Holiday Ale Fest

5 Nov

In honor of the release of the beer list for the 2011 Holiday Ale Festival, I thought I would post my review of beers from last year’s festival as well as the beers I am most excited to taste at this year’s event. This is the best beer festival in Portland, and if you have not been, you must give it a try. It’s so good, I take time off of work, every year, so I can get there early, drink, and relax a while.

LUCKY THIRTEEN
these were my favorite beers at the festival. ales i wanted to pack up in growlers and take home to sip fireside. so many, you ask? well, with 60+ taps and three full days of drinking, it was hard to narrow it down much further. i felt these all deserved a special mention.

Pray for Snow, 10 Barrel Brewing Company: a very balanced dark, strong ale with a red, copper color and roasted malt with the hops to back it up.

Femme Fatale, Boneyard Beer Company: a dry beer with a cider-like style. delicious cranberry and raspberry flavor. a light, flavorful beer with only a slight sourness.

Aegir’s Cauldron, Collaborator: a delicious beer with a very strong, oatty body, with prevalent chocolate and bourbon notes. sweet but with a bitter hop finish that balances it out. a nice, rich beer perfect for a cold winter’s night.

Paddler’s Porter, Columbia River Brewing Company: this beer gives the Mocha Porter from Rogue a run for its money. richer but not sweet or syrupy. strong chocolate and vanilla flavors balanced with a strong roast and hop backbone.

Bockus, Double Mountain Brewery: roasty, with a good chocolate flavor, lighter than a porter or stout as a strong black lager, but with the same flavor profile. a very drinkable beer that paired well with the apple-rosemary roasted hazelnuts.

Steins Christmas Ale, Hazel Dell Brewpub: dry and dark with a strong, roasty flavor profile. not an overwhelming or heavy winter ale.

Festeroo, Hop Valley Brewing Company: fruity and red, with a nice crisp finish. this is a great drinking beer with wonderful flavor.

Kentucky Christmas, Hopworks Urban Brewery: an absolute favorite at the ale fest. perfect sweet and citrus-hop balance with strong bourbon and vanilla hints. delicious. i loved this beer and drank it multiple times.

Franc’ly Brewdolph, Lompoc Brewing Company: absolutely fabulous beer with perfect balance. a lightly sweet, fruity front, followed by the flavors of the Cabernet Franc barrels the red was aged in. the blend of the red and the brewdolph made none of the flavors overpowering and a perfectly balanced beer for drinking all day. i also loved this beer and drank it multiple times at the fest.

Old Grogham Winter IPA, Natian Brewery: a great winter IPA with the strong hop character of an IPA with a slight winter, caramel sweetness with a slight hint of rum.

Very Ill-Tempered Gnome, Oakshire Brewing: a great strong ale with a strong caramel profile with a light toasted flavor. very smooth drinking beer.

Stone Smoked Porter, Stone Brewing Company: super smokey, spiced porter, nice and dark.

Rudolph’s Imperial Red, Three Creeks Brewing Company: a strong beer with a noticeable alcohol level that is better as it warms to room temperature because it has a slight sweetness and great malt flavors.

FAB FOUR
these specialty kegs  more than hit the mark.

JIM 2008, Hair of the Dog: smells like fruit juice. starts sweet but has enough of the bitter hop to balance this beer and make it delicious. has notes of apple or pear.

JIM 2009, Hair of the Dog: smells like a fresh hop. has more of a citrus fruit profile and is a little spicier than the 08. fantastic.

2003 Old Knucklehead #11, BridgePort Brewing Company: wonderful. sweet but enough hop bitter finish. the fruit has a nice apricot flavor. i could drink a few of these, or a few too many on a cold winter’s night, which is surprising for a sweeter beer. aged amazingly. loved. this. beer.

Oak Aged Jubel 2000, Deschutes Brewery: no head and quite flat, this beer got a wow (good) review. the sweet, malty profile aged nicely, and the flavors just kept coming / developing on the tongue. outstanding.

CRAZY EIGHT
these beers were definitely good enough to get a special mention. although not my favorites, they were favorites to other holiday ale goers and they offered something different from the average holiday ale.

Figgy Pudding Olde Stock, Block 15 Brewing Company: a little too sweet for me, but it had a prominent fig nose. the fruit was not as prominent in taste, which we hoped for, but had nice sweet and spice. overall very good. strong alcohol.

Sang Noir, Cascade Brewing Company: good cherry flavor, definitely more beerlike in flavor than the Femme Fatale, and stronger. michael thought it was delicious and the best sour beer at the ale fest (a bit too sour for me, but michael loves it). the aged (2009) was similar to this years but with a richer malt and a more complex sugar like molasses.

Streaking the Quad, Deschutes Brewery: sweet, hints of pear, nice soft finish with a bit of spice, a bit dry to the tongue, enjoyed this beer. (bit too sweet for me, appreciate what they are doing)

North the Fourth, Fort George Brewery & Public House: a crazy beer that made me exclaim wow! i can’t describe this beer. it had a spruce quality up front, with a weird sweet and spice in the middle and then it finished with a dry, spicy peppermint. a lot going on. michael noted the sprucey sweet, with the mixing of flavors between the hop and spruce, a one of a kind beer. couldn’t have two but he likes it.

Brown Mashuggana, Lagunitas Brewing Company: hints of coriander and orange and something savory, maybe bay leaf or oregano? the spices were strong. i liked what they were doing but it is not a drinking beer for me. sweeter and hoppier than the regular, brown shugga.

Black Pepper Belgian Pale Ale, Laurelwood Brewing Company: michael loved it – saison, spicey, just a bit of sweetness, a favorite. it was a pale with a nice sweetness to it, but the spice flavor came out at the same time, balancing it nicely. a great light beer for lots of drinking.

Jewbelation Blend, Shmaltz Brewing Company: tastes like a molasses, gingerbread cookie, strong and warming (way too sweet for me). michael thought it was good, good, good, with well-balanced alcohol, hops and malt.

Black Dynamite, Widmer Brothers Brewing Company: the chocolate and lemon pepper were very strong on the front, but the beer was surprisingly balanced and very typical of a baltic porter – strong alcohol, malt and chocolate. michael thought it was planty, dark and rich to the nose.

So, what is to come for 2011?  I am especially looking forward to trying:
  • Bison Brewing – Bourbon Barrel Aged Chocolate Stout chocolate. stout. ’nuff said.
  • Breakside Brewery – Cranberry Biere de Table a cranberry saison sounds refreshing
  • Collaborator – Hallucinator the collaborator is always a good beer
  • Columbia River Brewing – Drunken Elf Stout Chocolate. Oatmeal. Coffee. Stout. Plus, they made the list last year
  • Firestone – Vintage Velvet Merkin a vintage oatmeal stout should be smoothing nicely
  • Fort George – Kentucky Girl Bourbon Barrel Aged Coffee Stout…says winter
  • Hazel Dell – Goats Beard Double Bock i’m a fan of the bock, and their beer last year was quite good
  • Hopworks – Kentucky Christmas it’s back….
  • Lompoc – Cherry Christmas it’s from lompoc, it’s gotta be good
  • MacTarnahan’s – Barrel Aged Humbug’r a Porter aged in Jack Daniels Bbls
  • McMenamins – Red Nose Rye an Imperial Rye Ale. i love rye in fall and winter beers.
  • Oakshire – Nutcracker Imperial Gingerbread Porter. very intriguing. hope its delicious.
And of course, the specialty kegs – can’t wait to see what is on tap!

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