It’s December, which means the Christmas tree lots that have been operating for weeks finally make sense, and the radio station airing Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer in heavy rotation is only half as tragic as it was last week… or will be by next week when we’ll already be suffering from Christmas fatigue. But it also means the glut of winter seasonals and holiday beers that have been flooding better beer shelves can finally be cracked open, not that I objected to drinking Hopworks Urban Brewery’s Abominable Snowman back in early November. It also means it’s time for the best or second best beerfest in Portland (a town that seemingly hosts 53 beer fests a year): the 16th Annual Holiday Ale Fest.
What consistutes a holiday ale is half the fun of sampling one’s way through the line-up… though making through the more than 50 beers is as daunting as delivering toys to all the girls and boys—it just doesn’t seem feasible to pull off in one night. Luckily, at least the fest runs through Sunday.
All of the holiday beers are one-offs for this festival or rare offerings that only come your way once a year. They range from Breakside’s Cranberry Biere de Table—a 3.3 percent ABV petit saison brewed with local cranberries—to the jolly 2005 Samichlaus (14%), It also includes some hoppy numbers like the high-alpha Hercules-hopped Seven Brides’s Drunkle (an old ale) to a smorgasbord of desserty beers that would pair with mom’s pumpkin pie or that fruit cake people still associate with the holidays. In fact, Rogue’s Buckman Brewery brought a beer called Fruit Cake. But while Oakshire’s Nutcracker, a gingerbread imperial porter, tastes the most like Winter Solstice inside a snow globe, the ebullient elves ‘neath the tented fest seem to agree that Firestone Walker’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Velvet Merkin—with the already rich oatmeal stout beefing up its roasted nuts over a warm bonfire of bourbon yielding flavors of ethereal flourless chocolate cake—was package we’d all like to see under our tree or menorah this holiday season.
What’s your favorite beer of the season? And do you actually plan on pouring it at any holiday gatherings to spread the noel?