Holiday Ale Fest Eve 2012

27 Nov

Just getting started…at Lompoc’s Holiday Extravaganza

It’s that time of year again. Sugar plums. Elves. Tinsel. Pies. Egg nog. Manic Cyberspace Monday. Freakshow Friday. Sit on your butt civil war Saturday. Bing Crosby and Ella Fitzgerald on the radio. The first signs that the Holiday Ale Fest is quickly approaching. Followed by the not-so-subtle cues: a bunch of facebook posts about the beers this year and the tent setup as well as the e-mail with the list of this year’s holiday ales that will be served this week. I was in the middle of my work day, but what the heck, I better check it out, right? Next thing I know I am sorting the beers by ABV, by beer style, and by IBUs. Important things to know for beer tasting notes and when you are three sheets to the wind. As you may or may not know, from last year, this is a very exciting event for me, and tonight is a holiday of sorts. Some love Christmas Eve. I, I love Holiday Ale Fest Eve. Not only do I wake up tomorrow to go to the Ale Fest, but I get to drink beers all night at the Sidebar for Lompoc’s Holiday Beer Release Extravaganza. And if the Mayans are right, this may be the last beer festival to be celebrated on earth. It can’t be missed.

So, if you are headed down to Pioneer Square tomorrow for the Holiday Ale Festival, check out what they’ll have on tap. The list of beers sound amazing (as always), and we’ll be blowing up our facebook page with reviews. But for now, here are my thoughts on the beer list and my general plan of action for opening day at the festival.

Sang Noir fans – be sure to attend on Thursday!

Cascade’s Sang Noir is not on the regular menu this year. Say what?!? Only the 2009 is making its presence at the festival during the limited tappings, scheduled for Thursday at 2pm. This “vintage” was delicious last year so I am definitely looking forward to seeing how this fine lady is aging.

Sour beer fans and stout beer fans unite!

Firestone Walker’s Velvet Merkin was a favorite of mine last year. Only one of a few beers that earned my coveted 5star score. This year, the folks down at FW have partnered with Barrelworks to mix it up a bit. This year’s Velvet Merkin is blended with a touch of young Gueze from their sour program to make it a brighter stout. Given my love for last year’s version I am a little hesitant, but the folks at FW know what they are doing, so this will be one of my first samples come opening day. The saltiness from the Gueze could prove to be delicious. or….

And this won’t be the only Stout with a hint of sour. Bison Brewing has paired with Logsdon to brew an Organic Cocoa Bretta: an award winning chocolate stout finished with strains of Brettanoymces and keg conditioned with pear juice. I think this one needs to just be tasted before I can say anything more.

Barrel Aging at it’s Best!

Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Tequila, Whisky, Rum – you name it, the brewers are using those barrels! Especially for those high alcohol, extra rich beers that keep us warm over the winter. You could make a day of tasting by just going after the barrel aged beers. Here’s your list: Cascade’s Diesel No.2, Eel River, MacTarnahans’ Figgy Pudding, Bear Republic’s Prepare to Boarded, Lompoc’s Cherry Christmas and Franc’ly Brewdolph, Firestone’s Velvet Merkin, Fort George’s Three Wisemen, Full Sail’s Black Gold, Golden Valley’s Black Panther, Seven Brides Lil’ Brandy Barrel Pils, and Widmer’s Brrrbon Vanilla. 

Most notably, Franc’ly is Back! Franc’ly Brewdolph from Lompoc was one of my favorites from the 2010 fest. it was an 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. not overly oaky or dry. the blend of the red and the brewdolph made none of the flavors overpowering and it was a perfectly balanced beer for drinking all day.

Most excited for-

Last year I really enjoyed the offerings from Eel River, MacTarnahans, Bear Republic, and Lompoc, and I particularly like the 08/09* JIM, 08 Oskar Blues, Firestone’s Velvet Merkin, and New Belgian’s Lips of Faith. So I’m definitely going to be hitting up the 08/09* JIM. The 2009 JIM was a favorite two years in a row so I think I might splurge for a whole glass this year (09 is hoppier, 08 is sweeter, a traditional English-style Barleywine). I’ll be hitting up the Velvet Merkin twist and the 08 Oskar Blues again as well as the rest of these breweries since they clearly can brew a winner in my eyes.

But I’m also really excited for some 2008 Festivale from Terminal Gravity, Ancient Ale-ians from Ninkasi, 2011 Black Gold from Full Sail, Santa’s Little Black Homo from Walking Man, and the 2009 Festina Peche from Dogfish Head. Either I’ve loved this beers in the past or un-aged versions of these beers, or these breweries are consistent in brewing excellent beers. So, be sure to follow our facebook page for updates as we taste these.

Surprises this year-

Neither Laurelwood nor HUB are in the line-up. Kentucky Christmas is always a fun one to drink and interesting to compare my notes from year to year. And Laurelwood always serves up a great seasonal. These brews will be missed.

And finally, this year’s Winner for Best Name (drum roll please)

Last year there was a beer named Barry White’s Voice in a Barrel. I don’t even have to explain what is so amazing about that. And it was the first beer I tried last year. This year I did get a kick out of Frosty’s Revenge, I liked the play on Ancient Ale-ians given the Mayan calendar, and I liked the double meaning of Franc’ly Brewdolph. But I think this year’s winner has to go to Walking Man’s Santa’s Little Black Homo. Because it is impossible for me to read without laughing. Plus, the regular big black homo is a great CDA so I need to try this beer.

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