Holiday Ale Festival 2013: Review

Beer writer Jenna & friends brave the cold for some unique Holiday Ale Festival brews

I’ve attended the Holiday Ale Festival for a few years now, but this year was the first time I’ve ever attended during the day.  Honestly, I have to say it is way better than attending at night.  (Minus the fact that I gave up a weekend of skiing to drink yummy, yummy beer.)  This year, I attended with my roommate, Tiffany and our friends, Adam and Stephanie.

Tiffany, Jenna, Adam and Stephanie at the Holiday Ale Festival
Tiffany, Jenna, Adam and Stephanie at the Holiday Ale Festival

I’ll admit, I’m the type of girl who buys wine because the label looks cool and will try beers based solely on their names.  I used to want to grow up to be in charge of naming crayon colors, but I think I’ve matured a bit and would love the opportunity to name some beers.

Over the course of two days here is what we tried:

  • 10 Barrel Brewing’s Beernog.  This spiced winter ale is actually nothing like eggnog.  Brewed with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, rum-soaked raisins and cocoa nibs.  This beer was one of my favorite beers at the Holiday Ale Festival! 
  • Bear Republic Brewing’s Santa’s Lost Wallet.    This dark and luscious blend of ales has a base of brandy barrel-aged Belgian brown ale that features the sweet notes of brandy, house-made candi syrup, and a touch of nutmeg.  Blended for balance with Bear Republic’s roasty Big Bear Black Stout and molasses heavy Pirate Stout.  This three-in-one combo was one of Tiffany’s favorite beers at the Holiday Ale Festival.
  • Burnside Brewing’s It Makes Reindeer Fly.  Burnside wanted HAF13 beer to be big, malty, and unique.  Made with loads of rye and specialty malts and continued to fortify with reindeer treats: heirloom carrots from Prairie Creek Farms in Joseph, Oregon and raisins for sustaining energy.  They definitely succeeded in their goal, this beer was malty!
  • Coalition Brewing’s Shenanagins.  This barley wine featured five different caramel malts provide a delightful malt sweetness and fruit notes.
  • Collaborator’s Collaborator Hallucinator Blend.  Based off Callaborator Hullucinator, but with an addition of Cascade Brewing blending beer that brings subtle Bourbon toostie roll notes to this aged malty old ale.  Bourbon and candy – good combo.
  • Crux Fermentation Project’s Oud Freakcake.  This two-ticket beer was brewed in the Oud Bruin style with orange and lemon zest, then aged in Markers Mark barrels where cranberries, figs, dates and raisins were added.
  • Eel River Brewing’s Gargantua.  This Imperial strong ale is aged on vanilla, and the vanilla was noticeable which I appreciated.  It was then blended with Eel River’s Bourbon barrel aged version of its Triple Exultation Strong Ale to bring in notes of oak and whiskey.
Enjoying the Pioneer Courthouse Square Christmas Tree over beers.
Enjoying the Pioneer Courthouse Square Christmas Tree over beers.
  • Elysian Brewing’s Doom.  Made November 2012, this pale ale was brewed with pale, Biscuit, Cera-Hell and C-15 malts, oats and gold syrup and golden raisins. 
  • Firestone Walker’s Luponic Merlin.  Made just for the Holiday Ale Festival, this oatmeal stout was infused with a combination of Citra, Centennial and Simcoe hops.
  • Fish Brewing’s Gingerbread Ale.  This red ale had Apollo and Palisade hops combine with crystal and Munich malts with the addition of ginger, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon.
  • Fort George’s Hogfather.  This was an Imperial Porter came in at 8.2% ABV.
  • Gigantic Brewing’s The Scut Farkus Affair.  Brewed with Haribo gummy bears and English toffee!  GUMMY BEAR BEER!
  • Gilgamesh Brewing’s BAHS.  This strong ale was aged in Burnside Bourbon barrels and features bread, caramel and roasted notes and is complimented by charcoal, cinnamon and oak.  This was an oddly fruity beer.
  • Hopworks Urban Brewery’s Kronan the Bourbarian.  This porter was aged in a Bourbon barrel for six months and has notes of chocolate, carmel and dark fruit (organic, hand picked sour cherries) with the essence of vanilla (Bourbon organic vanilla bean), smoke and oak.
  • Lagunitas Brewing’s Hairy Eyeball 2011.
  • Laht Neppur Brewing’s St. Dorothy’s Peach Cordial Ale.  Learned something new, St. Dorothy of Caesarea is a patron saint to both brewers and fruit orchards.  Made with real peaches and concentrated peach juice, honey, cinnamon and nutmeg.  This was a sweet/sour beer.
  • Mazama Brewing’s Mazamanator.  This was surprisingly light beer.
  • McMenamins John Barleycorn’s Mele Kalikimaka Coconut Stout.  Flaked coconut was added to mingle with lightly roasted chocolate malts.  This stout was aged in whiskey barrels that once held McMenamins Hogshead Whiskey.  Couldn’t find any coconut, just chocolate in this beer.
  • Migration Brewing’s Big Sipper.  Fermented with a relatively neutral Belgian yeast.
  • Natian Brewery’s McGuiness.  This was a rich, creamy, desserty beer.  Then aged on Kahlua soaked Oregon oak.
  • Oakshire Brewing’s Heavenly Oraz Burton 2012.
  • Old Town Brewing’s Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum.  Featured dark caramel, toffee and raisin malt flavors.
  • Oskar Blues’ Black Mamba.  Malt aromas blend nicely with banana and clove aromas and flavors.
  • Speakeasy Ales & Lagers’ Erotic Cake.  This chocolate milk stout was brewed and dry-hopped with TCHO cocoa nibs.  This beer was so good and a definitely favorite in our crowd!
  • Stickmen Brewery’s The Twerking Elf.  I love twerking, but this beer was too sour for me.  Featured dark cherry, dried fruit and sour plum.
  • Stoned Brewing’s Spiced Unicorn Milk.  This chai milk stout had a blend of six spices including cinnamon, cardamom and black tea.
  • Vertigo Brewing’s Barrel Aged Polar Blast.  A version of the Artic Blast Vanilla Porter, this beer featured a blend of dark chocolate liqueur and aged in seven-year-old Big Bottom Whiskey straight Bourbon white oak barrels.
  • West Highland Brewing’s Highland Spiced Ale.  This beer was sour, yet spiced with cinnamon, ginger, vanilla, maple and harvest apples.
  • Oakshire’s Barley Wine 2013.
  • Bear Republic’s Old Baba Yaga 2009.


Did you attend the Portland Holiday Ale Festival?  What did you think?

Hi! I’m Jenna. I got the nickname bitesize in high school and I have a beer blog named I’m lucky enough to live in the microbrewery capital of the world, and home brewing is a hobby I love. With a focus on home brewing, reviewing local breweries and locally crafted beers, I'm excited about sharing my beer experiences with the readers of Eugene Daily News.

Susan Arnott "Heart"
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