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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