I may have chosen the coldest, wettest, most miserable day of the five day run to attend this year's Holiday Ale Festival but there were some outstanding beers that made it worth it. With that said I encourage you to keep in mind that I only sampled about a quarter of the 50+ beers at the festival (one can only drink so many big beers in one sitting no matter how strong one's resolve is) so I may well have missed trying some great ones on my first day.
For the most part I did a good job of sticking to the pre-set order on my hit list, only skipping over the ones that were two or more tickets. Now, just in case you think I was being cheap by doing that, let me set you straight. I had you, my dear readers in mind, and I wanted to make the most of my time and tickets so I could more thoroughly report back to you. That meant I skipped over Nectar Creek Triple Brett, Feckin Top O' The Feckin' Mornin', Cascade Gingersnaps and Portland Brewing BBA Imperial Stout, beers which if I can make it back for a second visit will be high on my list.
Of the beers that I did try the two that hit the most high notes for me were Oakshire Prestidigitation and Stone New Desecrator. As I was putting my list together part of the draw for Oakshire's offering was that the description reminded me a lot of Cascade Brewing's Oblique Black & White Coffee Stout. It was the first the blonde stout I tried and it made a huge, happy impression on me. Oakshire's version, a white chocolate milk stout, had the aroma of white chocolate and the flavor was reminiscent of Oblique, but with a stronger coffee punch. It's an amazing beer and at only 7% ABV, one of the lighter beers you'll find at #HAF19. I have my fingers crossed that they made more than just what was sent to the festival and that over the next few months I'll be able to have more. If nothing else, I hope it will reappear next winter.
The other beer, Stone New Desecrator, was one that as I put it on my list I was actually a little hesitant about. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of Stone's beers and hoppy beers in general, but a black barley wine, we'll, I wasn't sure how well that would work. Silly me. Not only was it visually appealing, with a huge, creamy head, but it was perfectly balanced between providing the hop character of a black IPA and the warming booziness of a barley wine.
The rest of the beers I tried ran from ones that weren't my favorite stylistically but I could appreciate them for what they were to ones nearly as good as my two favorites. Thankfully, and due in part to heeding the warnings from my beer friends, I didn't get any "drain pour" beers. If you've been, or once you go, I'd love to hear your favorites.
19th Annual Holiday Ale Festival
Through Sunday 12/7 opening at 11:00 am daily, closing at 10:00 pm everyday except for Sunday when the festival concludes at 5:00 pm
Pioneer Courthouse Square
General admission tickets: $35 includes tasting mug and 12 tasting tickets