Holiday Ale Festival

Posted on December 8, 2011 by Bob

Maybe you CAN have too much fun. Heaven knows I tried my best to do just that.

Winter Ale festivals generally consist of high octane Porters, Browns, Stouts and some things called Winter Warmers or Christmas Ales, which are similarly noted for using high-achiever yeasts that convert sugar into alcohol at a higher than normal rate. There was certainly nothing disappointing about the selection of beers and friendliness of the servers. Once the lines started forming, guests were quickly given their 4 oz tastes.

I could only spend the one day at the festival, but what a day it was. The AMTRAK from Seattle to Portland is an absolute delight. Fast, efficient, scenic and relaxing. It gave us lots of time to scope out the official festival guide I downloaded so we could make our selections well ahead of the festival opening gun. The Portland station was close to the festival site, with free MAX service to boot.

The venue was in some large heated tents in Pioneer Courthouse Square in downtown Portland. It had pretty much everything you would want at a festival; ample clean restrooms, tasty food and lots and lots of beer choices. The people working the stations were knowledgeable, friendly and eager to serve.

The festival quickly grew from wide open spaces to elbow-to-elbow closeness. I am not sure what could have been done to improve this, but it does need some attention before next year.

I must say I was impressed with the way Portlanders prepared their attack schemes. Lots of marking up of the program and writing up their impressions of the beers they tried. I am more accustomed to seeing people hit the first station in the row and being a little more spontaneous (okay, random) in where they went next.

Many of the people I talked to had been to this festival many times before and had a pretty good idea of what brews they wanted and what order they wanted to have them in. Me too. Well, in the beginning. And then it meandered a bit as I saw things that looked interesting, and well, I was there, and not too sure where the next one I marked actually was.

Here is a list of what brews were being served. Their web site touts this as the best beer festival in Portland. I have been to the Spring and Summer festivals in years past and found them equally enjoyable – save for the fact that there was definitely a higher percentage of “gotta-have-it” beers at this one.

The Beers!

Here are my first ten choices. There was easily another ten I wished I could have come back for:

  1. My “winner” was Ten Fidy 2008 from Oskar Blues (CO) – a limited release beer
  2. Papa Noel’s Moonlight Reserve Olde Ale – Alameda Brewing Company – Portland, OR
  3. Bary White’s Voice in a Barrel (Dry Foreign-style Stout)- Bison Brewing – Berkeley, CA
  4. Drunken Elf Stout (Imperial Oatmeal Stout) – Columbia River Brewing – Portland, OR
  5. 100% Bourbon Barrel Aged Velvet Merkin (Oatmeal Stout) – Firestone Walker Brewing Company – Paso Robles, CA
  6. Laughing Boy Stout – Lahat Neppur Brewing Company – Waitsburg, WA
  7. Bonaparte’s Retreat (Corsican Christmas Ale) – Laurelwood Brewing Company – Portland, OR
  8. The Nutcracker (Gingerbread Imperial Porter) – Oakshire Brewing – Eugene, OR
  9. Peppermint Paddy Porter (Chocolate and Peppermint Porter) – Widmer Bros Brewing Company – Portland, OR
  10. Chocolate Mint Stout ’11 – Gligamesh Brewing Company – Turner, OR

Photography and content by Bob Shoemaker 
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