There aren't really a lot of secrets with respect to this festival. It routinely features bold beers. These aren't run of the mill beers.The great bulk of what you'll find pouring here is made specifically for the event. They have a way of getting some great stuff. We're talking high octane ales, barleywines, barrel-aged beers, etc. Perfect for winter.
As most know, the HAF is housed under clear, heated tents. The weather may turn out to be perfectly dreadful outside, but it will be warm and toasty under the tents. So you won't need to wear your favorite ski outfit to be comfortable. Views of the city skyline and the holiday tree add to the festive appeal of this event.
Another interesting thing about the HAF is it seems to attract people from all over the place. I've mentioned this in previous posts, but it's worth mentioning again. I can't count how many times I have met people who are from faraway places. They come for this event and for all that is Portland.
Because things tend to get a little nuts during prime time, organizers again say the best days to taste are Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday. The first two days are good because a lot of working stiffs can't get down there until the evening, if at all. Folks who show up on Friday or Saturday will likely have to deal with some lines, although it usually doesn't get too wild until mid-afternoon.
There are plenty of details available on the event website here. For example, you can pre-purchase a tasting package there. The beer list is there. A couple of significant factoids to keep in mind: This is a 21 and over event and the kiddies are not welcome.
As for recommended beers, I'm quite sure everyone can manufacturer their own hit list from the online program. If you want to know what the experts are tasting, there are plenty of online and print sources you can consult. As for myself, these are a few of the brews I hope to try:
13 Virtues Brewing
Barrel-Aged MAX Stout
Aged in both Eastside Distillery and Bull Run Distillery Whiskey barrels for three to four months, supposedly offers the complexity of oak and vanilla notes and textured layers of deep, dark secrets. I'm sold.
Firestone Walker Brewing
8.5% ABV, 75 IBU
A complex blended IPA boasting huge citrus notes by the crafty use of Cascade, Centennial, Citra, Amarillo, Chinook and Simcoe hops. Sounds worthy.
Fort George Brewery
Santa's Dinner Jacket
Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Red Ale
Aged in Bull Run Distillery barrels. Sipped slowly and allowed to warm, this beer tells a story of time spent in the barrel infusing this heftily hopped ale with notes of port, sherry, caramel and toffee.
Red Ryder BB Gun
6.3% ABV, 22 IBU
The sweet aroma of cranberries melds perfectly with spicy saison yeasts. There is just enough fruit and tartness to balance the beer's finest pilsner malt. Sounds like a live one.
Hopworks Urban Brewery
The Incredible Abominable of the Enchanted Barrel Forest
Barrel Aged Imperial Winter Ale
9.0% ABV, 100 IBU
The infamous uncle of the renowned Abominable Winter Ale.This imperial version was aged in freshly emptied Woodford Reserve Bourbon barrels and features notes of vanilla and spice mixed with the already delightful flavors of citrus and caramel.
McMenamins Edgefield Brewery
Lord of Misrule
Rum Barrel Aged Imperial Mexican Mocha Stout
7.6% ABV,. 24 IBU
This dark and spicy imperial brew was made keeping all the joyful customs surrounding this ancient practice in mind. Brewed with cacao nibs, kilned coffee malt and habanero peppers, then aged in rum barrels post-fermentation.
Belgian Imperial Stout
11.8% ABV, 60 IBU
This Imperial Belgian Chocolate Stout was brewed with French cocoa, Belgian Trappist yeast, and plenty of attitude. Frankie Claus is layered with notes of banana, cocoa, dried red fruit and toasted almonds, creating a very smooth 11.8% ABV stout with a soft, warming finish.
Bourbon Barrel-aged Imperial Stout
Bourbon Barrel Aged Cherry Stout
10.0% ABV, 25 IBU
Brewed just for the 2014 Holiday Ale Festival, this massive brew boasts a huge backbone from seven different malts, a Northwest hop profile, and notes of roasted coffee balanced by delicious cherry flavors from an Oregon-grown sweet cherry puree.
Black Barley Wine
12.0% ABV, 100 IBU
This black barley wine has nearly the same profile as Stone Old Guardian, but surrounded by de-husked darkness. To give this demon its own flair, Stone fed it generous portions of Herkules,
Amarillo, Comet, El Dorado and Pacifica
hops. Coming in at 100+ IBUs, Stone says New Desecrator may just kill Santa Claus and end
your holidays early. Yikes!
Of course, there will be a number of special beers tapped during the course of this event. If you want to follow that stuff, there's a mobile version of the Holiday Ale Festival website that your smartphone will automatically detect. Tune in there for on-the-fly updates on special tappings and locations, as well as other event details.