Hanukkah in the Brodsky family was always a memorable experience. Some of my fondest childhood memories took place around the glow of the menorah. But my Hanukkah was a bit more eccentric than my friends’ holidays. The Brodsky Hanukkah had songs, dances, jokes, delicious food, games and, thanks to my father, lots of puns (“I love you a latke!”).
My father, Bert, was quite the wordsmith. As a high school English teacher, he would often make up unique verses to popular Hanukkah songs like “I Have a Little Dreidel” or “Oh Hanukkah.” He would even weave mine and my brother’s name into these songs.
My mother, Adrienne, a quintessential Jewish mom whose life revolved around her children, instilled in us how important family was at a very early age. The queen of online deals—an impressive feat in the early 2000s—she would spend hours searching the internet for bargains we couldn’t afford to buy in the store. Gift-giving was also a bit different in our home. In the Brodsky household, we would help each other find hidden presents as we shouted “hot” or “cold” (something my parents stole from Passover, when the youngest child was tasked with finding the afikomen).
From as far back as I can remember, my brother and I would perform what we called the “Maccabee March.” Taught to us in nursery school and only 30 seconds long, this dance would put the biggest smile on my mother’s face, even when she wasn’t feeling her best. At her request, we continued this dance until I was in my 20s.
These are the unique childhood memories that I cherish and hold dear. As a high school student, I lost my father to complications from diabetes while my mother was battling ovarian cancer. Two years later, my mother lost her battle after a courageous fight. These experiences motivated me to reflect and explore what keeps me going, and I came to see that I am energized by entrepreneurship.
As a junior in college in the heart of the Great Recession (and barely legal), I started a side hustle to make some extra money. I put on lederhosen and taught tourists visiting Vermont about craft beer by leading tours of local breweries. These tours soon encompassed all of my free time, and I left my job in finance to found my company, City Brew Tours.
One business partner and 11 years later, City Brew Tours now works with over 150 brewery partners across 12 cities in North America. In March 2020, after successfully completing the acquisition of Brewvana, one of the most established brewery tour operators on the West Coast, and in late-stage negotiations with multiple franchisees, we were poised for a great year. And then came COVID-19.
Our current business model was not built to withstand the coronavirus. We ceased all operations on March 18, and in a matter of days, my business partner and I watched our cash reserve disappear as groups requested refunds due to canceled events.
It’s during difficult times like this that I wonder what my parents’ advice might be. My mother used to say, “When one door closes, another one opens.” I knew there was an opportunity in this dark time, but I didn’t know how to find it and if it would be enough to support my staff.
After creating a series of virtual craft beer experiences mostly for team-building, I set my mind to thinking about the holidays. Seeking inspiration, I did what any millennial would do: I turned to Google. That’s when I stumbled across Advent calendars.
As a Jew, I remember the first time I saw an Advent calendar. I was 10 years old in my local drug store, perusing the holiday aisle, when a box with 24 perforated windows filled with different chocolates caught my eye. I had never heard of such a concept before! Recipients would get a new and different chocolate to look forward to each day. While I still had no clue about the religious significance of Advent, I was enamored by this concept.
Twenty-three years later, those Advent calendars gave me the idea I needed to continue to pivot my business, and the Hoppy Hanukkah Craft Beer Experience was created. Like the Advent calendar, the Hoppy Hanukkah box includes eight craft beers, each placed under a numbered, perforated window for each of the eight nights of Hanukkah. We’ve handpicked beers ranging from juicy double IPAs to jelly-doughnut flavored Saisons—plus brewery swag, a tasting guide, chocolate gelt and other fun surprises. In addition to the beer, we will host a nightly live interactive beer appraisal and virtual gathering with some awesome special guests and, who knows, we might even throw in some of Bert Brodsky’s songs!
As a new dad, I look forward to passing down these unique traditions of Hanukkah to my daughter. As a craft beer lover, I look forward to cracking one (or eight!) open this Hanukkah with all of you! “One for each night, they shed a sweet light, to remind us of days long ago.”
Get your Hoppy Hanukkah Craft Beer Box here. Orders close on Nov. 30.
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