expr:class='"loading" + data:blog.mobileClass'>

Friday, November 30, 2012

My Holiday Ale Fest Snapshot

The Holiday Ale Festival has commenced its annual run at Pioneer Courthouse Square and will continue through the weekend. It's the 17th rendition and this festival has come a long way since the days of claustrophobia-inducing white tents.

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'll give a quick rundown of my favorite beers in a second. First, a word about the most-often heard grump under the tents...the $30 entry fee. I'm sympathetic to the view that the price of admission is a bit steep. On the other hand, organizers have no problem packing the available space for the better part of five days.

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
The layout is essentially identical to what it has been in recent years. You enter in the same place and the beers are in the same spots. They've truly maxed out the available space here with the Sky Bar, Side Bar and Main Bar. Part of the charm of the HAF is the downtown venue, and it isn't going anywhere, despite the limited space.

The Beers
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
Firestone Walker's Wild Merkin was the first beer I tasted. This is a complex beer and maybe that wasn't a great idea. Oh well. I found it to be mildly sour with subtle bourbon notes. It's a nicely balanced presentation on the whole.

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.

Perfunctory shot
Lompoc's Franc'ly Brewdolf, the beer I tasted a couple of weeks ago at a media preview, was a whole lot more mature and pleasing this time around. I found it a more creamy than malty, but it's certainly a worthwhile effort.

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
I had hoped to taste Snow Cave, the Crux Fermentation Project beer. Alas, it had not arrived as of Thursday evening. There was a sign near the entry saying they expected to have it Friday.

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Keep it civil, please.