2011 Holiday Ale Festival

December 5, 2011

This past Saturday, my husband Butle, cousin, two friends and I went to the 16th Annual Holiday Ale Festival held at Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland, OR. This was the third time I had attended. We got there shortly after noon, and left the crowded tent at 3pm. It was strange to walk outside and regain the ability to hear things. Getting there that early allowed us to pretty much never stand in line until about the final hour before we left, and even then the lines were not too bad. I did have a coworker who said he walked by at about 2pm and decided it looked too crowded and did not go in.

The Holiday Ale Festival serves up a lot of dark beers, and this year it cost $25 with a mug and eight 4-ounce samples (same price as last year, but with two less tastes). Between the five of us, we got to sample quite a bit as one of us would go get a sample and then pour into other people’s mugs. All in all, we still each probably drank the same amount, and we all felt like even though we wanted to try more, eight samples was almost too much for safety, which is something I had sort of come to the conclusion of at the Oregon Brewer’s Fest. Though, since there was five of us, we probably tasted more individual beers than I have been able to with just myself and my husband going.

Here are some of my notes, in order of tasting. Mind you, most of these beers were just made for this event and are nearly impossible to find otherwise.

  • Bison Brewing Co, Berkeley, CA. Barry White’s Voice in a Barrel. Dry Foreign Style Stout. 7% ABV, 15 IBU. It is described as their chocolate stout aged in Bourbon barrels. It was a good beer. To me, it had a nose like a sour, which Burtle said was the Bourbon. The dominate taste to me was espresso, though not as intense as Fort George Brewery’s Kentucky Girl Stout. We had to wonder if they were giving us straight espresso and not beer in that.
  • Gilgamesh Brewing, Turner, OR. Chocolate Mint Stout. 6% ABV, 1 IBU. Time and time again, I have just not been impressed with putting mint in beer. This one smelled good of peppermint and chocolate, but the taste was horrible.
  • Alameda Brewing Co, Portland, OR. Papa Noel’s Moonlight Reserve. Olde Ale, 8.2%, 30 IBU. This was a nice malty beer, but the longer I drank it, the more the IBU got to me.
  • Widmer Brothers Brewing Co, Portland, OR. Peppermint Paddy Porter. 7.6% ABV, 25 IBU. This was a really malty beer that came off a little burnt to me. Neither my cousin nor I could detect the mint, though Burtle thought the mint was still too strong.
  • Breakside Brewery, Portland, OR. Cranberry Biere de Table. Session beer, 3.3%, 6 IBU. Burtle commented that you couldn’t taste the cranberry, but then again, we have had some beers in the summer where the cranberry was too much. This was a nice light (tad watery) beer that would be a great pairing with Thanksgiving last week. It would compliment turkey and other food without competing with it. A good, “wash it all down” beer.
  • Oakshire Brewing, Eugene, OR. The Nutcracker – Gingerbread Imperial Porter. 8% ABV, 30 IBU.  My notes start getting sparse from here on out, and for this beer, I simply said, “toasted and burned.” However, one of our friends really liked it.
  • The Commons Brewery, Portland, OR. Little Brother. Belgian Dark Strong Ale, 8.7% ABV, 24 IBU. I liked this one better than the previous beer, noting caramel or toffee.
  • Fort George Brewery, Astoria, OR. Kentucky Girl Stout. Bourbon Barrel Aged Coffee Stout, 8.5% ABV, 48 IBU. This is the before mentioned coffee beer that left you wondering if you had been served up just coffee.
  • Buckman Botanical Brewery, Portland, OR. Fruit Cake. Herb/Spice beer, 6.5% ABV, 69 IBU. I was curious about this one, but was going to leave it for last due to the IBU. However, a friend got it, and I got a little bit of fruit notes and toffee. However, the friend commented that he did not rinse his glass out after having Fort George, so he thought the toffee favor was really coming from that.
  • Bison Brewing Co had one that I do not have any information on, other than it had some tangerine in it. I found it very drinkable and wanted to swap with Burtle what I was drinking, but he wouldn’t let me.

We actually sampled another five beers, but my notes are sparse that they aren’t worth reviewing.

Going with other people like that was very nice because we got to try a larger variety of beers without being completely drunk. It was also cheaper for all of us, as we were not purchasing extra tickets. Really, going with friends is the best way to go.

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2 Responses to “2011 Holiday Ale Festival”


  1. […] cider. What I really wanted to do was make apple brandy, but due to logistics, I can’t. One of Burtle’s cousins suggested to me boiling it down and making syrup with it. At first I wasn’t sure, but […]


  2. […] 15 Figgy Pudding and Colston-Basset Stilton. I thought we had had the Figgy Pudding before at the Holiday Ale Festival, which it turns out the “one off” version that goes to the festival is this but with […]


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