The 17th Annual Holiday Ale Festival kicked off today. Opening day is a great time to attend. The crowds are light, the lines are minimal (if any), and all beers are available. I took the afternoon off and headed down to Pioneer Courthouse Square to partake in the festivities.
Even though I've attended several times, I'm always amazed by how the open space of the Square is transformed into the tented festival venue. I never tire of looking at the views of the lighted Christmas tree (or Holiday tree, if you're more politically correct) and city skyline from under the roof of the clear tent. You just need to experience it! Anyway, this event is all about the beer. Here's what I sampled this afternoon:
Wild Merkin (Barrel Aged Oatmeal Stout & Gueze Blend), Firestone Walker: I'll taste anything made by FW! This beer, a blend of Velvet Merkin Oatmeal Stout and a Gueze, did not disappoint. The individual components complemented each other. It managed to perfectly balance the roasted malt from the stout and tart from the gueze. Don't miss this one!
Organic Cocoa Bretta (Stout), Bison Brewing & Logsdon Farmhouse Ales: This collaboration intrigued me because it played on the strengths of its creators. In the end, it was a letdown for me. The cocoa component was prominent, but I couldn't taste the bretta (from the Brettanomyces). It also seemed a bit thin.
Boysen (Dark Belgian Ale), The Commons Brewery: The boysenberry came though in aroma and flavor. It has lots of layers including chocolate and light Belgian spiciness. It's 10.5% ABV, but you'd never know. Give it a try.
Mexican Mocha Porter, Kells Brewpub: Chocolate and spicy peppers were promised. Chocolate and spicy peppers were delivered! It's got some heat, but is not overwhelming. Well done.
Cherry Chocoholic (Baltic Porter), Rusty Truck Brewing: A very nice Baltic Porter, but I couldn't taste the cherry.
Prepare To Be Boarded (Barrel Aged Spiced Stout), Bear Republic: This gets my vote for Most Unusual Beer. It's like a cross between a beer and wine, but leans more towards the wine side. It's got some sour notes, as well as plenty of fruitcake-like spice.
Diesel #2 (Barrel Aged Imperial Stout), Cascade Brewing: Sadly, Cascade didn't send a sour beer to HAF this year. Don't fret though. Coffee, chocolate, and bourbon all meld together to form one might tasty brew! Be wary of the 11% ABV—it's stealthy, so handle with care!
As an added surprise, a 4 year vertical tasting (2007-2010) of Deschutes' The Abyss was held at 4 pm. This wasn't previously announced and I learned about it through HAF's Twitter feed. I tasted the 2007 and 2010 vintages. They were both great, but I preferred the 2010.
So that's a wrap of my opening day at Holiday Ale Fest. I'll be back for another round this weekend! What were your Holiday Ale Festival hits and misses?