Finally! I’ve heard great things about Portland’s Holiday Ale Festival for the past few years, but the date of the festival has always coincided with the Washington Winter Beer Fest, and I have always opted to stay local and enjoy that. This year the Holiday Ale Festival will take place from December 1 through December 5, while the Winter Beer Fest at Hale’s Palladium will take place on December 10th and 11th. Thanks to the scheduling gurus for giving us NW beer drinkers a chance to hit both festivals this year! A press release about the Holiday Ale Festival follows.
Annual Holiday Ale Festival exalts the craft beers of the winter season
PORTLAND, Ore. – While eggnog and hot toddies are commonly associated with the holidays, it’s no surprise that in the beer Mecca of the Pacific Northwest, craft ales are the drink of choice: specifically, big, bold ales designed to fend off the cold chill of a long winter night. The Holiday Ale Festival annually gathers together more than 40 of these winter warmers for a joyous five-day celebration.
The 15th annual Holiday Ale Festival will take place Dec. 1 through 5 at Pioneer Courthouse Square, located at 701 SW Sixth Ave. on the MAX Light Rail line. Hours for the event are 2 to 10 p.m. Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. The event is for ages 21 and over.
According to festival manager Preston Weesner, what makes this festival standout from other similar events is the beer selection. “We work with every brewery involved to make sure they are sending a product that has either been made specifically for this event, or is a rare or vintage beer that isn’t commonly tapped in the state. You aren’t going to come here and find a beer that you could purchase at your local supermarket.”
The beers featured are rich, robust and full of complex flavors – they range from IPAs, Belgians and Barleywines to Winter Warmers, Sour Ales and Stouts. What they all share in common is their rarity, which has solidified the event’s reputation as the premier winter beer tasting venue on the West Coast.
To taste beer, the purchase of an entry package is required. Packages include a 2010 souvenir mug and 10 beer tickets and cost $20 in advance at www.holidayale.com or $25 at the door. Once inside, a full mug of beer costs four tickets; a four-ounce taste costs one. (A few limited release and specialty beers require two tickets for a taste.) Additional beer tickets can be purchased for $1 apiece. Previous year’s mugs will not be filled. Free re-admission is allowed all days with a wristband and the current year’s mug.
Designated drivers in a party of two or more may purchase a designated driver writsband for $5. Designated drivers receive complimentary root beer courtesy of Crater Lake Soda Company.
Despite being held outdoors during one of the coldest months of the year, more than 18,000 festival attendees stay warm and dry under clear-topped tents that cover the venue. Gas heaters create a cozy ambiance beneath the boughs of the region’s largest decorated Christmas tree. In addition to beer tasting, the festival also features on-site food, event merchandise, a coat check for charity, and seasonal background music.
Returning to the event is the seventh annual Belgian Beer Brunch, taking place on Dec. 5 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the upper level of Pioneer Courthouse Square. The auxiliary event features European pastries, cured meats and artisanal cheeses to accompany an assortment of exclusive Belgian winter beers not available at the festival itself. Tickets cost $45 and are available at www.holidayale.com.
Brewing special seasonal beers predates modern history and has its origin in the pagan celebrations of winter solstice. Designed to fend off the cold of a long winter night, winter beers are traditionally complex in aroma and flavor, big in body, and high in alcohol. Thanks to an extra dose of malt, these beers are rich and bold, with chocolate, caramel or coffee flavors; others benefit from the addition of extra hops, herbs, spices and fruit.
For more information, visit www.holidayale.com or call 503-252-9899.