Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Fifth Annual Holiday Open House

For the past five years we have opened our home for a day in December so friends could come and enjoy some holiday cheer. We consider it the best group gift we could give. With contributions of food and drink from friends (some insist) we also get gifts in addition to the joy of spending the afternoon with people we love. We get the house decorated, holiday music on, all the lights on and we party!

Each year we try to include different elements, whether it is homemade foods, unique beverages, or activities. This way the party never gets stale and the invite is viewed with some anticipation.

This year we decided to focus on beverages and created an activity from one of our ideas. We took the easy road with food so we could focus on socializing and get the most out of our plans.

In my holiday wine advice post I presented a recipe for a mulled red wine. This was new for open houses and it was a hit. I drank the very last glass of it while I was cleaning up. I couldn’t even use the ladle to extract the last bit from the crock-pot meaning my guests had gotten all they could from it. I was so happy. The only tweak to the recipe I made was to add 3 ounces of brandy. I also made a double recipe, requiring two bottles of wine. I used my early bottled (no MLF and limited oak) Chilean Malbec made in May of this year.

The second beverage idea was a holiday beer tasting. Every year breweries all over the world release limited production beers to celebrate the end-of-year holidays. Prior to my research and this tasting I had minimal experience with these seasonal brews. In all of the reading many of the descriptions of the brews intrigued me. The styles span quite a range, with some made merely to celebrate the passing of another year and others representing beers typically consumed during the colder months; with flavors evocative of Christmas. Could I really go wrong?

Some of these beers are not widely available and/or sell out quickly so finding them can be challenge. I lined up the following beers after 6 weeks of searching.

Rogue Yellow Snow
Sierra Nevada Celebration
Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve Ale
Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome
Delerium Noel
Ayinger Celebrator

The order above is the order we tasted them in. I prepared some horseradish cheese and candied pecans to samples with the beers. I always find something to pair add excitement but also helps transition.

( now don't they look happy together! )

A quick break for some food and guest shots.

( Amy's cheese crisps with avocado mousse and roasted red peppers. )

( Ed, Jim, Brian & Margot. Must have been a serious comment about the food... )

( Missy's carefully prepared veggie plate. )

( our tree )

OK, back to the beers.

The overall winner was the Delerium Noel with the Ayinger Celebrator and Sierra Nevada Celebration closely behind. I had more fun than I had hoped and really enjoyed getting to know some new beers. Everyone who tasted had the chance to see what they liked and didn’t, and having had fun at the same time there were no complaints. We are all quite sure Ed does not like hoppy bitter beers!

Here are my notes on the beers:

Rogue Yellow Snow – definitely a golden ale with a nice head and tons of hop aromas. The flavors of citrus were right there for you. It has a bitter finish, but not surprising for an IPA.

Sierra Nevada Celebration – this pours red/orange with a great aroma that isn’t too aggressive. I got great flavors of orange peel, pine and bitter herbs. A bit of spice on the finish.

Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve Ale – this beer has a nice balance of malt and hop flavors with a milder disposition that you might think at first. I didn’t get the spicy flavors I expected, but wasn’t disappointed.

Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome – this is an amber ale with sweet malty flavors and spice that is easy to find. This went down very well.

Delerium Noel – this is a light brown ale with a ton is spiciness and sweetness. Truly makes you think of Christmas. One of the tasters suggested it reminded her of baked beans. This beer is wonderfully balance and shouldn’t last long!

Ayinger Celebrator – this beer is dark brown in color with lots of malty aromas and flavors. It reminded me of Russian Black Bread. The sweetness is there but not beyond beer standards.

( this bottle is so festive! ) 

We didn’t break out the ice shot glasses that I had prepared merely because we didn’t have a second wave that was looking for something new to drink on their way through. We had peppermint schnapps ready to go. Next weekend!

( Melissa and Betsy )

( Wayne & Meredith )

( Andrea and Kristy )

( Paul and Margot )

Everyone who came had lots of fun and some even went home with leftovers!! We had lots of cookies left, but those were shared with Margot’s co-workers.

Cheers to another successful holiday open house!


p.s. I realized when going through the pictures that there weren’t any of me or Margot and I. We failed on that one!


Kate said...

Looks like a fun party, Jason! We're getting ready for our 6th annual Jan 7th. It's wacko because we have about 150 show up. I'm starting to cook next weekend :-) Kate@kateiscooking

Brian Samuels Photography said...

What a fantastic party, Jason! Great beer choices! ;-)

Kim - Liv Life said...

Looks like a wonderful evening! Our neighborhood always has something similar for New Year, but we rotate houses. Last year was my turn, and I'm looking forward to being a guest this year. Not sure what I'm bringing yet, but I did hear we are doing a similar tasting with tequila! Heard someone found an organic one!
Love your photos!

Carolyn said...

I've always loved the idea of a Christmas Open House. We have three small kids so it just isn't practical at the moment, but someday. I love mulled wine, and I really like your blog!

Lisa | Authentic Suburban Gourmet said...

What a great tradition! I agree this is the best kind of gift. My husband and I love the serria nevada celebration beer, in fact there is a case in the garage fridge. Happy Holidays to you both!!

Pam @ Sticks Forks Fingers said...

How nice! Margot, you looked beautiful, as usual, as did the food and tree! I love how you change it up a little to keep things fresh, while retaining the tradition.

I'm also delighted to see two of your offerings, Yellow Snow and Santa's Reserve from our favorite Rogue Brewery in OREGON!!! You two really really need to visit to take in all of our tremendous food/wine/microbeer offerings! More fun, less expensive and far less crowded than Napa!!!

Happy Holidays.

Jason Phelps said...

Thanks everyone for all the kind comments. I look forward to this time of year because for me it is a celebration of another year spending time with people doing things we have fun doing. As a nearly 8 year cancer survivor, and not being religious, this time of year is one big New Years/Birthday/Anniversary/Loving the Bonus Round party for me!!!