Sunday, December 8, 2013

18th Annual Holiday Ale Festival 2013 Day 1

On Friday I went down to the Holiday Ale Fest to try this year’s selection of yuletide ales.  After being released from work a little early I took the MAX with a co-worker down to Pioneer Square, all bundled up and prepared for the hour long wait to get in.  It was especially cold this day and I was prepared for the worst case scenario.  After getting off the max though I was amazed to see no line at all, we just kept walking to the entrance to expecting to see hoards of shivering patrons, but none were to be found.   
After walking in I got my cup and tickets I found out that the cups where the standard plastic mugs from years past. This year there is a map of the various locations inside the tent which was nice.  I was a little disappointed that they did not decide to go the route of the Oregon Brewers Festival and use glassware but I understand why.  If a glass drops on the grass and dirt of Tom McCall Park it will probably be ok, but on the brick floor of Pioneer Square, there is little chance of survival. 
10 Barrel Brewing Co – Beernog – Spiced Winter Ale – 7.5% – 28 IBU –
This beer has an average, but quickly diminishing, deep chestnut head.  The aroma that comes off is boastful with the raisin and chocolate and hiding a hint of spice.  The first drink transfers the raisin aroma onto your tongue and the chocolate is not far behind.  The medium body leaves either a hot alcohol or slightly gritty, metallic feeling that stays with you.  Overall the beer was very drinkable and pleasant, in spite of the less than amazing finish.

Cascade Brewing – Cherry Diesel – Barrel Aged Imperial Stout – 11% – 50 IBU – A 
A great name for a great beer, a black muddy beer with a sparse dark head smells almost like a barley wine on first approach.  Upon closer inspection hints of molasses, raisin and chocolate come through with a backbone of bourbon to justifying its heavy alcohol aroma.  Upon the first sip you are engulfed in the chocolate and cherry flavors that are followed up by slight vanilla on exhalation.  This full bodied behemoth is thick but effervescent.  Stylistically it may be a little too lively with the carbonation but this does not detract from the beer in the least, only enhancing the chocolate and cherry.  This liquid cherry cordial lasted me a long time it was very easy to savor.  A desert beer definitely, and one I would choose over any chocolate cake.

I was about to go grab my next beer and low and behold who did I see?  Not one, but two Santa Clauses.  Of course I had to get a picture with the old saints, they both seemed pretty busy and didn't regale me with a story of lying to Mrs. Claus in order to get out of the North Pole like in previous years.  Just time for a photo op then back to the drinking, which I can respect. To be fair these guys were kind of phoning it in with the Santa outfit. Previous years Santa had a real beard and a real back-story for his costume.

Alameda Brewing Co. – Long Beard’s Baltic Porter – 6.4% – 30 IBU – C+
A sparse and fleeting head was on top of this surprisingly see-through black beer.  One whiff and the chocolate and lightly smoked and burnt aroma beg you to take a drink.  When you concede the result is a pretty standard porter with a hint of smoke and a bit of alcohol burn.  The medium mouth-feel was surprisingly light for such a dark beer.  I consumed this beer rather quickly I don’t know if that was because it wasn’t my favorite or what but it did leave a toasty aftertaste for you to remember it by.

Base Camp Brewing Co. – White Squall – Wheat Wine – 10.7% – 60 IBU – B-
This light amber beer monster of a beer had a floral and spicy, light clove, smell without the detectible alcohol aroma you would expect from such a big beer.  The flavor was definitely showcasing the malty wheat flavor.  A light body and above average carbonation gave this beer a unique perspective on a traditional barley wine.  It almost tasted like a darker beer but I couldn’t quite pinpoint why it gave me that impression.

Deschutes Brewery – The Abyss (2009) – Imperial Stout – 11% – A
A nice surprise I discovered while exploring the Holiday Ale Fest was The Abyss Vertical booth.  They were pouring vintages of The Abyss from 2009-20012, although these cost 2 tickets for a taster pour I decided I would try it. An excellent head topped this murky black beer deserving of its name.  The bouquet that was erupting from the top of my glass was that of all things dark, toasted, coffee, roasted, toffee.  Upon drinking you can almost feel the oak barrels that this was aged in and a light raisin flavor gives pops in to say hello.  A fully developed thick creamy body with soft carbonation finishes smooth and makes you understand why it was worth the two tickets.  This is all-around great stout and beer.  I only wish I could have had 24 tickets to spare so I could have tried full glasses of each vintage next to each other, but alas I must move on.  
Firestone Walker Brewing Co. – Luponic Merlin – Oatmeal Stout – 5.5% – 30 IBU - A+
This dark black ale gave off light toasted chocolatey, hidden behind the belligerent citrus and grapefruit aroma.  A thick full bodied beer with a smooth finish immediately jumped up to the top of my favorite stouts ever list.  The very aggressive and up front hop aroma balances well with the roasted flavor of the stout.  I would like to make a clone of this beer.  I think this is probably Velvet Merlin dry hopped with a load of Citra to give it that characteristic hop nose.

Stickmen Brewery – The Twerking Elf – Northwest Sour Brown – 7.2% – 21 IBU – B+
I actually decided to try this beer on the warning that it "tasted like shit" from a girl that I can only assumed was drawn to the name more than the description.  A sparse but lasting head covered this dark brown ale that gave off a slight sour peach aroma mixed with some acetic acid.  The mild vinegar fragrance was not strong enough to burn your nose but it was enough to let you know it's presence. Having a medium body this was a pretty good sour beer.  

While walking to get my next beer I found this fellow who was wearing a pretty sweet sweatshirt.  Fake ugly Christmas sweater vest printed on a sweatshirt.  He had a British accent and said he got it from Macy's so I don't think he was just another Portland hipster but who knows, the accent could have been ironic.

Lagunitas Brewing Co. – High West Whiskey Barrel Aged Cappuccino Stout – Stout – 12.5% – 30 IBU – B
With an eighth of an inch of lasting dark creamy head this black beer gave off a light toffee and raisin aroma with a hint of brown sugar hiding behind the bold whiskey smell.  When you try this cappuccino stout you can pick up the coffee flavor but it is the whiskey barrel taste is much more present. A fully developed thick and creamy body that finishes smooth makes this beer very pleasant to drink .

Ryan                         Me                              Jachin
When going to grab my final beer of the night I felt a tug on my scarf from the side.  I looked over and saw two gentlemen spouting gibberish at me.  After talking with them for a while I found out that they thought I was someone else and the gibberish was nicknames of houses in Corvallis.  The color of my scarf, I can only assume, led them to believe I was a Beaver fan.  I found out their names were Ryan and Jachin, who were brothers and had attended OSU.  We started talking about majors and I found out Ryan was a biology major and I told him I was an engineer.   Jachin quickly began the "ahhhh NEEEERD" and then he asked if he could be my butler because he apparently thought engineers make "Butler Money".  I decided to get a picture because I was drunk and thought it would be a funny anecdote.  As we were taking the picture a girl walked by and Jachin asked if she would be in the picture, using the photo op to hit on her.  She took a couple pictures and informed him she was married.  This was obviously not satisfactory to Jachin because he promptly kicked her out of the picture and she moved on.

Elysian Brewing Co. – Doom – Golden Treacle Pale – 7.4% – 67 IBU – B
This beer had little in the way of head, like most beers here being poured from pitchers instead of direct from the tap. The light amber color was a nice break from all of the dark ales that have consumed the festival.  With a smell of caramel citrus and grapefruit you could detect a light pear aroma hiding somewhere.  A light body with a creamy texture and a soft carbonation this beer was very different from most other offerings at the festival.  Overall a pretty good bear definitely a nice beer to finish up with.

Closing thoughts:
I love beer fests, these are my people; drunk and friendly I can talk to anyone about beer and make recommendations to complete strangers and, for the most part, they know what I am talking about.  I had a really pleasant time at the Holiday Ale Festival this year.  The weather outside was frightful, but the beer was so delightful.

Stay Tuned for Day 2 of Holiday Ale Fest 2013.

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