The 21st annual Holiday Ale Festival launched yesterday in downtown Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square. This is the one beer festival in the Portland area that consumers have to be very wary. It seems that every year the average alcohol level of the beers slowly inches up, so while you are drinking two ounces of beer at a time, and you can get full eight ounces glasses (or is it ten?), it really sneaks up on you.
I am meeting my buddy Josh there today around two and then hopefully meeting up with Steve and Susan up from Half Moon Bay as well as Andy and Cindy from cross town. Of the group I have probably the weakest beer palate.
That is often not a major issue at this event since many of the beers are just so over the top in flavor that subtle flavor is not part of the conversation. Still it always puts you at a disadvantage when someone says how X type hops always comes through on this type of beer and you sit there with a blank look on your face, basically my default look at this event.
At the festival it is always best to look for the limited release beers first. These are vintage beers that have a limited supply. The festival staggers their release over the first days Wed-Sat, so that when you arrive will determine which ones are available. Many are only available as a single pour and all cost two tickets. One that I am looking forward to is the Widmer Collaborator Sullivan Stout, a homebrew contest winner that is then created at Widmer.
Then there are the Standard Release beers. There are over 50 of these and they are expected to last the full event. Some have been at the event for years while others are new, and in some cases so are the brewers. For the fans that attend on Sunday there is the aptly named Sunday Brunch Beers, usually rare or vintage releases and which require a separate admission.
The event is a great place to people watch as well. From Hipster Santa to everything that Portland has to offer. However with both the food pre and post event as well as all of the beer I am glad I followed the fall tradition of setting my scale back ten pounds as the holiday season arrives. May have to ask Santa for larger clothes!