Sunday, December 5

My Thoughts on the Holiday Ale Festival, Portland, OR

This years fest seemed much the same as last years that I remember. There were however a couple of different things that caught my attention right off the bat when I arrived on Thursday late afternoon.

-$25? Why the price jump? (One person told me this was a tactic to keep the crowds down so the small space at the Pioneer Square wouldn't be too cramped...  to keep it more tight knit and elite in a way). I don't know if that is quite the case, but it does make sense.
Up near the $5 hotdog stand in the skybar

- Still at Pioneer Square? Really? This festival is at least my most anticipated festival of the year regarding beer. The rare local only brews by far outshine those at the Oregon Brewers Festival which isn't really local anymore...  and the rules to enter a beer in the OBF anymore kind of fits the term *cough* BS!

It was crowded. Lines grew quite long, and people grouped around in the areas that were supposed to be lines. I used to get mad at those people in high school that clogged the hallways like a piece of beef fat in an artery. At least I was able to sneak away up to the seating before entering the 'Skybar'. The skybar wasn't a new thing this year like many seemed to think. It was there last year too!

The security there this year seemed rather rude and aggressive as well. Maybe rightfully so since some who stay late (I usually don't, because I want to avoid the huge masses and drunken fools) get a little rowdy. I stopped for a moment on the 'balcony' and was hurried along. I remember last year being able to freely stand up there for some cool fresh air..  as most of the place this year had no cool fresh air.

The lovely Christmas Tree
 As always, the tree was nice. The beers were nice, and most of the people were nice. It was nice to run into some beer bloggers and home brewers etc and talk beer. I even ran into some old friends I hadn't seen for years which was nice.

I wanted to attend the event on 3 different days. I made it to 1. I felt pushed along, hurried, and cramped. I think it is intentionally designed to do that. Like a busy restaurant, they want to empty the seats as fast as they fill them. 

Next year I may just have to be the 11am arrival guy again, and leave by 2pm.

The Beers: Many were very solid, and only few stood out. I missed many as well as I only showed for 1 day.

My favorites in no particular order:

- Columbia River Brewing Co. A Porter with chocolate and vanilla and 7 different malts? Hell yeah...  perfectly smooth and not overly sweet. Many called it a dessert beer...  I don't think so...  it didn't scream ice cream. Very well balanced and smooth. I would have believed this 8.4% Alc. by Vol. could have easily been 6.5%

-Hopworks Kentucky Christmas. Their Abominabal Winter Ale aged in Buffalo Trace Bourbon barrels..  pure joy and amazement. This should be Hopworks bottled winter treat for the same price point as their Ace of Spades imperial IPA. (Anyone with me on this push?). Great balanced flavors without being too overpowering. Vanilla, mad hops and bitterness...  all balanced up nicely.

- Lompoc Franc'ly Brewdolph. This was a fantastic flavorful Red...  light spice and fruity esters..

- Lompoc 8 Malty Nights (special tapping). Another fantastic sweet strong ale with a big malt complexity. I really liked this brew...  reminds me of the next...

- North Coast Old Stock Ale (2008 vintage). Another special tapping that I thought was great. Very smooth, balanced...  and drinkable. This was my first beer there.

I missed Deschutes Jubel 2000. I saw it was up...  but had to use the honey bucket. On my way back out they had pulled the sign. Also my favorite (which I am sure stole the show) was Cascades Sang Noir 2009 & 2010. I have had so much of both, I didn't bother with them at the festival...  though many I spoke to (Including myself too) liked the 2010 much better.

Very solid but not the best:

- Lagunitas Brown Mashuggana. I am not a big fan of Lagunitas because of their overly sweet and sugary beers...  and this one was very sweet..  but it just had a great flavor. I actually really dug it where others didn't so much.

- Bridgeport Brewing Old Knucklehead. Great barleywine, and was unique. I enjoyed it, and was finally my first try of it after all these years living in and around Portland.

- Coalition Lost Glove. Upon entering, a drunken stranger said "no matter what beers you drink, don't touch the Coalition beer...  it tastes like rotten eggs, poop..  etc etc..". So I took a sip of a buddies and disagree. A very hop forward brew, and brewed with my favorite malt.. Golden Promise. I enjoy every beer brewed with it. The yeast was still a little heavy and active..  but overall it was nice. I just think it needed a little more time, or some conditioning in some bottles. Big potential.

- Double Mountain Bockus. A bock that was sweet, thick, and yummy. Very solid..  and that is about it. But then again...  the style itself is kind of tame.

- Boneyard Femme  Fatal. A light beer fermented with raspberries and cranberries. They called it a sour..  and it's certainly not a sour. They said medium bodied...  and it was most certainly light bodied. My thoughts on it is like their "Girly Beer"...  fruited. It's a beer for the ladies and folks that don't want all that strong malty sticky hoppy madness making their tummies upset. It was a solid brew, one to chug out on a boat fishing on a hot day. I am a huge fan of Boneyard, and their beers have always been stellar..  but this one fell short.

- Beer Valley Ho Ho Ho Strong Ale. A solid strong malty brew. That's it.

I know I had others, but after awhile you kind of forget them as the side effects start kicking in. I didn't really come across a beer I didn't like. But very few were amazing.
It was fun, and as always a great time with great people. I just hope they reconsider moving it to a larger area and allow a little more comfort room and standing room. The tables were nice...  but folks couldn't walk through them when occupied. Until next year!

If you see any mistakes, buy me a beer and I might just fix them!

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