Friday, December 14, 2007

Holiday Ale Festival 2007

Only about two weeks late, I wanted to capture my thoughts on this year's Holiday Ale Festival in Portland. That's my neighbor, Jill, enjoying the festivities with Santa Claus.

Carla and I got there pretty close to opening time on Thursday, before everyone got all cheek-by-jowl and belly-to-belly, and we had a great time. I went back Friday afternoon to fill in a few gaps and hang out with the neighbors, but the crowd was so dense at that point that it was a little less enjoyable. Still a good vibe, just too much of it.

The notes I take at these festivals are telegraphic, to say the least, usually three words or less for each beer. Not Pulitzer Prize-winning words, either; sometimes just a "Nah", or an "Awesome" -- which is all I could think of to say about my favorite from Thursday, a blend of Hair of the Dog beers called Jim II. On Thursday I had the presence of mind to keep a ranking of my favorites, which were:

  • Hair of the Dog: Jim II (Specialty Blend): "Awesome".
  • Double Mountain: Fa La La La La (Winter Ale): "Most excellent, hoppy & big".
  • Caldera: Cauldron Brew '07 (Dry-Hopped Strong Ale): "Carla says almost perfect. Flat carbonation, tasty".
  • New Old Lompoc: Brewdolph (Belgian Specialty): "Really good, candy".
  • Ninkasi: Otis (Oatmeal Stout): "Delicious".
  • Deschutes: 2007 Oak-Aged Jubel (Winter Warmer): "Not disappointing".
Hmmm... Where would that Jubel fit in the ratings of the 5-year vertical described in an earlier entry? It might have been slightly better than the regular 2007 -- which I like a lot -- then again, how much greatness can you get from aging in oak for only 2 months?

I skipped Roots' Festivus and Full Sail's Wreck the Halls at the festival, since I've already "sampled" them this year. They probably would have landed somewhere around New Old Lompoc in the rankings above. They're awesome beers.

Hey, is Ninkasi trying to make fun of Hair of the Dog, giving their beer a man's name with only four letters in it? Speaking of which, what's with HotD's "Jim"? I'm surprised they didn't keep up the four-letter pattern by calling it Jimi.

Now for some notes from Friday. These aren't as -- ahem -- scientific as the ones above, but there are some beers worth mentioning, though they're not listed in order of preference like the ones above. For the simple reason that I can't remember that order.

  • Lagunitas: Oaked Brown Shugga (Strong Ale): "Awesome". My poetry shines through again.
  • Hopworks: Organic Kentucky Christmas (Winter Ale): "Quite good".
  • Rogue: Santa's Private Reserve (Double-hopped Red Ale): "Quite good". The language skills are really breaking down at this point.
  • Pyramid: Dry-hopped Snow Cap (Winter Ale): "Very good, flavorful". It's easy for us snobs to dismiss Pyramid beers, but I like Snow Cap pretty well.
  • Pelican: Bad Santa (Black IPA): "Really good, like rauchbier".
  • Sierra Nevada: 20th Street Ale (Fresh Hop Ale!): "Better than the Harvest Ale. Malty and full."
I was glad to get that 20th Street, it was a last shot at fresh hops, in a year when I went off the deep end. (Actually, Matias gave me some bottles of his homegrown, homebrew fresh hop, so it hasn't ended yet!) I didn't care for Sierra Nevada's Harvest Ale this year, but the 20th Street was a special batch, with hops from their own garden. It just seemed fuller and better, with more of the fresh hop aroma.

There were some other pretty good beers, and there were five of them that I had to put in the dungeon. Since the internet is forever, I don't want to name names, but I can at least share the comments for the bad ones:

  • "Nah". But I already told you that one.
  • "A little disappointing". This is a winter beer I usually like.
  • "No way, tainted".
  • "Not too long. A little bland, but bitter". Ouch. Bitter usually means good for me.
  • "Not so good".
Man, all this writing makes me thirsty.


  1. A black IPA? WTF? I never heard of such a thing. I'm intrigued.

    Someday, you need to find a way to be down here in December for Bobnoxious' Christmas/holiday/Festivus beer tasting. It's way too fun.

  2. Someday Bobnoxious needs to bring his Christmas tasting to Portland :) .

    To me the black IPA tasted like it used a very smoky malt. It was tasty.