Supply chain disasters, excessive shipping times, cargo ships stuck in limbo. If you listen to the media, you might as well just give up on a festive holiday. But if you think about it, these stories and more resurface every few years, and every year we manage to survive the holiday shipping and shopping fiascos. But what if we could do more than just survive? What if we actually looked forward to the holidays? But in this chaotic world, how do we actually go about doing that? Why, beer, of course! To be more specific, crafting holiday traditions with craft beer!
I mean, it is the season for traditions. “The earliest recorded festivities in honor of a new year’s arrival date back some 4,000 years to ancient Babylon.” Thanksgiving feasts, while evolving over the years, have been celebrated in the U.S. since 1621. Although Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday in the U.S. until 1870, St. Nicholas, the legend of Santa Claus, can be traced back to 280 A.D. (history.com)
Christmas Traditions Remembered
When I was young, our entire extended family would converge on my grandparents’ farmhouse in South Dakota. We would have the large traditional Christmas dinner, complete with a kids’ table and the biggest Christmas tree in the world. Visiting the farm now, some 45 years later, that farmhouse living room, with a circular wooden coffee table, rocking chair, couch, piano, a wood burning stove, and several bookcases, could never house the Christmas tree I remember. Regardless, when I was little, that tree was the biggest, most magical thing in the world.
Unlike our Christmas outfits, which we were constantly adjusting and complaining about how much they itched and we were hot, and please couldn’t we put on pajamas. Nope. So holds true for yet another holiday tradition of getting all dolled up.
Traditions Change with Life Events
I remember those times fondly. Then life changed, as it so often does, and my parents got divorced and cousins moved away, and the farmhouse became a visit few and far between. Then, having our own kids, new traditions began, less of dressing up the kids, more of creating art, less of stuff, more of experiences. And now we often find ourselves away from family for the holidays, kids all grown up, us living in an RV, traveling to new places, eating new foods, experiencing new cultures.
Traditions are now becoming more and more about new adventures, new craft beers, new places. Experiences that involve something different every year, instead of the same. Something that pushes past comfort zones, into the land of unknowns.
Thanksgiving has been spent on a beach in Thailand; in Gulf Shores, Alabama, eating shrimp and ribs, and even in Baja. We’ve experienced Christmas on the snowy slopes of Colorado and the beaches of Mazatlan, Mexico. We’ve partied for New Years in Arizona and California. And all of those experiences, for us at least, involve craft beer. Craft beer and travel traditions for the holidays. That’s something to build upon. No shipping or supply chain worries here.
Craft Beer Holiday Traditions
It’s time to start thinking differently when it comes to crafting holiday traditions. Whether those traditions become beercations or bottle shares with friends at home, craft beer holiday traditions create valuable experiences. Ones without the worry of shipping times or mall shopping excursions. Ones that bring friends and families closer together. Here are just a few ideas to get you started on your own craft beer holiday traditions.
Ring in the New Year with a special craft beer instead of champagne.
While champagne is the traditional drink of choice for celebrations, there’s nothing wrong with ringing in the New Years with a special craft beer instead. Or bring a rare bomber or seasonal release to a dinner party. Woods Boss Brewing Co’s Magical Narwahl Candy Cane Unicorn, for example. Just the name makes it special. And just right for the magical moments of the holidays.
Find one that resonates with you: an imperial stout, a special release IPA, a fancy bottle complete with the fancy wax to seal it. The best way to stay on top of special releases is to simply follow your favorite breweries on social media or sign up for their newsletters. There are some common releases every year; here are just a few:
Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale – First brewed in 1981, Celebration Ale has become one of the most loved brews of the holiday season.
Anchor Brewing’s Christmas Ale – First brewed in 1975, with the recipe evolving every year, the purpose is the same; joy for the changing seasons and celebration of the newness of life.
Stone Brewing’s Xocoveza – First brewed in 2014, this stout is reminiscent of a Mexican hot chocolate and has become an anticipated release and now a tradition during the holiday season. Why not add some tres leches to that recipe?
Brewing beer for the holidays is truly a gift that keeps on giving. If you don’t know how, learn. Learn with friends. Learn for your friends. Homebrewing can become a tradition in itself. You could brew every Thanksgiving and then have your brew at Christmas dinner. You could brew a different stout every year and age it for the next year. Our first two homebrews, a brown ale for the adults and a root beer for the kids became unique and sought after Christmas presents.
Like to travel and still want to homebrew? It’s possible. Check out the video below. We even brewed…in Baja…in our RV…and on the beach! Less Stuff! More experiences!
Pick a new location to visit around the holidays and choose that location based on a brewery you want to visit. It doesn’t have to be far away; in fact, it could be right in your own backyard. Denver, for example, has many neighborhoods with many breweries to match any style. RiNo is a popular beercation destination in the Denver area. Click here for our RiNo brewery guide.
Or head to Austin for some winter time warmth. With over 30 breweries within Austin’s city limits your holiday craft beer traditions are only just beginning. Or Portland, Maine, or Asheville, North Carolina, or wherever you want to go.
And it doesn’t have to be a city. With many farm breweries popping up everywhere, you can truly get away from the chaos of the city and the holidays by wandering off to a farm where you can enjoy farm to table food, specialty craft beers, and time to do absolutely nothing. Some, like Jester King Brewery in Austin and Vista Brewing in Driftwood, Texas (tiny homes in the works), even have tent spaces, cabins, and hotel rooms to make your visit a true destination. Others are Harvest Hosts, where you can pull up in your RV and spend the night.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the idea of planning a beercation, or just don’t want to do it all yourself, you can actually hire a Beercation Consultant. Us! We’ll do all the research for you, and all you’ll have to do is show up and drink beer.
Craft Beer Art
This could mean so many things. It could mean learning how to create jewelry, framed images, wall art, and more from leftover bottles, cans, bottle caps, coasters, Koozies, etc. Dig deep into your creative soul and see what you come up with.
It could also mean searching for that perfect bottle of craft beer that has the perfect label art or that perfect name that ideally matches your best friend’s personality. Searching for craft beer while you travel can be entertaining in itself, but now that you are searching for that perfect craft beer personality pairing, well, you’ve totally just upped the entertainment level.
Traveling for beer or not, if you love craft beer, you will more than likely have a few bottles (or cans or crowlers) that you would love to share with friends. Planning a night in for a bottle share event is one of the easiest and coolest ways to bring people closer together. It’s really simple. Set a date. Buy some snacks or order some pizza. Bring out all the cool beers (or just a few) you’ve been collecting for a few weeks or months, or head to your favorite brewery to purchase some special release beers to go. Invite your friends to do the same. Share the beer. Talk about the beer. Laugh. Converse. Enjoy!
Craft Beer Event Pairings
Take your beer share one step further with a beer and food pairing event. No matter where you happen to be in the world, food will bring people together. So, gather a random group of people or your best peeps on the entire planet, plan a potluck, or create an exotic dish.
Bring out a variety of craft beers from all your travels or from your favorite hometown breweries, and have fun experimenting with how the different flavors of beer pair with the various flavors of foods and spices. Be sure to take notes in your very own Craft Beer Adventure Journal, so then the next time you host a beer and food pairing event, you can be the expert on what pairs well with what (or at least you can think you are).
Need some guidance to get you started? Check out this handy dandy cheat sheet.
Really need some help on craft beer and food pairings or just simply want to learn how to taste craft beer? Hire the experts. Us! We plan; we teach. You taste.
What are your Holiday Traditions?
That should get you started on craft beer traditions. Let us know if you think of more. We’d love to share them.
And when you get bored or want to do something different, break traditions and create new ones. After all, there’s way too many people to meet, places to go, conversations to have, and beer to drink to keep doing the same things over and over again.
Stout Life Store
Represent your favorite craft beer people. Check out the Stout Life Store for shirts galore!
Still want some stuff?
We’ve got some ideas on that for you, too.
Want more ideas on beer?
And not quite ready for winter beers?