I was temped to wait a few weeks to talk about the HAF, which doesn't happen until the end of November. However, the venue and the growing popularity of the event mean now is a good time to start thinking about your plans for the festival.
The size of the venue is the reason you should plan your trip times carefully. They expect around 17,000 people to visit the festival during its Wednesday-through-Sunday run (check the event website for times). Even though this is an outdoor festival, it's held underneath clear, heated tents. You don't have to worry about getting cold, but it can get a little cramped.
|The view is spectacular as dusk turns to night|
In my mind, the HAF is one of the best events on the Portland beer calendar. The beer list is generally spectacular and a venue that was once dark and dingy has been transformed by the arrival of clear tents. Hanging out under these tents while sampling great beers is a fine experience for beer fans. If you take some time to mingle, you'll likely meet folks who've come from out of town and out of state to attend the festival. That's the power of a great beer event.
Like all the other festivals, there's a cost associated with the HAF. They make it fairly simple by selling you a $30 package that includes a festival mug and 10 tasting tickets (no wooden tokens here) at the door. If you want a slightly better deal, go to the event website and purchase a package in advance. The price is the same, but you get 12 tickets instead of 10. Additional tickets once you're inside are $1. Remember, some (perhaps many) of these beers will require double tickets for a taste.
A word about pricing. The cost of attending this festival has risen steadily in recently years. Last year, the base package cost $25 and included a mug and 8 tickets. So you were essentially paying $17 for the mug. This year you're paying $20 for a mug if you buy a package at the door. Few connected to the beer community are going to openly say so, but I think the price is a bit excessive.
|Light weekday afternoon crowd in 2011|
Of course, it doesn't matter what I think. Even though there will be some bitching about cost, the event will be packed every day. Organizers have found that increasing the price has virtually no negative effect on attendance...which they wouldn't mind limiting, anyway. So the cost continues to escalate. This thinking may eventually catch up with them, but it hasn't yet.
One final thing to consider is the Holiday Ale Festival is a 21-and-over event. If you show up with the kids, you'll have to lock them in the car because they won't be allowed under the tents. I'm kidding about locking the kids in the car...and, frankly, I hope you aren't driving at all if you're tasting these big beers. A better plan would be to take MAX (which has stops right next to Pioneer Courthouse Square), the bus or get a designated driver.