The 21st Annual Holiday Ale Festival took place once again at the Pioneer Courthouse Square in Downtown Portland, Oregon. Enclosed in tents and equipped with heaters, there’s no excuse for missing out on what’s become my favorite brewfest of the year. A large portion of the beer entries are made especially for this five-day festival, which went from Wednesday, November 30th thru Sunday, December 4th.
As you walk through the entrance, the smell of Family Tree Nut Company’s cinnamon roasted hazelnuts is unmistakable and mouthwatering. It’s a first impression that makes you instantly want to curl up in your pjs and listen to your favorite Christmas tunes. Imagine that with me for a second… mm, ok. Now picture fresh cut fir trees, Santa hats everywhere, a view of the towering Courthouse tree, and jolly beer drinkers wandering all around.
The brewfest has a wonderful layout: two main bars on the first level (including a special release beer section for VIPs) with food and plenty of tables to mingle around, the Lounge on the second level with rare beers from holiday’s past, and the Sky Bar on the second level with lots of seating (one of the coolest features and greatly improved this year). In previous years, beer enthusiasts were funneled into the Sky Bar with a chance to try just one beer before having to shuffle back to the end of the painfully long line. For 2016, the layout was changed to let people come in and meander around to try whatever they like. No waiting, and better flow with additional tables to gather around.
This was my fourth year attending, and I’m already counting down to the next one. Keep scrolling to see my top rated beers, and as always, find me on Untappd to see what I’m sipping on.
Best Beers of 2016
🍺 Zero Visibility (Winter Warmer) by StormBreaker Brewing
9% ABV 10 IBU 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
This oatmeal cream ale was inspired by one of StormBreaker’s favorite holiday beverages. Adding cinnamon and nutmeg to the boil, the brewers then split the batch and aged it on soaked oak chips, half on whiskey and the other half on rum. Finally, they blended them back together to create the perfect Winter Warmer. Remember, you don’t have to black out to have Zero Visibility.
My Notes: A winter warmer for the ages! Well balanced and flavorful, without overpowering the palette.
🍺 #WhiteRazzMocha (Coffee Stout) by No-Li Brewhouse
6.1% ABV 70 IBU 🌟🌟🌟🌟
No-Li Brewhouse infused a light bodied coffee stout with flavors of raspberry and white chocolate. Freshly roasted Gemelli coffee was also used to get an authentic coffee flavor; other prevalent flavors include chocolate and toasted malt.
My Notes: Not too sweet, great coffee flavor. Love it!
🍺 All Seeing Pie (Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout) by Fort George Brewing
12% ABV 🌟🌟🌟🌟
This spiced stout was aged in Four Roses Bourbon barrels, adding notes of woody vanilla and oak. Jammed with hearty malts, a blend of spices, plus homemade apple pie filling tucked into the barrels, this stout is a warm reminder of a fresh baked apple pie…with a touch of holiday cheer.
My Notes: So yummy. Exactly what you hope for in a flavor packed stout.
🍺 De Los Muertos (Barrel-Aged Porter) by Feckin Brewery
8.5% ABV 🌟🌟🌟🌟
This beer is a spinoff of the brewery’s \” Top ‘O The Feckin Morning \” Irish breakfast milk porter. The brewers took East Side Distillery barrels and aged their TOFM and imperial porter for several months. They then added their house made horchata along with fresh cold brew coffee from Lisa at Happy Rock Coffee.
My Notes: Only a hint of coffee, not that sweet. I’ll take three pints.
🍺 H-E-Doppelsticke (Altbier/Doppelbock) by Heater Allen Brewing
8.2% ABV 44 IBU 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Heater Allen took its well-regarded Sticke Alt recipe and amped it up with more Munich and Pilsner malt, more German Hallertauer hops, and additional lagering time. The result is Doppelsticke, a high gravity take on a Dusseldorf-style Altbier. The beer is crisp yet rich, malty and balanced; perfect for the holiday season.
My Notes: I love a smooth altbier. This was great, and also a nice change from the heavy stouts at the festival.
(Beer Descriptions in italics are provided from the brewery for the Holiday Ale Festival program.)