Holiday Ale Festival Picks + Win Tickets

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Update: 2011 Portland Holiday Ale Festival In Pioneer Square | Four-Dozen Rare Winter Beers, 17,000+ Attendees

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Portland’s 2010 Holiday Ale Festival starts tomorrow and we are giving away $25 packages here on Pipeline. Sunday was the media preview and Ezra Johnson-Greenough aka Samurai Artist sent us his picks. He has a lot more notes on other beers and info on his site (The New School) here.

Related Holiday Ale Fest Info on Pipeline:

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By Samurai Artist (Full Notes here)

Portland Holiday Ale FestivalHoliday Ale Festival Picks:

The Holiday Ale Festival is a perennial favorite of beer geeks for its wild selection of experimental and big beers with emphasis on brews not available anywhere else. This year is no different with a surprising amount of sours, lots of barrel-aged beers and only few hop bombs.

Here are the brews that stood out the most to me of the 13 we sampled ahead of time.

1. Lompoc Franc’ly Brewdolph – I wasnt expecting to like this Belgian Red when I first heard and smelled it. I was expecting something overly sweet and fruity but this beer is supremely balanced between fruity esters, rich toasty caramel malts, spicy hops and subtle oak and wine characters from aging in Cabernet barrels. I recommend letting it warm up a bit to really get the range of its complexities.

2. Cascade Sang Noir - Many are probably already familiar with this sour belgian red blend from Cascade but this is a brand new 2010 blend and its just my kind of sour beer. Very sour beer! Lots of tart cherry and both bourbon and wine notes. Straight to the point but delicious and a real sour lovers beer.

3. Coalition Lost Glove – This beer smacks you in the face with its dank aroma right from the start. I wasnt expecting the massive hop hit like you just packed a bowl. While its not an IPA it will please the hop lovers. It is also strong but not very sweet so you can drink a lot of it without getting sick of it. I predict many repeated mug fills.

4. Natian Old Grogham Winter IPA - The first beer from Natian that I really enjoy is the only real IPA of the festival (blasphemy!). Up front I thought it smelled way too sweet and with a thick and creamy head does denote lots of unfermented sugars. In flavor, while being a little sweet it is very rich creamy and chewy but with tons of grassy and spicy hops. This beer reminded me a lot of a bigger version of Sierra Nevada’s Celebration and that is “A” ok with me.

5. Alameda Papa Noel’s Moonlight Reserve – I didnt used to like Papa Noel’s but newish Head Brewer Carston Haney has really brought this English strong Olde Ale around in this version aged with whiskey soaked French white oak spires. The beer reads like a brown ale upfront with its rich malt character and roasty nuttiness but shows itself to be a much more complex and rounded big beer with a thick creamy center and just a little bit of bourbon and oak spicing that lead to a balanced finish.

Conclusion: The overall quality of all 13 beers we tried was high, I would happily drink pretty much all of them with the only loser being the Gilgamesh Cranberry Saison, a wheaty fruit juicy mess that fails at being a beer but would be a pretty good soda.

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Samurai ArtistEzra Johnson-Greenough aka Samurai Artist is a craft beer consultant and critic, indie music promoter, illustrator, event organizer and general muckraker. Follow his beer rants, raves and reviews at The New School

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2 Responses to Holiday Ale Festival Picks + Win Tickets

  1. John Moore December 1, 2010 at 08:51 #

    I would love to go once again to the best beer fest of the year. Normally i have a batch of beer on hand as i brew as well, but things have been so tight lately that im just working and working to keep my family housed. I need a break…can you help me?

  2. heather December 2, 2010 at 23:53 #

    Absolutely love the winter beers – the summer fests don’t quite have the types of beers I usually like. And of course they taste even better whilst standing in line scouting your next choice – been multiple years and is always a good time!

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