Anyone remotely familiar with the HAF knows it's best to attend during daylight weekday hours. That's because it can get pretty packed evenings and on the weekend. There was a pleasant buzz in the air when I stopped by Thursday afternoon...busier than expected, but no problem getting around and no beer lines to speak of.
|A view without lines|
I asked one fellow drinker why he bothered to attend if he was so adamantly opposed to the price. I mean, why not let festival organizers know of your displeasure by not attending? His answer: "I come because this is one of my favorite festivals and I don't want to miss it." So there you have it. People pay the price because they feel it's a worthwhile value.
|Celebrate (good) Beer! Sounds like a fine idea|
A few general comments on the beers. The Standard Release line-up is Oregon-dominant...32 of the 44 beers in the program are Oregon made. California is second with six. You can add half a beer to both states, if you wish, thanks to the Bison/Logsdon collaboration. On the styles front, stouts account for 11 of 44 beers. Also, no fewer than 11 beers are barrel-aged.
|Beer friends Heather and Angelo|
I wasn't really seeking a hop bomb, given this is a winter festival, but Breakside's India Passion Elixir is a fine beer, probably my favorite. This is a collaboration between Breakside and Lompoc. Sure it's hoppy, but the hops are not out of balance. I suspect the addition of honey for increased body is what makes this beer. Other opinions may differ.
Boysen, a dark Belgian ale from The Commons, was almost exactly as advertised...a heavy (malty) low end is leveled out somewhat by chocolate and boysenberries on top. I was expecting it to be a little brighter, but it's a nice beer.
Deschutes' Lost Mirror Mirror 09, one of the Limited Released beers tapped Thursday afternoon, is amazing. This oak-aged specimen is possibly the smoothest, fullest barley wine I've tasted. It was certainly worth the double-token price. Too bad it was limited.
Another fantastic barley wine is Lagunitas' Old Gnarley Wine (2010). This one is on the Standard Release list. I've had this beer in a bottle and found it quite good. But additional aging smooths this beer out nicely, I think. Sweet caramel flavors are supported by a great body. Terrific.
|The standard tree shot|
So those are my highlights. Several of the beers on my original tasting list didn't quite live up to my expectations. They weren't necessarily bad, just not what I thought they would be. Opinions tend to differ on these things, so I leave it to you to taste away.
If you need more information, there's plenty on the HAF site here.