Holiday Ale Fest Notes and Stats

The Holiday Ale Festival, arguably the signature event of the year, kicks off downtown today. It features 41 regular beers and another 16 that are released at 2 pm every afternoon of the Fest--four a day--except today, when the special release rolls out at four. Another slot is occupied by a rotating Lips of Faith beer from New Belgium. What makes this fest special are the beers, the majority of which are special, one-time releases. Scanning the list, I see only one beer that's available year round (Cascade's Sang Noir) and only a handful that are regular seasonals. Mostly these are gifts to the beer geeks for making Portland such a special place.

Total number of beers at the fest: 63
Number appearing any given afternoon: 46
Average alcohol content: 7.9%
Average IBU: 48
Least alcoholic: Breakside Cranberry Biere de Table (3.3%)
Most Alcoholic: 2005 Samiclaus (14%) - pouring today only

It's rough to break the beers down by style, but let's try. Looking just at the regular beers, I'd say they look roughly like:

7.1% - Porter
7.1% - Old Ale
7.1% - Sour ales
9.5% - Barley Wines
9.5% - Belgian styles
14.3% - Winter Warmer
16.7% - Strong ales
16.7% - Stouts

You may ask: what's the difference between a winter warmer and an old ale? Or an old and a strong? Or a strong and a barley wine? Or -- enough. I suppose you could say it's 23.8% porters and stouts, 47.6% strong ales, plus some other stuff. But this is my blog and so I assert (capriciously) that there is a difference between barley wine, old ale, winter warmer, and strong ale.

It's always fun to try to suggest beers, but since I didn't go to the media tasting, I have no idea what most of these taste like nor can I predict anyone's particular preferences. And anyway, you'll follow your bliss. What interests me are these:
  • Breakside Cranberry Biere de Table. It's a session saison with a bit of cranberry acid and spice for fun. Sounds a lot like the kind of beer I asked to brew with Ben for Mighty Mites, and that's pure Jeff-bait.
  • Collaborator Hallucinator English Old Ale. Not the first time Hallucinator's made an appearance, and I recall past editions being mighty tasty.
  • Double Mountain Chimney Stout. Brewed with rye and oats, the brewery promises a touch of sweetness up front and a long, dry finish. If so, I'll love it.
  • Firestone Walker Bourbon Barrel Velvet Merkin. I can feel the buzz all the way in SE Portland. I will have to give it a try just so people don't badger me.
  • Hopworks Kentucky Christmas. At least the third year they've made this, and I've loved past editions immoderately.
  • Laurelwood Bonaparte's Retreat. Having just been to France and Belgium, this would be a must-try in any case, but it's made with roasted chestnuts, perhaps like the packet I bought in York, which is doubly enticing.
  • Lompoc Cherry Christmas. A witches' cauldron of blended beer; I will overlook one of the ingredients ("a two-year old Gueze"--gueuze is made by blending different ages of lambic) because the others, blends of soured and/or barrel-aged beers, sound delicious.
  • McTarnahan's Barrel-Aged Ink Blot. A Baltic porter aged on Jack Daniels barrels. Worth a token to see how it turned out.
  • Ninkasi The Little One. A true parti-gyled small beer, made from the second runnings of Critical Hit barley wine. Though the nerd in me thinks they should have called it "Double Damage" Small Beer.
  • Rusty Truck Belsnickle Strong Ale. Rusty Truck? Rusty Truck? What the hell is Rusty Truck? It's apparently from Salem. Who knew?
  • Upright Provision. A mix of biere de garde and brett-soured English old ale. Sounds like a huge degree of difficulty, but if it works, it probably really, really works.

If you're looking for more advice, Pete and Angelo have made their selections as well.