Here's Cookie and the 2015 Holiday Ale Fest Program

The 2015 Holiday Ale Festival opens in just 9 days. This yuletide beer showcase is chock full of one-of-a-kind (and usually high ABV) beers. I always like to review the detailed beer descriptions in advance and build my sampling list before I walk into the the tent.  To assist you in this most worthy endeavor, here's a PDF file of 2015 Holiday Ale Fest program. Download it, read it, and dream your way into holiday ale bliss.

Finally, I'm just going to leave this here... Her name is Cookie, and she's the 2015 vintage pin-up girl for Holiday Ale Fest. As luck would have it, she's pairing a cookie (of the gingerbread variety) and Belgian Imperial Stout made with organic Kopi Luwak coffee beans.

I'm sure you, like Cookie, will have a great time and sweet dreams at HAF! Cheers and Happy Holidays!

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The Evolution of Smuttynose Big A IPA

After a year-long absence, Big A IPA makes a triumphant return to Smuttynose Brewing's lineup. It's now available year-round in 4-packs of 12 oz. bottles and on draft.

The brewery recently sent me a sample and I discovered that this is not the same Big A IPA that I tasted a few years ago...

First, the alcohol content has been reduced. When I first tasted it back in 2011, it weighed in at 9.74% ABV and the alcohol heat was quite prominent. The new Big A is 8.2% ABV (according to the bottle code). In this case, less is more as the alcohol heat has disappeared.

The hops have also been modified. The bittering and aroma hops are essentially the same, but the dry hops have been revamped. Citra, Saphir, Falconer's Flight, and Bravo have replaced CTZ, Nugget, and Glacier, as the dry hops of choice. Overall bitterness has increased to 85 IBU's (estimated) from 74 IBUs. When I compared the current incarnation of Big A to the one I tasted in 2011, I noticed a big difference in aroma and taste. Pine and grapefruit are now prominent, compared to tropical fruit in 2011. The flavor of caramel malt remains the same and continues to serve as a nice backdrop that balances the hop bitterness.

In recent years, consumer tastes have shifted to lower alcohol (session) beers. Big A IPA is no session beer, but the elimination of alcohol heat makes it far more drinkable than it was years past.

If Smuttynose is available in your area, and you're a fan of double IPAs, give Big A IPA a shot.

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BridgePort's New STUMPTOWN Brand

BridgePort recently launched CandyPeel IPA. If you take a quick glance at the label, you'll notice a different look from BridgePort's current beers. That's because they've launched an entirely new STUMPTOWN brand.

I contacted Jeff Edgerton, BridgePort Brewmaster, to learn more about CandyPeel and the new brand...

BridgePort's new STUMPTOWN brand is a stark departure from current branding.  Can you explain the reasoning behind the new brand? What type of beers will you release under the STUMPTOWN name?  Will it exist with the current brand?

Jeff Edgerton: STUMPTOWN definitely has a different look. The inspiration for STUMPTOWN came from our long-time Big Brew, STUMPTOWN Tart – under this brand we’ve been brewing limited edition Belgian-Style Ales for eight years and counting. All labels have featured Bernie Dexter – a popular fellow Portlander who specializes in the pin-up modeling style. Over the years, STUMPTOWN Tart has grown this cult following and because of that, we decided to unleash the potential of STUMPTOWN by introducing a whole new line with a brand new look that we believe will grab the attention of craft beer lovers. One of the first times we experimented with fruit-style beers was with STUMPTOWN Tart, and in the same sense, the new STUMPTOWN brews are all about going back to our roots at BridgePort of experimenting with new styles, being bold and creating exceptional craft beers.

I noticed you didn't use the classic BridgePort 12oz bottle in CandyPeel IPA. What was the reason for this? Are you phasing out the use of your unique bottle?

JE: We’re keeping the classic BridgePort bottle for our BridgePort brews, but since STUMPTOWN is unique, we decided to mix it up a bit.

CandyPeel IPA is your new year-round IPA release. Is it replacing any of the hoppy beers in your current lineup?

JE: STUMPTOWN CandyPeel most certainly is new and available year-round. This brew is an add-on to the current portfolio; there are no plans to replace any of our other beers that are still favorites of many BridgePort fans.

Have your customer tastes changed in the last few years? If so, how?

JE: Not necessarily, IPAs are still king but customers certainly have more choices. When BridgePort opened as Oregon’s oldest craft brewery there were less than 100 craft breweries in the country, now there are over 4,000. There’s a lot of noise out there in craft brewing, which is why it’s important to us to constantly review our brands and bring out new options to keep consumers engaged.

Can you give us any clues to what you have in store for us in 2016?

JE: All I can say is that we definitely have some things brewing – more to come and we’re excited to share.

A big thanks to Jeff for taking the time to chat with me! I can't wait to see what he and his brewing team have in store for us in 2016.

Now let's get down to the tasting... BridgePort sent me a bottle of CandyPeel IPA, which I just sampled. I noticed plenty of orange and spicy hops in aroma and taste. In the middle, biscuit-like malt and a mild nuttiness emerged. These flavors, while different from the malt base of a typical IPA, nicely complemented the orange. Given the name CandyPeel, I expected a bit of sweetness, which wasn't present. Overall, this isn't your typical IPA, and that's a good thing...

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20th Annual Holiday Ale Festival Opens on December 2

It's hard to believe, but 2015 is quickly racing towards its end. On the plus side, Holiday Ale Festival is coming up. In fact, it opens in just 22 days!

HAF is your chance to taste from over 50 beers and ciders that were made exclusively for the event. The limited releases and great vibe make this one of my favorite beer festivals of the year. To get an idea of what you can expect, here's my recap from last year's HAF.  For more details including hours and pricing, check out the press release below.

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Devoted beer fans anticipate 20th annual Holiday Ale Festival
Event presents one of the nation’s premium lineups of winter beers

PORTLAND, Ore. – Known for assembling a prestigious lineup of winter beers, the 20th annual Holiday Ale Festival will take place Dec. 2 through Dec. 6 at Pioneer Courthouse Square, located at 701 SW Sixth Avenue in the heart of downtown Portland. Event hours are 11am to 10pm Wednesday through Saturday, and 11am to 5pm Sunday. The Holiday Ale Festival is for ages 21 and over.

What makes this festival standout from other events is the beer selection: the festival works with every brewery involved to make sure they send a beer that has either been made or blended specifically for the event, or is a rare or vintage beer that isn’t commonly tapped in the state. More than 50 beers and ciders will be in main lineup; a list of participating breweries and styles is available at

Despite being held outdoors during one of the coldest months of the year, nearly 14,000 festival attendees stay warm and dry over the five-day festival under clear-topped tents that cover the venue. Gas heaters create a cozy ambiance beneath the boughs of the region's largest decorated Christmas tree. In addition to beer tasting, the festival also features meet the brewer events, a root beer garden, food vendors, self-guided beer pairings with cheese, event merchandise and a coat/bag check and raffle that raises funds for the Children's Cancer Association.

To enter and consume beer, the purchase of an entry package is required. Advance general admission packages cost $35 and include the 2015 tasting cup and 14 taster tickets, plus expedited entry all five days. General admission at the door is the same price, but includes only 12 tickets and no expedited entry. Advance VIP packages cost $100 and include the tasting cup, 30 taster tickets, special VIP beer lines with little to no waiting, exclusive VIP only vintage beers, bottled water, and express entry all five days. VIP tickets are limited to 250 and are not available at the door. All advance packages will go on sale by the first week of October via the website.

Once inside the festival, a full beer costs four taster tickets, and a taster costs one ticket. Certain limited release and special tappings may not be available in full pours, or may cost double tickets. Additional beer tickets can be purchased for $1 apiece. Previous years’ mugs will not be filled. Express re-entry requires a wristband and the 2015 tasting cup, and is subject to the festival's capacity.  

Designated drivers in a party of two or more may purchase a designated driver wristband for $15, which includes Crater Lake Root Beer or bottled water for the duration of the stay; the festival will match all Designated Driver tickets sold as well as root beer sales and donate all the proceeds to the Children's Cancer Association.

Returning to the event is the 12th annual Sunday Beer Brunch, taking place Dec. 6 from 11am to 1pm on the upper level of Pioneer Courthouse Square. Ticket holders are greeted at the door with a warm pastry paired with vintage Brasserie Dupont Avec les Bons Voeux. The auxiliary event features European pastries, cured meats and artisanal cheeses to accompany an assortment of exclusive vintage draft and bottled winter beers not available at the festival itself, plus several special large format bottles to be shared during the event. Tickets cost $80 and will be available at in late September. 

For more information, visit; follow the event @HolidayAleFest on Facebook and Instagram and @HolidayAle on Twitter, hashtag #HAF15.

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McMenamins' Black Widow Porter & Whiskey Widow

A friendly ghoul from McMenamins recently left a nice treat on my doorstep.  This marks the 25th year that McMenamins has been brewing Black Widow Porter. Here's the brewery's description:

Originally created at the McMenamins Thompson brewery (Salem, Oregon) on October 15, 1991 and brewed once a year for just Thompson's taps, Black Widow's web now spans the entire company and is available on tap and in 22-oz. bottles at all McMenamins from October 15 through Halloween. Each deep-black goblet is full of the robust notes afforded by generous amounts of black and roasted malts and further spirited with ethereal wisps of licorice. Nourish your inner ghoul with a brew steeped in tradition and mystery. A good howl at the Cheshire moon couldn't hurt, either.

In addition, McMenamins is tapping a limited release of Whiskey Widow, a 2014 vintage Whiskey-Barrel-aged Black Widow. This tasting will begin today at 4:30pm at the Kennedy School.  Don't miss it!

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A Taste of New Belgium's Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale

As I was perusing the local beer aisle, an intriguing new release caught my eye. New Belgium Brewing Co. collaborated with Ben & Jerry's to bring us Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale. Here's New Belgium's description:

"I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream beer. Our newest collaboration with Ben & Jerry’s brings together two different types of pint-makers for one common goal: To help Protect Our Winters combat climate change. When two foodie B Corps join forces for good, delicious ideas are created. Our Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale scoops the lip-smacking fun of dessert from a bowl right into your pint glass. Brewed with specialty ingredients and a healthy sweet tooth, this beer’s rich chocolaty, salted-caramel, vanilla goodness is worth savoring to the last drop. Reward yourself, and dig in!    New Belgium Brewing Co.

The brown ale is underrated, in my opinion. I can't think of many in regular wide release. Angelo from Brewpublic wrote a nice piece on Brown Ales a few years ago. I'm a fan of because the brown ale provides a great backdrop for other flavorsespecially fruit (think raspberry or cherry). Chocolate, as you might expect, also melds nicely with the style. Since brownies are my favorite dessert, I had to give this beer a try...

Tasting notes:  Brownish-red in color with a tan head that dissipates very slowly. I noticed some chocolate and light vanilla notes in aroma. In taste, chocolate and caramel were both present. It's light bodied and softly carbonated. A touch of alcohol was present in the middle, and hop bitterness was not noticeable. It finished with chocolate and vanilla. Overall, it left me a bit disappointed as I didn't notice the salt and I expected a touch of sweetness. After all, they did mention BROWNIE, didn't they?

Even though the tantalizing brownie that appeared in my mind never found its way to the glass, it's a nice brown ale. Give it a try if available in your area. It's a limited release, so it won't be around too long. I do appreciate New Belgium making this beer available at their regular six-pack price point (as opposed to their Lips of Faith series). I've tended to avoid the Rogue / Voodoo Doughnut beer series due to its high price.

In closing, since we're talking about brown ales, I highly recommend New Belgium's Frambozen. I haven't had it in a few years, and hope to find some this holiday season!

Have you tasted New Belgium's Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale? How did you like it?

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New Variety 12-Packs from Ninkasi, Full Sail, and Pyramid

I'm a huge fan of the variety 12-pack. In fact, I can't remember the last time I bought a full case of any single beer. While I was grocery shopping yesterday, I noticed three new limited release variety packs that look great!

First up is Ninkasi Brewing Co. Their fall variety pack includes three bottles each of:

  • Total Domination (IPA)
  • Dawn of the Red (India Red Ale)
  • Lux (German-Style Helles Lager)
  • Noir (Milk Stout with Cold Brewed Coffee).  In full disclosure, Ninkasi sent me a sample of Noir, which I have yet to taste.  I'm waiting for the perfect grey, rainy fall day.

Full Sail Brewing brings us their Trophy Case of gold medal winning beers, which includes three bottles each of:
  • Amber Ale
  • India Pale Ale 
  • Cascade Pilsner 
  • Wassail (Winter Ale) 

Finally, if you're in the mood for hops--and only hops, check out Pyramid's Hop Collection, which holds three bitter bottles each of:
  • IPL (India Pale Lager) 
  • IPA 
  • Outburst Imperial IPA 
  • Thunderhead IPA

Variety is the spice of life, so go pick up a variety pack! Are you a fan of variety packs? Which brewery releases the best one?

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Hopworks' 2nd Annual Handmade Bike & Beer Festival

Hopworks' 2nd Annual Handmade Bike & Beer Festival opens tomorrow. Formally known as BiKETOBEERFEST, the festival was renamed last year when it began showcasing handmade bikes.

While there are countless beer festivals in Portland, this is one of my favorites because it's very family friendly. Check out the video I made at last year's event (posted below) to get an idea of what you can expect.

In addition to featuring offerings from many local breweries and cideries, Hopworks will serve many of their own beers, including one-off barrel aged versions. Here's the taplist of Hopworks beers.

  • Abominable Winter Ale – Our cult classic winter seasonal!
  • Cinnabom – Imperial Abominable aged on Cinnamon
  • Cedarbomb – Imperial Abominable aged on Cedar tips
  • Sour Belgian Pale Ale – Aged for a year in barrels, this is the first release from our new sour barrel program
  • B-Side EP – Sour Peach Ale collaboration with New Belgium
  • Fest of Fury – Fresh hop Märzen lager brewed with Salmon-Safe Willamette hops from Goschie Farms in Silverton, OR.
  • Nonstop Hef Hop – 3.9% session wheat beer with big hop aroma and flavor
  • HUB Lager – Our classic organic lager
  • Hopworks IPA – Organic IPA with massive NW hop character
  • Salt N Pepa – Szechuan peppercorn Gose with Jacobson’s cherrywood smoked salt
  • Pig War White IPA – Get a final look at our refreshing summer seasonal before it disappears for the year!
  • Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster – Galactic Imperial Red aged in Pinot Noir barrels
  • Big Poppa – Our Notorious F.I.G, a Belgian Strong Dark with figs aged in Woodford Reserve barrels
  • Under Pressure – Eis Eis Baby, an ice distilled Dopplebock, aged in Woodford Reserve barrels

For more details, including hours and pricing, check out the full press release below.

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Handmade Bike & Beer Festival Opens October 3-4

The Handmade Bike & Beer Festival is one of the most exciting festivals in the city of Portland. It is a weekend-long event featuring the renowned bike frame and parts builders living in our region, and the craft beer industry that makes Portland the best beer city in the country. This family-friendly festival runs October 3-4 in our covered, festival event space. 

Now in its second year, the fest is a mash-up of two of Portland’s favorite fall events – HUB’s Biketobeerfest and the Oregon Bicycle Constructors Association’s (OBCA) Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show. 

The festival features over thirty custom bike-frame builders, local hand-crafted beer from a variety of breweries, excellent Hopworks’ food specials, and fun and games for all. Activities include the classic “Huffy Huck bike-throwing competition, New Birth Break Dancers, Flatlanders BMX stunt crew, and adult-sized trikes.

The Handmade BIke & Beer Festival takes place Hopworks Urban Brewery, at 2944 SE Powell Blvd.

Times of Festival:
October 3 | 12-9m
October 4 | 12-5pm

Purchase your tickets here:
$10 = Entry to the festival
$25 = Entry + commemmorative glass + 15 drink/food tickets
$40 = Entry + glass + 15 tickets + t-shirt
$45 = Date Night at HBBF – 2 entries + 25 tickets + 2 glasses
$10 = Packet with ten extra tickets

Kids 15 and under are free
A 4 oz. beer taste is 1 ticket, or 2 tickets for Imperial beer. A pint is 4 tickets and food items run between 1 – 8 tickets. We love our furry friends, but we apologize that dogs are not able to attend HBBF. Thanks in advance for your understanding.

Bike Builders and Vendors:
Bike Friday, Black Magic Paint, Breadwinner Cycles, Caylor Cycles Retooled, Cielo/Chris King Precision, DiNucci Cycles, Framebuilder Supply, Helavna Cycles, Henry James Bicycles, Hi Fi Sound Cycling Components, Igleheart Custom Frames and Forks, Karl Edwards Illustration, Machine Bicycle, Magic Cycle Werks, Mahall Bikeworks, Mjolnir Cycles, Muirandessi Cycles, Norther Cycles, Paul Component Engineering, Pioneer Bicycle, Portland Fender Company, Rain Bicycles, Risse Racing Technology, Rolf Prima, Strawberry Bicycle, Thursday Bicycles, Ti Cycles, United Bicycle Institute, Zen Bikes, and more to come.

Beer and Cider:
Breweries and Cideries include Base Camp Brewing, Hopworks Urban Brewery, Laurelwood Brewing, New Belgium Brewing, pFriem Family Brewers, Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider, The Commons Brewery, Widmer Brothers Brewing, Worthy Brewing, and more to come.

Kells' Third Anniversary and New Bottled Beers

Kells Brew Pub just announced some exciting news! First, they're celebrating their 3rd anniversary on Saturday, September 19. You can enjoy $3 Kells beers all day at their Northwest Portland pub. Even more exciting, is the news that they'll begin to release their three flagship beers in bottles. You'll soon enjoy 12 oz. six packs of Kells Irish Red, Kells Irish Lager, and Kells IPA. For all of the details, check out the news release below.

Congrats to the Kells crew on these big milestones! Sláinte!

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Image courtesy of Kells Brew Pub

Kells Brew Pub marks third anniversary with daylong celebration; announces bottling of flagship line of beers

PORTLAND, Ore. – Kells Brew Pub is observing its third anniversary in Northwest Portland this month and the pub and brewery is marking the occasion with a daylong celebration on Saturday, Sept. 19 from Noon to Midnight.

The event will feature $3 Kells beers all day, including its three flagship beers – Kells Irish Red, Kells Irish Lager and Kells IPA – as well as its stout on nitro and current seasonals. To complement the beer, head chef Travis Stark has created $3 Kells bites for the day: a stuffed lamb slider, a falafel slider and meatballs topped with Kells stout sauce. 

The celebration will feature live music by Bridgid's Cross from 6 to 8 p.m. and local favorite Sami Rouissi from 9 p.m. to Midnight. There is no cover charge. At 7 p.m., owner Gerard McAleese and lead brewer and pub manager Garrett McAleese, will raise a toast in honor of the occasion.

The event will also serve as the release party for the brewery’s newly bottled beers. For the first time since its inception, Kells is bottling three of its products: its Red, Lager, and a rotational IPA (the initial version is dry-hopped). The brewery will bottle 20 bbls of its Lager, 10 bbls of its Red and a pallet of IPA on Sept. 16 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“Going into retail is a big shift for us, but one we’ve always had our eye on,” explained Garrett McAleese. “Our brewery has grown since day one and demand for our draft beer has always kept us busy, but we decided it was time to take the next step.”

With a motto of “Irish Roots, Oregon Brewed,” the labels feature traditional Irish imagery, including a shamrock for the IPA, the Tower of Kells for the lager, and a red hand for the Red; a nod to the Northern Irish heritage of the McAleese family. The Red Hand of Ulster is a symbol used to denote an Irish tale in which a Viking longboat war party, closing in on the shores of Ulster, promised the first man to touch land full possession of the territory. On board was an Irish mercenary who severed his hand with his sword and threw the bloody hand ashore.

Kells will be bottling every quarter; the brewery will likely add seasonals to the rotation next summer. The brewery will sell its brown longneck bottles in crafted six-packs that will retail for $11.49. Garrett McAleese noted that if the brewery keeps growing at its continued pace and the retails takes off, a production brewery will be inevitable.

Located at 210 NW 21st Ave., Kells Brew Pub is open to all ages from 11:30 a.m. to close Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to close on weekends. For more information, visit or call 503-719-7175.

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Willamette Week's Pro/Am

Willamette Week is hosting its 3rd Beer Pro/Am. This unique festival pairs 20 professional and home brewers who partner to create a festival full of unique, one-of-a-kind beers! The $27 entry fee includes admission, a pint glass, samples of ALL the beers, plus a Chipotle burrito!

The event will be held from 1-6 pm on Saturday, October 3. For more details, check out the event Facebook page and the news release below. Click here to purchase tickets.

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Not Your Typical Beer Festival
Willamette Week's Beer Pro/Am

Willamette Week's Beer Pro/Am returns for year three! Professional brewers and home brewers team up to create never-been-brewed beers and vie to win People's and Judge's Choice Awards. Guests taste 20 beers (at one price with no cumbersome token system), meet the brewers who made them, groove to music byDJ Short Change, network at vendor booths and enjoy good company under the roof of The North Warehouse (723 N Tillamook, previously Metalcraft Fabrication). Not to mention the fun addition of the Retro Gaming Lounge Presented by Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade and Portland Retro Gaming Expo!

This is not your typical beer fest. WW's Beer Pro/Am is a chance to try experimental and unique brews you can't get elsewhere. Join us for one of Portland's most creative beer events.

Want to volunteer? State your interest in a quick note to
Want to sponsor? Email Limited spots remain!


Saturday, October 3, 1:00 - 6:00 p.m.
The North Warehouse, 723 N Tillamook Street
21+ only, $27

Brewer Roster:
Tracy Hensley with 10 Barrel (Whitney Burnside)
Bill Schneller with 13 Virtues (David Vohden)
Beau Evers with 54-40 & Vertigo Brewing (Bolt Minister)
Paul Key with Baerlic Brewing Co. (Ben Parsons & Rik Hall)
Larry Clouser with Breakside (Ben Edmunds)
Alex Graham with Buckman Botanical (Danny Connors)
Tony Coulombe with Buoy (Kevin Shaw)
Cullen Conway with Coalition (Elan Walsky)
Jim Sullins with Culmination (Tomas Sluiter)
Chad Graham with Ecliptic Brewing (John Harris)
Dean Ehnes with Ex Novo (Jason Barbee)
Josh Huerta with Fat Heads (Mike Hunsaker)
Jackie Dodd with Fort George (Jack Harris)
Martin Cizmar & Parker Hall with Lompoc (Bryan Keilty)
Matt Dinsmore with Montavilla Brew (Michael Kora)
Simon Hannes with Pints (Alan Taylor)
Aaron Hill with Unicorn Brewing Co. (Jay Webb)
Ritch Marvin with Upright (Alex Ganum)
Warren Holmes with Uptown Market Brewery (Tyler Staples)
Mike Whitmarsh with Widmer (Ben Dobler)