beer and apps and other holiday traditions

i absolutely love traditions.  and, when it comes to traditions centered around the holidays, i'm equally enthusiastic about keeping alive the ones that david and i grew up loving as well as starting news ones for our little family.  having the pleasure of creating christmas magic for jack for the first time this year (he was only 8 weeks old last christmas...a bit too young to take in all the christmas pleasures), we thought a lot about holiday traditions that we currently keep and the ones that we would like to start- the traditions that will shape jack's christmas memories. one of the traditions that both david and i grew up with is having our santa presents all laid out in a pile, unwrapped in the living room.  we both agreed to continue this for our children since we loved it so much from our childhood (and it prevents so much paper waste!).  a tradition that originated in my home that we decided to continue is getting new pajamas on christmas eve night to wear on christmas morning (it's important to look cute and festive for those early morning photos!).  and, my family always takes a family picture on christmas eve or christmas day each year.  both my parents and i frame the photos and bring them out only during the holiday season to decorate with.  david has several childhood christmas traditions that we would like to continue: celebrating the season with "festive drink"- a kid-friendly cocktail of sprite and cranberry juice, making a christmas book box that gets unpacked each year when we decorate for the season, and "sledding" (in pensacola, this meant going down a grassy hill on a cardboard box!) on christmas eve.

it will be a long while until jack fully participates in this tradition with us, but this year we started a new tradition of a holiday beer tasting  and appetizer dinner.  it was so much fun and tasty!  we tasted six different beers and after each blind taste, we critiqued the beer and ranked them to choose our favorite. while we were tasting, jack sat in his high chair at the table observing the merriment and playing with his toys.  so, his participation this year and for many to come was as an observer, but he seemed to have fun too!  following the beer tasting and jack's bedtime, we made appetizers to share (some of us broke the rules and made too many, so there was tons of food!).  it was super fun and exciting for us to start a new tradition, especially one that includes an activity and delicious food!

here is what we thought of the following beers in our 2010 tasting menu:

jolly pumpkin noel de calabazabrewed by jolly pumpkin artisan ales: a strong, dark brown beer that has a sweet wine-like flavor of fruit (plum) and smokiness.  the beer was silty and it was our least favorite beer of the tasting.

samuel smith winter welcome ale:  a lightly colored, but hazy beer that was described as refreshing with extra hoppiness.  this beer tasted a lot like citrus juiced iced tea.  one of the tasters found it to give a strange aftertaste.  the experienced beer drinkers thought it tasted a lot like a thinner sierra nevada.

2 below by new belgian brewing company: a light amber beer that was described as fresh, hoppy, and bright with a lemony essence.

rogue santa's private reserve by rogue brewery: an amber-colored beer with a smooth, clean, nutty flavor that reminded some of the tasters of a sam adams brew.

the second place beer (and our only non-holiday selection, but it was allowed in since it was local and new!)- from the pensacola bay brewery (, rip tide : a light amber colored, sweet beer with a sweet wine smell and the essence of grape juice.  very good and we loved that it was brewed right in pensacola!

and, our 2010 winner- samuel adams chocolate bock: a dark brown, coffee-colored beer with a smooth, sweet fruity flavor that had a caramel/butter essence.  it was delicious!

and. let's not forget the appetizers, which were delicious!  mom and dad made three ( i told you some people didn't follow the rules!)- jalapeno stuffed olives and cherry tomatoes rolled in cream cheese and pecans, roasted oysters wrapped in bacon, and baked brie.  jessica made baked phyllo wrapped asparagus.  and, david and i made scallop and shrimp gratin.  we learned the hard way that cheap, sweet champagne is not the best choice for this dish, but the delicious pensacola seafood saved us.

we are looking forward to all the holidays to come and all the traditions that will develop with our growing family!