sparkling cider made of a blend of Dabinett, Harry Masters Jersey, Michelin and Yarlington Mill apples, No.8 combines cider with rhubarb juice, while No.9 is an exclusive blackberry and hibiscus co-ferment collab cider with Once Upon Tree.
The calendar comes with a cider tasting guide, interactive tasting notes and reviews and it’s priced at £75.
Drinks By The Dram
If you enjoy sipping rum neat – I do – then Drinks By the Dram's Rum Advent Calendar is the right treat for you. At £149.95 for a total of 72cl (24x30ml samples), this is perhaps a little pricy, but at least the selection doesn't disappoint.
The calendar features a wide range of different styles and producers, from known names such as El Dorado and Diplomático to boutique distilleries and a couple of brilliant expressions from That Boutique-y Rum Company.
Seven Three Black Pearl and Clairin Communal are just two top picks within the remarkable selection of white rums, while Rumbullion! XO 15yo and 1423's Jamaica 2019 DOK Pedro Ximenez Finish Single Barrel Selection are some of the highlights of the calendar's more complex expressions.
Another worthy beer calendar comes from craft beer club Beer52. With 14 different countries featured, this is one for those who love to explore the wider, international universe of craft beer.
The selection is very well put together, with styles ranging from West Coast IPA to best bitter, and from gose to coffee imperial porter.
Rothaus Eiszäpfle Märzen and Stiegl Helles will surely get all lager lovers out there – including yours truly – salivating. But special mentions go to De Molen's Christmas ale (Netherlands), a surprising red IPA from Budapest's Monyo Brewing, and a great classic, La Trappe Isid'Or. Yum.
The calendar retails for £59.99 and comes with a limited-edition tasting glass as well as scratchcards, which gives the chance to win free Beer52 cases, discounts and even "a year of free beer". That, I'm sure, would help you forget 2020.
Something a little more traditional comes from London's Fuller's brewery (Asahi-owned). The calendar features some of the famous Chiswick producer's most respected labels, from flagship beers such as London Pride and Frontier (obvs), to the iconic Golden Pride and 1845. Fuller's Black Cab Stout is featured too, one of the most underrated stouts out there in this writer's humble opinion.
Given that the box comes from a single brewery, the beer lineup is relatively limited so all labels feature at least twice. The selection though is still varied enough to make for a very pleasurable drinking experience.
An added plus: 23 days and 11.5L after your first pint, you'll be rewarded with the 2016 edition of Fuller's renowned Vintage Ale, certainly one that even Ebenezer Scrooge would happily toast Christmas Eve with.
Fuller's advent calendar is available from the brewery's website and taproom at £70. It's worth highlighting that the Vintage Ale alone would set you back £30, so if you're a traditional ale fan, this box would end up being a bit cheaper than buying the same selection from a shop and would add a little spice to this out-of-the-ordinary Christmas season.
While all these calendars can be shipped to UK postcodes, I can't assure they are available to international beer, cider and spirits lovers - sorry.
Also, in case you were wondering, I don't make a profit from the sale of any of these.