How to Enjoy the 2016 Holiday Ale Festival and Beer Recommendations
I love the Holiday Ale Festival! It is one of my two favorite Portland beer festivals. I was there most of yesterday , Wednesday December 1st, and I enjoyed lots of food and 38 of the 53 standard release beers.
Jim and Beth’s Holiday Ale Festival Story
Yesterday I met Jim and Beth at the Holiday Ale Festival and their Holiday Ale Festival story exemplifies what makes it so special to so many people.
Jim lived in Portland for many years and attended the Holiday Ale Festival many times. Three years ago Jim moved to North Carolina. It was there that Jim met Beth and he introduced Beth to me as “his love.” I wish that you could have seen the smile on his face when he introduced her.
Jim brought Beth to Portland to show “his love” the city that “he loves” and their first stop in Portland was at the 2016 Holiday Ale Festival. I am pleased to report that Beth was having a great time and was enjoying the Holiday Ale Festival as much as Jim was. Their story warmed my heart.
Holiday Ale Festival Details
The Holiday Ale Festival — also known as HAF takes place at Pioneer Courthouse Square downtown Portland, Oregon. The entire event is tented and they even heat this event. If you have not been to this beloved Portland beer festival, go check it out and thank me later.
While this is a beer festival, make sure that you take in the whole experience. Enjoy the Christmas music, allow time to visit with friends, enjoy a meal, and make sure to get some of the Oregon artisan cheese, and get some roasted nuts or roasted chestnuts.
Here are my suggestions for getting the most out of this festival followed by my beer recommendations.
#1 Go with Friends! This a great event to have friends join you.
#2 Go see the good people at Family Tree Nut Company and get a bag of cinnamon almonds or chestnuts.
#3 Go buy some Willamette Valley Cheese from Nicole. Get your beer, remember which one you got, walk over to Nicole, tell her which beer you have, and she will pair your beer with the perfect piece of cheese. Each piece is only $1.00.
#4 Get a Meal while at the Holiday Ale Festival.
Urban German is a Portland beer festival staple. You will find Urban German at many Portland area beer festivals. I love their food and I highly recommend it!
New to the Holiday Ale Festival this year is Oregon Deli Co. I enjoyed their Roasted Squash Sandwich –Roasted squash, wilted kale, goat cheese, crispy onions and balsamic dressing on ciabatta and I devoured it!
#5 Make sure that you go upstairs. Sadly, yesterday I ran into people at the Holiday Ale Festival who did not know they there was an upstairs to go to!
#6 Go more than one day. Keep your cup & wristband, and go to the Holiday Ale Festival more than one day. In addition to the 53 standard release beers, each day they have special beers that you can only get that day. Plus, when you go back for a second or third visit you get the chance to try even more of the beers on tap.
#7 Say Thank You. Portland beer festivals like the Holiday Ale Festival would not happen without the staff and volunteers who work hard and make the beer festival magic happen. Please be sure to tell them thank you.
Beer Recommendations for the 2016 Holiday Ale Festival
As I mentioned, I had 38 of the 53 standard release beers. I was not able to get to every beer that I wanted to try, however I was able to enjoy many great beers.
Here is my favorite beer at the 2016 Holiday Ale Festival, 13 others beers that tickled my fancy, and 5 honorable mentions.
Please note — I am fan of craft beer, however I more interested in whether or not I liked the beer I just had, than I am in whether or not it fit a certain style, or used an innovative hop, or was brewed with a special malt.
I am blessed to have many friends in the Portland craft beer community, who know beer and I love to listen to them talk about beer. Many of them really know their stuff.
My approach to beer is much simpler — Did I like it? And if so – how much did I like it?
Each year my friend Ezra publishes a list of the beer he recommends at the Holiday Ale Festival and I love reading it.
Here is link to it for your enjoyment and perusal — http://www.newschoolbeer.com/2016/12/best-worst-2016-holiday-ale-festival.html
My Favorite Beer at the 2016 Holiday Ale Festival
My favorite standard release beer at the 2016 Holiday Ale Festival was Vanguard Brewing Co.’s Lee’s Coconut Snowballs.
“Based on a recipe from Vanguard’s assistant brewer, this American strong ale was made with a hefty grain bill to create a malt forward, copper colored beer with undertones of toasty caramel, toffee and dark fruit flavors. Locally grown Cascade and Willamette hops were used to balance out the malt sweetness. Finally, coconut toasted flakes were added during fermentation to fill out this winter warmer. American Strong Ale • ABV: 8.5% • IBUs: 30”
I was blown away by the coconut flavor and this beer spoke to me. If you don’t like coconut, do NOT get this beer and know that it is on the sweeter side. For me , it was awesome! Give me this beer and some chocolate and I would be a very happy man!
13 Other Beers I Loved
Here are 13 other beers that I loved — listed alphabetically
#1 Deschutes Brewery Ginger Cookie Imperial Porter “This imperial porter was spiced with chocolate, ginger puree, nutmeg and cinnamon. ABV: 11.2% • IBUs: 48”
A perfect “Christmas” beer. Worth a full pour.
#2 Ecliptic Brewing Barrel Aged Tarantula Belgian Dubbel Ale “Named after the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud, this beer will trap you in its web. Dark and smooth with spicy Belgian yeast, rich malt flavors predominate with hints of dried fruit. This special beer is blended with a barrel aged version of Tarantula that slept in 12-year-old bourbon barrels for two years. This beer drinks smooth and strong. ABV: 10.0% • IBUs: 19”
I was with someone in the Oregon craft beer industry when I was tasting this wonderful beer from Ecliptic. They said and I quote — “This beer makes want to go out into the street and sing. I want to go wassailing.” I could drink lots of this beer.
#3 Finnriver Farm & Cidery Winter Ruby Cider Oak-Aged Cranberry Cider “This is a festive, bright fruit cider made to toast the season. Traditional cider apples from world-renowned Poverty Lane Orchards in N.H. impart complexity, blended with a tart, organic cranberry wine made from Starvation Alley Farms cranberries and finished with Mexican vanilla extract and aged with toasted oak. Enjoy this semi-sweet celebratory dance of apples, cranberries, vanilla and oak on the palate. ABV: 6.5%”
This cider is stupendous. I can’t say enough about it.
#4 Fort George Brewery All Seeing Pie Barrel-Aged Stout “This spiced stout was aged in Four Roses Bourbon barrels, adding notes of woody vanilla and oak. Jammed with hearty malts, a blend of spices, plus homemade apple pie filling tucked into the barrels, this stout is a warm reminder of a fresh baked apple pie…with a touch of holiday cheer. ABV: 12.0%”
#5 Fremont Brewing Co. S’mores Bonfire Ale Winter Ale “Fremont Brewing took its roasty, chocolaty and slightly smoky Bonfire Ale and infused it with Theo cacao nibs, marshmallows, graham crackers and toasted oak to create S’mores Bonfire Ale. Light a Bonfire today! ABV: 6.0% • IBUs: 40”
If you like s’mores, you will LOVE this beer.
#6 Gigantic Brewing Holy Cow! Imperial Milk Stout “The brewery took its Shazoo Imperial Milk Stout and added toasted coconut and cold pressed Coava coffee, resulting in a beer that is enormously delicious with notes of chocolate, coffee, caramel and coconut. ABV: 8.5% • IBUs: 45”
#7 Loowit Brewing Co. Snow’s Ghost Golden Stout “Snow’s Ghost is a deceptive stout made without any dark malts; it may look light and clean but underneath, it is a rich stout with flavors of coffee, roast and chocolate. To add to the complexity of this seasonal gift, Loowit added toasted marshmallow and coconut. As you huddle up on a wintery night watching big snowflakes mask the ground, grab a pint of Snow’s Ghost to keep you warm during the dire hours of a snowy night. ABV: 8.6% • IBUs: 48”
This beer grabbed me and didn’t not let me go until the music stopped and we ended our dance.
#8 Nectar Creek Top Bar Bourbon Barrel-Aged Coffee/Bourbon Mead “Raw wildflower honey was fermented and aged in bourbon barrels, then finished with locally roasted coffee beans and bourbon cured oak. The mead is smooth with rich notes of coffee, honey, vanilla and oak. ABV: 8.1%”
Trust me on this, if you like subtle coffee flavors you will love this mead. It’s a wonderful, inspired, combination of flavors that come together in unexpected and wonderful ways.
#9 Old Town Brewing Co. Kris KringAle Spiced White Ale “As fluffy and exciting as the first snowfall of the year, this unfiltered white ale is met with anticipation. The familiar characters of winter citrus and wheat are complemented by the festive spices of nutmeg and cinnamon. Together the orange, nutmeg and cinnamon provide the perfect amount of spicy warmth for those wet chilly days and long cold nights, leaving you wanting a bit more. ABV: 5.8% • IBUs: 9”
Andrew Lamont does it again. I love just the beer that he makes. Andrew is a gifted brewer. I want keg of this in my house. It would not last very long.
#10 Santiam Brewing Co. Pirate Stout: Govna’s Reserve Rum and Bourbon Barrel-Aged Stout “Taking their popular Rum Barrel-Aged Pirate Stout and arming it to the teeth, this Govna’s Reserve Pirate Stout is a special strength version that is 100% aged in rum and bourbon barrels for more than six months. It is infused at the end of fermentation with coconut for a complex blend of rum, bourbon, oak and coconut. ABV: 11.5% • IBUs: 59”
Last night I meant Waldo (pictured above with Mimi, Kendra and Brittney) at the Hoilday Ale Festival. First of all his name really is Waldo. He showed me his ID. Secondarily Waldo insisted that I get some of the Santiam beer. I am so glad that I listened to Waldo. Lots of great stuff going on in this beer.
#11 Sixpoint Brewery Big Raspy Bourbon Barrel-Aged Russian Imperial Stout with Raspberries “A new take on a classic Sixpoint beer called Bolshoi! This version is brewed with raspberries and blended with a separate batch of Bolshoi! that has been aging for nine months in first-fill bourbon barrels. Hoo-da-lali! A big thanks to festival manager Preston Weesner for flying across the country to collaborate on this brew. ABV: 10.8% • IBUs: 35”
#12 StormBreaker Brewing Zero Visibility Winter Warmer “This oatmeal cream ale was inspired by one of StormBreaker’s favorite holiday beverages. Adding cinnamon and nutmeg to the boil, the brewers then split the batch and aged it on soaked oak chips, half on whiskey and the other half on rum. Finally, they blended them back together to create the perfect Winter Warmer. Remember, you don’t have to black out to have Zero Visibility. ABV: 9.0% • IBUs: 10”
#13 Zoiglhaus Brewing Co. A Tipple for Nikolaus Barrel-Aged Fruit and Spice Lager “Zoiglhaus teamed up with PINTS Brewing to create this seasonal treat. A Tipple for Nikolaus is a plum-infused gingerbread lager blended with the rarest of PINTS’ beers: an Imperial Stout aged three years in a bourbon barrel. ABV: 6.0% • IBUs: 40”
I was with Teri Fahrendorf and Jon Graber (two amazing people) when i was enjoying this beer and I was so glad that I was. I loved what I was tasting and I had no idea how to describe it.
Teri and Jon helped me out. According to them this beer is reminiscent of Lebkuchen ( a spiced Christmas cookie) and has a gentle almond finish. All I know is that I love it! Alan J. Taylor — one heck of a brewer.
5 Honorable Mentions
Here are five “beers” that you would do well to invest your pour tickets into.
Honorable Mention #1 Collaborator Bacon Cigar German Rauchbier “This is a traditional German Rauchbier, brewed with German beechwood smoked malt. It features an upfront bacon-like aroma, with a well-defined balance of smoky and toasty-rich malt flavors, imparting smoky notes throughout the finish. Oregon Brew Crew member Rodney Kibzey brewed this beer with pride! ABV: 5.4% • IBUs: 24”
My friend Rodney Kibzey is likely one of the best home brewers in the US. I even read that in book once. This beer is worth checking out. I had people I respect, who are both prominent in the Portland culinary community come down on different sides of the coin regarding this beer beer. One loved it and one said that they “could not taste the bacon or the cigar.” Try it and decide for yourself.
Honorable Mention #2 Drake’s Brewing Co. Grape Fermented ZinDrakonic Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout “Drake’s Barrel Program Manager, Travis Camacho, worked with HAF’s Preston Weesner to create another special blend of Drakonic Imperial Stout. Inoculated with Drake’s house wild yeast culture and fermented with Zinfandel grape skins, then aged for eight months in Zinfandel Port barrels, the final blend is pleasantly tart with deep raspberry & grape fruitiness, coupled with a malt profile reminiscent of dark chocolate and tobacco. ABV: 9.8%”
I love what I call “Christmas” beers and you can get many of them at the Holiday Ale Festival. This beer is in no way a “Christmas” beer, but damn it is good! Get it and appreciate it. This beer will disappear quickly.
Honorable Mention #3 Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider Where Apple Pies Go When They Die Cider “Fermented with muscovado sugar, this version of their Winter Abbey Spice has the addition of WHOLE APPLE PIES (this cider is not gluten free!). The cidery also used raisins, cinnamon and nutmeg to create this beverage that’s especially suited to the colder months. Served warm for your added enjoyment! • ABV: 7.4%”
For my money Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider always has something terrific to enjoy. This year, like last year, their HAF offering is served warm and it is quite the treat.
Honorable Mention #4 Pelican Brewing Co. Abuela’s Casita Holiday Stout “This special holiday stout is inspired by Champurrado, the classic hot Mexican drink of masa and chocolate made by abuelas. Robust chocolate flavors with hints of cinnamon come from Tanzanian cocoa nibs and Vietnamese cinnamon. It was brewed with traditional corn and lactose to add depth and round out the palate. ABV: 6.0% • IBUs: 35”
This beer is something very different and very good! My brother Marco grew up with these flavors and this beer like tastes like some of the incredible dishes that my sister in law Gudelia makes.
Speaking of flavors and dishes my family loves — I would love it if next year the Holiday Ale Festival has Churros Locos as a food vendor!
Churros Locos is a local Portland company run by two salt of the earth people – Isabel and Daniel and getting have a churro with a “Christmas” beer would be such a treat!
Honorable Mention #5 Portland Cider Co. Holiday Juniper Cider “Crafted in the spirit of winter in the Northwest and fermented on juniper berries and red plums, this off dry cider has a frosty juniper nose which quickly gives way to the festive richness of local plums. As crisp as a breath of morning air on Mt. Hood; you can almost smell the trees! ABV: 6.9%”
This cider is bright and refreshing and a perfect way to take break from the higher ABV “Christmas” beers that I love.
Speaking of Portland Cider Co., go to their Cider House on Hawthorne and get their Winter Spice / Santa’s Sauce. It is available this time of year and it is wonderful! Quoting from the Portland Cider Co. website “…this natural cider is infused with cinnamon, cardamom, and a little cayenne pepper.”
For More Info on the Holiday Ale Festival
If you would like more information about the Holiday Ale festival see these links here —
Website – www.holidayale.com
Facebook – www.facebook.com/HolidayAleFest
The Holiday Ale Festival on The Portland Beer Podcast
Lastly — I recently had Preston Weesner with the Holiday Ale Festival on the Portland Beer Podcast and a link to that episode is below. I am a big fan of Preston and what he does for the craft beer community and it was a delight to get to interview him about HAF.
You can subscribe to the Portland Beer Podcast via iTunes here – www.itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/portland-beer-podcast/id1122710910?mt=2
I am Steven Shomler I write about the great food and the great stories that I come across on my culinary adventures!