Holiday Ale Festival: A most wonderful time of the year
In another example of how fortunate I am to live in Portland, Oregon, the 18th annual Holiday Ale Festival met and surpassed expectations in several ways. (And I only attended two days out of five – I shudder to think of all the “special tappings” that I missed.)
I’ll preface my comments by admitting I haven’t attended a lot of large-scale beer celebrations, but I imagine that the best ones are run much like the Holiday Ale Festival – with attention to detail, friendliness, accessibility/accommodations for disabled people, mobile updates for smart phone users, and more than 50 different brewers from throughout the Western states. Even the big names – brewers such as Widmer, Deschutes, Rogue, Lagunitas, among others – were pouring beers specially made for the festival. Maybe drinkers will find a few of them at the manufacturer’s pubs and specialty taprooms throughout the holiday season, but I wouldn’t count on it. No doubt, this was a special time and place for beer lovers.
In addition to fellow beer drinkers, it’s also an excellent place to meet beer geeks, home brewers, and other passionate, knowledgeable aficionados. Even in the bustle of Friday afternoon’s beginning-of-the-weekend atmosphere, it was easy to spot one young man with his eyes glued to his mobile phone. No, the enthusiastic gent wasn’t texting, just staying up-to-the-minute on any limited pourings. Good thing I queried Aaron, “How’s the mobile website working out for you?” He and his buddy, Grant, turned me on to my favorite beer of the festival, Deschutes’ Virgin Sacrifice, a cherry Russian Imperial Stout, which I followed with Cascade Brewing‘s barrel aged Imperial Stout, Cherry Diesel. It certainly made for a festive conclusion to my evening.
There were almost as many styles to be found as brewers – Baltic (and other) Porters, Barley Wines, Ryes, Oud Bruins, Browns, Pales, Reds, Belgians, Bocks, and a host of others. I personally had never tried a Braggot, one of the world’s oldest fermented beverages, and I must say that Eugene, Oregon’s Viking Braggot Company brewed up my second-favorite drink of the festival.
Which quaffs or festivals are keeping your holiday season merry and bright? Let us know in the comments section.