2010 Holiday Ale Festival: A First Taste

Yesterday, I attended a Holiday Ale Festival preview at Bailey's Taproom and sampled 13 beers that will be served at the festival.  I thought I’d share my impressions about the beers and am grouping them into 3 categories:

MUST TRY:  All of the beers at the festival are unique.  However, these are “extra” special in my opinion.  I highly recommend you spend $1 to sample these. 
  • Sang Noir  (Sour Ale), Cascade Brewing Co.  A sour red ale aged for more than a year in Pinot and Whiskey barrels and then blended with Bing cherries.  I just visited Cascade Brewing’s Barrel House last week where they serve Sang Rouge, a slightly different version aged in oak barrels.  If you’ve never tried a sour ale—now is the time!
  • Figgy PuddingOlde Stock  (Strong Ale), Block 15 Brewing Co.  There’s been a lot of talk about this beer—and for good reason.  It starts with an English Pale.  Then it’s matured in brandy barrels, conditioned with mission figs, and spiced with Ceylon cinnamon and nutmeg.  This version is aged with a wild yeast strain that provides a bit of earthiness and funk (good funk) that’s not present in the bottle version.  Get it while it lasts…
  • Franc’ly Brewdolph (Belgian Red), Lompoc Brewing Co.  Created for the festival, this Belgian style red was aged in Cabernet Franc barrels for 13 months and then blended with Brewdolph.  It has a spicy aroma and a distinct oak finish.
  • Nor’Easter  (Belgian Strong Ale), Migration Brewing.  A Belgian made with New England Maple Syrup, which provides a nice touch.  The sweetness is not overdone, so no need to bring pancakes—though it should pair nicely.

Franc'ly Brewdolph

BIG BOLD HOLIDAY ALES:  Great ambassadors of Holiday brews.  All have something unusual thrown into the mix.

  • Papa Noel’s Moonlight Reserve  (Strong Ale), Alameda Brewhouse.  East Kent Golding hops provide medium bitterness and aroma.  Aged with whiskey soaked French white oak spires.  I tasted some chocolate and nutty flavors.  Very smooth.  
  • Ebeweesner Scrooge  (Sour Ale), Bear Republic Brewing.  Another sour ale—but this is smoked.  Exposure to mother nature through “open fermentation” adds to its unusual twang.
  • Lost Glove (Strong Ale), Coalition Brewing.  Nugget, Amarillo, and Northern Brewer hops are used.  Unusual mix of bitter and sweet.
  • Paddler’s Porter  (Chocolate / Vanilla Baltic Porter), Columbia River Brewing.  Brewed with chocolate nibs and Madascar vanilla beans.  It reminded me of a dessert beer and might provide a good end to your tasting session.  It’s smooth and sports a stealthy 8.5% ABV.
  • Weezin-ator  (German Doppelbock), Seven Brides Brewing.  A dark brown color with no head.  Aroma of roasted malt and coffee.  A little goes a long way.
  • La Niña Coffee Porter  (Porter), Vertigo Brewing.  I visited Vertigo earlier this month and sampled their beer.  I’ve been looking forward to tasting this.  Strong coffee aroma and flavor.  Starbucks would be proud!
  • Old Grogham Winter IPA  (Imperial IPA), Natian Brewing.  This is the ONLY IPA at the festival—seriously.  So if you need your lupulin fix, get a mug of this 86 IBU hop bomb that has a floral hop aroma and creamy mouth feel.


Old Grogham Winter IPA

CHANGE OF PACE:  Try these when your overloaded palate needs a break.  Sprinkle them in throughout your tasting session.
  • Cranberry Saison  (Belgian / French Ale), Gilgamesh Brewing.  Has a beautiful hazy peach color with a white head.  The light cranberry flavor is not overpowering.  At 5% ABV and 15 IBUs, this is one of the lighter ales at the festival.
  • Moore Holiday Ale  (Bohemian Imperial Pilsner), Holiday Ale Festival.  Based on a Maibock, but has less hops and more alcohol.  One of the few lagers at the festival.  I’d love to drink this in the summer.  If it gets too cold at the festival, grab this and imagine you’re at the beach (think Florida or California—not Oregon Coast).

Cranberry Saison

Although these 13 brews represent a small portion of the beers that will be served, I hope this helps you to develop your sampling plan.  The Festival website has detailed descriptions for all of the beers, so be sure to take a look before your visit.

I hope to provide another update after I do some more tasting on Wednesday and Thursday.  In the meantime, let me know what you’re looking forward to sampling.  Cheers!

11/30 update:  Click to see a different perspective on Holiday Ale Fest Beers.

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  1. I've been really digging your blog, Sanjay. Keep up the great work, man!

  2. Wow. What a compliment. Thanks Angelo! This Padawan plans to keep learning from the Jedi Master. :)


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