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Your guide to hosting a brilliant holiday bash

The holidays are coming up and you’re getting in the spirit. Before you know it, you’ve got a hankering to host a holiday party. But wait, isn’t that a huge amount of work? Relax — it’s not if you have a plan. Filling your home with good cheer (and good beer) will help you create warm holiday memories, and organization is the key to a smooth operation. Whether you’ve done it a dozen times or you’ve never hosted a big bash in your life, this handy step-by-step guide makes party-planning easy. Remember: Every tradition has to start somewhere!

  1. Make the list
  2. People’s December schedules fill up fast. To ensure that everyone you want at the party will be there, write that (guest) list, check it twice and send out invitations ASAP. (Put it on your to-do list this week, if possible.) If an appearance by Santa Claus or another festive character is in the cards and you’re not up for playing the part yourself, approach your first choice now to warn them that they’re going to be suiting up.

    Paper invitations are a nice touch if you have the time and inclination, but a digital invite that creates an automatic RSVP list is easier to keep track of. It’s up to you whether you want to go for the old-timey personal touch or modern convenience.

    As for scheduling your own time, give yourself some breathing room — namely, a little buffer around the date of the party. When hosting a bash, it’s always good to have a full day to set up (there’s always something you forget and then have to run out and grab at the last minute) and a free day after the party to clean up (and then flop on the couch afterward).

  3. Set the stage
  4. Ho ho hey, don’t just throw any old holiday party. Find a theme that ties together your invitations, decorations and maybe even your host outfit. Not only will it add to the fun factor, it’ll make your party seem like a can’t-miss, special, one-time event. You could use your favourite holiday movie or TV special as inspiration — or pick one that everyone knows and decorate accordingly.

    Whatever you go with, keep the decorations and music playlist on-theme. And feel free to go a bit bananas. When it comes to the holidays, there’s really no such thing as going over the top.

    Holiday costume parties are also a blast. If your guests are shy or need some guidance, give them a helpful suggestion — think Victorian or 1950s Christmas, ugly holiday sweaters or even a holiday pyjama party. And remember: if you have pets, they absolutely must be dressed in ridiculously cute costumes, too!

    To help people remember their crazy outfits forever, set up a photo booth. Don’t bother getting fancy — just hang up a sheet or paper backdrop. (Tip: Covering a large piece of cardboard with wrapping paper gives you an easy-but-fun background.) Add a box of props if you like and, of course, don’t forget the camera. If you have an old Polaroid and film around, that’s super-fun because everyone can take a souvenir photo home.

    For guests who didn’t get the costume memo, keep a stash of Santa hats to give away. And fear not, we have your noggins covered — The Beer Store is offering festive, light-up holiday toques this year!

  5. Raise a glass
  6. Beer is a crowd-pleaser for parties. Absolutely nothing is easier for the host — beer is just chill-and-serve. And since we have more than 800 varieties, there’s always something in stock that will fill the bill and complement your food lineup.

    For parties in any season, remember that buying beer in volume gives you the best value. You save an average of $9 when you buy a 2-4.

    As for what kinds to buy, variety works best. Some people go all-in when it’s winter and drink seasonal beers — stouts, dark ales and so on — while others don’t worry about matching the weather and stick to their fave pale ales, lagers, radlers and other lighter-flavoured varieties. Mix up your shopping list accordingly and consult our guide to buying beer for a crowd before heading to The Beer Store.

    What else will you need to grab for your thirsty guests? Something to drink the beer out of, naturally. Glassware is a nice touch for a small party, but for a larger crowd, you’ll probably find compostable disposable cups more practical. (No dishes to wash!)

    Finally, here’s a fun idea for serving beer: decorate your beer cooler like a big present, complete with wrapping paper and a bow. It’s the gift that’ll keep on giving, all evening long.

  7. Fill the table
  8. Food always brings people together, and the holidays are all about those special bites you share with family and friends. All it takes is a little light math to figure out what you need for your guests.

    Weigh up your appetizers. Use the “pound-per-person” rule to make sure you have plenty of bites for everyone (that’s 454 grams, if you’re being strictly Canadian about it). This is an especially easy method if you’re serving up tasty charcuterie and cheese boards.

    Finger foods are ideal, because they encourage mingling. And nibbles are even better when they don’t require fussing or even necessarily a plate — think meatballs, wings, latkes, tiny sandwiches, cupcakes and tarts.

    Also: have candy. Lots of candy. This is definitely the season for a little sweet indulgence. Pair up stouts with rich chocolate truffles, and brown and dark ales with molasses-based desserts, like cookies and cakes.

    Finally, if you’re fond of fondue, we’ve got an even better, easier party idea: our 5-Ingredient Beer & Cheese Dip. Serve it up with crackers, cubed bread, fresh veg or even tiny gherkins for dipping.

  9. Be a responsible host
  10. It’s part of your hosting duties to make sure everyone’s enjoying their drinks responsibly. Since you should never let someone drive who shouldn’t, it pays to be prepared for some surprise house guests at the end of the night. Your best strategies are to discourage attendees from driving to the party in the first place or, if they do, to be ready to provide an alternative, safe ride home. (In some communities, Operation Red Nose can send out volunteer drivers to shuttle guests home to their own beds.)

    How else can you drive the message home? (Sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves.) Give out grown-up gift bags — maybe little stockings, depending on your theme. Stuff them with goodies, like beer swag and bottle openers, as well as taxi chits and/or ride-share gift cards.

  11. Wrap it up
  12. No one likes being on the cleanup crew, so make it easier on yourself by decorating your recycling area as a hint to guests to put those empties in the right place. Try dressing up the bin like Santa’s sleigh or a giant sack of gifts to make it more fun. And remember that The Beer Store takes back everything we sell — cans, bottles, boxes, plastic rings and more. That’s our gift to you (and the planet) all year long.

    Finally, remember how you set aside a day for yourself to clean up and relax? Keep one celebratory beer for the day after the festivities — something that requires slow sipping by the fire, like an imperial stout or barleywine. That’s your gift to yourself for a hosting job well done.

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