Craft Beer: Drink to Advent
ADVENT calendars used to be pretty uncomplicated affairs: 24 days, 24 doors - open one a day and bathe in the radiant glow of the celestial image behind and get ready for the imminent arrival of the Baby Jesus.
Then somebody started putting sweets in them and the slim chance any parent had of curtailing their child's sugary intake before the festive season really took hold were soon gone.
Nowadays, Advent calendars have progressed beyond glitter-covered pieces of coloured cardboard and can now contain all manner of things from cosmetics to cheese.
Not surprisingly, there's an ever-growing range of beer Advent calendars available now and whether you intend sinking a beer everyday for 24 days straight or not, some of them can be a bit hit and miss.
So to help you choose the right one for you, here's a very truncated and selected guide to beer Advent calendars.
First and foremost, you need to decide what you want from an Advent calendar. If it's the chance to get a wide range of beers and often specially reduced price, then there's plenty to choose from - more on that in a bit.
If you are a fan of a particular brewery, there is the option to plump for one from the likes of Beavertown or Brewdog. The chances of getting 24 different beers from one of these aren't very high, so you'll find a few doubles and suddenly realise that is isn't the voyage of discovery it promised to be.
For that, you'll need to get hooked up with one of the beer subscription sites such as Beer52, Beer Wulf or Honest Brew.
These tend to supply a good selection of different breweries and styles, but be careful - some Advent calendars can be an excuse to fire out some excess stock that's been knocking around the warehouse for a while.
Some companies will boast an Advent calendar with some exclusive brews in them, which will be reflected in the price tag, but very often these are seasonal brews, such as winter ales and warming stouts.
If 24 daily beers just doesn't cut it and you want more from you beery Advent calendar, then look no further than the Bier Company. Their calendar comes complete with two dozen beers, a few bags of snacks, a branded glass and even a pair of socks.
Beats the hell out of a minuscule picture of the Three Wise Men any day.