After a five-day run, this year’s Holiday Ale Festival is now just a memory and it’s time for a little reflection. Overall I found the offerings to be a bit weaker than last year or maybe it was that while there were some really outstanding beers, there were some very disappointing beers, something I don’t recall from last year.
Very Tasty Beers
Firestone Walker Velvet Merkin – Yes, I’m hopping on the bandwagon and giving this beer two thumbs up.
Laht Neppur Laughing Boy Stout – This was my second beer of the festival and I was pleased to find it a very well done bourbon barrel aged Russian Imperial Stout.
MacTarnahan’s Barrel Aged Ink Blot Baltic Porter – This beer was on my “skip” list simply because it was from MacTarnahan’s. I was wrong, so very wrong, and I'm super pleased I had the chance to try it.
Stone Ruination IPA DDH Apollo/American – Besides being completely different from most of the beers at the fest, it hit the right notes for me being packed with hoppy grapefruit flavor, very smooth and immensely drinkable.
Upright Provision – While I like some Upright beers and dislike others, this one fell solidly in the disappointment category. My sixth beer of the fest, I don’t think my taste buds were that far gone but I got nothing, just nothing from this beer.
Brew Crew Hallucinator – One of my main reasons for trying it was that it was billed as a Holiday Ale Fest only beer. Lesson: that doesn’t mean it will be good.
Buckman Fruit Cake – Fruit cake has a bad reputation, sometimes undeserved, sometimes rightfully deserved. This proved to be the latter.
Natian HOLLAday Ale – In general I’m a Natian fan (especially after meeting Nat recently) and I was excited to try all of the holiday treats in one glass. I guess sometimes there is such thing as too much of a good thing.
Beyond the beers there were a couple things I hope the festival organizers will take note of and improve upon in the future.
Water Stations: Water, for rinsing and for drinking, is essential at any beer fest. When a fest bars outside food and beverage from being brought in, it’s particularly essential that there are plenty of well stocked water stations available. Besides the hydration factor, it’s impossible to get the true taste of a beer if the last one is still lingering in your glass. One water station near the exit for a multi-level event doesn’t cut it.
Re-entry: Both this year and last year we went to the festival multiple days. Last year there was no issue with coming back, as long as it was the current year’s festival mug in your hand, all you had to do was get ID checked again and buy more tasting tickets. This year however, I feel we came very close to having to pay for a whole new package ($25 for a mug and 8 tasting tickets) because our stamps had worn off and we had taken our wristbands off. I understand that the festival doesn’t want one person buying a glass and then letting buddies use it. But what the festival didn’t seem to understand is that I, and probably a good majority of attendees have jobs, professional jobs, where wearing a bright red “ID checked” wristband and not showering in order for the stamp to stay on is simply not acceptable.
While I may complain about some of the beers, you won't find me dwelling on them. In fact, if you ask me in a couple months which beers those were I will likely have to pull up this post to remember. And for the critiques of the water and re-entry issues, well, I'm an event planner and I can find things that need to be improved upon at nearly any event. So no hard feelings, friends. You win some, you lose some. And there will always be more beer to enjoy.