Sometimes it’s easy to forget how lucky Oregonians are to have access to so many great craft beers year-round. The 2012 Holiday Ale Festival just recently finished serving heavy, spiced winter ales to thousands of people in the Portland area, with me being one of them. From what I’ve gathered, it’s a festival that people love and hate, but one I recommend if you’re a craft beer lover.
Access to a variety of beers that you wouldn’t be able to find at your local supermarket is one of the best reasons to go, but use caution, because some of those beers are not always what you’d expect. The festival began on Wednesday, November 28 and ran through Sunday, December 2. The hefty price of $30 included a tasting mug and 12 tickets, if you paid in advance, but grants you access to the festival for the full five days. If you want to have easy access to a majority of the brews next year, I recommend going on Wednesday and Thursday, because the lines on those days were slim to none. Wait until Friday to get full glasses of the brews you liked the best, because the beer lines will be huge over the weekend and the space in Pioneer Courthouse Square can make some people feel claustrophobic. Plus, if you go early, you can get sweet pictures like this!
I enjoyed many of the spiced ales, even though I’m more of a hop head. My favorite, by far, was Rusty Truck Brewing’s Cherry Chocoholic Baltic Porter (quite a mouthful). It’s one of the first beers I’ve ever tasted that had a nutty, chocolatey taste that closely resembled a peanut buster parfait from Dairy Queen. Gigantic Brewing‘s Old Man Gower’s Holiday Tipple had a nice subtle spice compared to some of the more intensely flavorful beers that circulated the huge beer tent. Trying Deschutes Brewery’s The Abyss vertical offering is one of those things you just can’t pass up in life. I was pleasantly surprised at the difference in taste between the 2008 and 2009 versions of The Abyss, with a much more straightforward drinkable beer from 2008 than the thick and heavy weight of the beer from 2009.
Had I not been able to go to the event Wednesday through Friday, it’s probable that I wouldn’t have paid $30 to enter. But if you have the time and the money, I definitely recommend coming to the heart of downtown Portland and quaffing some fine beverages from so many of the local breweries in Oregon and on the west coast.