“Do you want to help wrap some bottles?” Kay Lorenz, owner of Braintree’s Craft Beer Cellar, says a couple weeks before Thanksgiving.
For each of the last four years, Lorenz and staff (with help from her mother) have assembled beer-themed Advent boxes for a couple hundred customers, who unwrap one of 24 brews on each day between Dec. 1 and Christmas.
The Magi might be dismayed to know that you can find just about any kind of Advent calendar these days with a quick Google search, from a Harry Potter-themed version “perfect for the house elf in your life” to a Corgi sock advent, which retails for $495 on Mr. Porter. In that context it’s hard to argue whether a beer Advent is more or less pious.
Craft Beer Cellar’s version is a labor of love, not just because of the red and green tissue paper. Each year’s box is different, and the challenge of filling them has grown somewhat as brewers move away from a strict calendar of seasonal releases.
“We print out a calendar for the month, and try to place each beer on the right day,” says Lorenz. “We’re aware that Chimay Blue (9 percent alcohol by volume) should not go on a Monday night. I think some people are like, ‘Oh are you trying to get rid of beers?,’ but we put a lot of thought into this.”
The contents of the box (which retails for $75) are a surprise, though a handful of beers have remained in consistent rotation, including Winter Solstice, a winter warmer style beer from Anderson Valley, Anchor Brewing’s Christmas Ale, and Merry Monks, a triple style made by Weyerbacher.
“People are so wonderfully open-minded,” says Lorenz. “This is a way where their hand is kind of forced to try something new. Some people will come in and buy a six-pack of something they really liked. Or they’ll say they hated something, and we know not to offer them any more Belgian tripels.”
She adds that the boxes remain extremely popular.
“Even if we wanted to stop doing it, I don’t think we could,” says Lorenz. “No matter how old you are, everyone loves opening a surprise.”
Several Craft Beer Cellar locations have gotten into the Advent spirit. For a list of locations, and to inquire about the boxes, go to craftbeercellar.com.Gary Dzen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.