Each year, the Portland Holiday Ale fest sets me right into my holiday mood, and this year was no exception. The festival was more expensive, yet more crowded than any of the previous years, with a $35 entry fee. Entry included a plastic mug and 12 tickets (so essentially the price just to walk in the door was $23). Extra tickets can be purchased for $1 each. Many beer samples require only one ticket, but others are two or more. Full beers can be purchased with multiple tickets.
Portlanders always pack this fest, which focuses on heavy, dark ales for the winter season. An important thing to note is that this event is, I kid you not, five days long. It starts on Wednesday and lasts through Sunday. Although our friend Eric, who attended every day (he arrived from ABQ on Wednesday and bought the VIP package for $100, which included special tappings, special lines, and over 30 tickets), said on Sunday they were out of most beers and shut down two of the three areas.
There were eight of us in our troupe. We were supposed to have more than that, but we never worked it out with some people. The consensus among our set was that this festival has turned into each brewery trying to “out-weird each other,” with the crazy varieties and ABVs. It makes for great fodder for a big group of drinking friends, though, because many of the names and styles are hilarious.
Favorite beers: Klamath Basin Brewing’s “Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stout” (9.1% ABV, 64 IBU). This was a very toasty, oatmeal-y behemoth. So smooth.
Portland’s Migration Brewing “Black Hearted IPA,” at 7.3-percent ABV and 80 IBU, was a super palate cleanser. It was great to have a more normal, drinkable, dark beer when you needed a break from the chaotic beers.
Least favorite: By far, our “award” for least favorite goes to “Happy Marijuanica,” (7.5% ABV, 85 IBU) from StormBreaker Brewing in Portland. Yes, pot is now legal in Oregon, but this beer contained no actual marijuana. One of the group members said it tasted like drinking bong water. I wouldn’t know about that, but it was awful. Somehow it still manages a 3.4 on Untappd. It must just be the name because if eight people really, really hated it …
Favorite beer names: (All happen to be local Portland breweries) “Pumpkin is the New Black” ( 7.2% ABV, 47 IBU), a pumpkin milk stout from Natian Brewing; Hopworks Urban Brewing’s Marzen entitled, “2 Fest, 2 Furious” (8.5% ABV, 45 IBU); and Ex-Novo Brewing’s Belgian Quad called “Weapons of Mass Fermentation,” a whopper at 11.5-percent ABV and only 18 IBU.
Craziest fact: Eugene, Oregon’s Ninkasi Brewing brought a 10-percent ABV and 80 IBU barrel-aged imperial stout called “Ground Control,” which was fermented with a yeast that survived a trip to space and back.
Please enjoy the photos.