Pintful: Celebrate the season with an Advent beer calendar

jfrank@newsobserver.comNovember 26, 2013 

  • Pintful Advent Beer Calendar

    I suggested this calendar largely from the shelves at Apex Beer Dispensary with an emphasis on local offerings. It’s a primer, of sorts, in holiday and local flavors.

    Dec. 1: Aviator Pumpkin Beast Transition from fall to winter with one more pumpkin beer.

    Dec. 2: Natty Greene's Red Nose The brewery's top-selling seasonal, a spiced winter warmer.

    Dec. 3: New Belgium Accumulation A white India pale ale worth a snow dance.

    Dec. 4: Sweetwater Festive Ale Molasses and a delicate hint of smokiness make this a well-named beer.

    Dec. 5: Hi-Wire Bed of Nails A brown ale from one of my favorite new Asheville breweries.

    Dec. 6: Foothills People's Porter Smooth with coffee, chocolate and toffee aromas and flavors.

    Dec. 7: Big Boss Hell's Belle Break the dark-beer streak with a flavorful Belgian pale ale.

    Dec. 8: Greenman IPA A great bitter bite to satisfy hop heads or stretch one's horizons.

    Dec. 9: Weyerbacher Winter Ale Dark but not overpowering with a strong roasted malt flavor.

    Dec. 10: Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout Indulge with this bold, luscious imperial stout.

    Dec. 11: Lonerider True Britt An English-styled bitter with balanced hop and malt character.

    Dec. 12: Thirsty Dog 12 Dogs of Christmas An apt-name for the day; brewed with honey and spice.

    Dec. 13: Mother Earth Dark Cloud This award-winning Munich Dunkel lager is dark but mild.

    Dec. 14: Anderson Valley Winter Solstice Subtle hints of vanilla and cinnamon stand out.

    Dec. 15: Boulevard Nutcracker Ale A hop-forward version of a traditional holiday ale.

    Dec. 16: Railhouse Oatmeal Stout The oatmeal adds a creamy head and mouth-feel.

    Dec. 17: Bell's Christmas Ale A toasty, caramel holiday ale without the spices.

    Dec. 18: 21st Amendment Fireside Chat A rich, strong ale with a satisfying spice flavor.

    Dec. 19: Victory Winter Cheers A straw-colored Belgian with bright flavors.

    Dec. 20: Oskar Blues Old Chub A malty Scottish ale with touch of smoke in a can.

    Dec. 21: Sierra Nevada Celebration A fresh-hopped IPA worth celebrating.

    Dec. 22: Heavy Seas Winter Storm An imperial extra-special bitter with nutty and earthy flavors.

    Dec. 23: Duck Rabbit Milk Stout A decadent treat. Pair with holiday cookies and save some for Santa.

    Dec. 24: Anchor Steam Christmas Ale This beer’s 39th year with a different recipe and label each time.

    Dec. 25: Blue Mountain Barrel House Blitzen In a 750 ml bottle with a cork, pop this Belgian strong dark ale and pass it around.

— Two years ago, my wife called and told me to drive to Apex to pick up an early Christmas gift.

The address she gave me put me downtown at the Apex Beer Dispensary. And inside, owner Tim Overcash handed me a red box with 25 individually wrapped long-neck presents.

Overcash called it an Advent Calendar Beer Box. “A countdown to Christmas Day with beer,” he said.

Each bottle was numbered for a surprise brew each day. As a beer enthusiast, I thought it was a perfect present.

And others agree. The concept has grown increasingly popular, even though Overcash does little to advertise it.

He heard about the idea from his brother, whose friend in Germany received an Advent beer calendar.

“The first year I figured I’d sell three,” he said.

Overcash sold 18 with only one sign advertising the promotion. He removed it after a week because he worried he wouldn’t have time to complete the orders.

The problem: They take time to assemble. As I talked to him at the bottle shop last week, his parents were at home wrapping the boxes. “It’s a family thing,” he said.

This year, Overcash sold more than 30. He cut off sales Monday to give him time to put them together before Dec. 1

The boxes are sold in three tiers at $60, $75 and $100. The first tier is all 12-ounce domestic microbrews. The second includes higher-end beers and a 750 ml bottle for the 25th day. The third tier – his most popular seller – includes some imported Belgian holiday ales with a big bottle from Belgium, such as a St. Bernardus Christmas Ale, on the final day.

Overcash enjoys his role as beer Santa. But he admits he gets jealous of the lucky recipients when he’s putting together the boxes.

Do-it-yourself box

Even though it’s now too late to order a box from the Beer Dispensary, Overcash walked me through how to make my own.

“Start with a box,” Overcash said, holding up a beer box that held 24 12-ounce beers, or four six-packs.

Get wrapping: Wrap the outside of box in holiday paper. Fold tissue paper into a cone-shape to fit over the top of each bottle and can or wrap each one with tissue paper or holiday paper by hand.

Pick the beer: This is the fun part. “The majority will be winter or Christmas ales,” Overcash said. “Then we kind of round it out with a few different styles so it’s not all the same, a few surprises and obviously things that people may not choose themselves.”

How to assemble: Either attach a number to each wrapped bottle in the box or make a calendar with numbers 1 through 24 scattered across the grid. Affix the calendar to the side of the box and follow the map to find the corresponding beer. Make a special wrapping for the No. 25 beer, which is usually a large, corked bottle.

Enjoy: Put the entire box in the refrigerator or a couple bottles at a time. And don’t worry if you don’t drink one a day – I couldn’t. I saved a few days worth of bottles and invited neighbors and friends to a holiday beer tasting.

Contact John at 919-829-4698 or

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