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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Holiday Ale Fest - The Intriguing Beers

I have here in my hand a copy of the beer list for the Holiday Ale Fest (Wed-Sun, Pio Courthouse Square). It contains 37 regular beers*, and of them, I would very much like to try 35. Since I recently had Raven Mad and Redhook Double Black, and since Rogue Yellow Snow is an old standby, these I could skip. If I winnow the list down further by beers from area brewpubs, I can cut the list to 26. No doubt you'll do a similar calculation depending on your point of origin, and have a similarly overwhelming number of beers to try.

So I'll do what I do at every fest and create a list of a few beers that I must try. These will be the lines I visit first so they don't blow before I have a chance to try them. After that, well, it's like surfing--you ride the waves (generally to the smallest lines). What follows is not a defensible list. All these beers look enticing. But you gotta start somewhere, so here's where I'm starting:
  • Widmer Babushka's Imperial Stout. [9%, 1.086, IBU: 70] Brewed exclusively for the fest (get used to that phrase), this is their long-time draft KGB stout fermented with 14 lbs/barrel of local black raspberries. I don't know what black raspberries are, but this sounds fantastic.
  • Lagunitas White Pepper Stout. [8.2%] In their usual manner, the folks from Lagunitas tell us nothing about the beer. The name is actually yersinia pestis the latin name for the plague. Hell, I don't even know if it's white pepper stout--I'm basing my pick solely on the basis that it is a white pepper stout.
  • Cascade Drie Zwarte Pieten "Sang Noir." [9.5%] This comes from Ron Gansberg's brewkettle, and it will be strong, sour, and funky. Whether the designation "Flanders red" has anything to do with this beer, which has been aged in whiskey and pinot barrels and fermented with cherries, is really beside the point. Brewed exclusively for the fest.
  • Hair of the Dog Jim. [9%] Jim is a blend of several HotD beers (Adam aged in Elijah Craig barrels, Fred aged in new oak, Blue Dot, and Doggie Claws) and is made exclusively for the fest. This is the third iteration. Will it match the sublime first year batch? I must know.
  • Stone Smoked Porter (with vanilla beans). [5.9%] This has two interesting--and one would imagine--conflicting flavors, smoke and vanilla. It may be terrible, but I have to try it to confirm. Plus, it's the only one less than 7% alcohol in the bunch.
  • Pyramid Special Snow Cap. [7%, 1.069, IBU: 47] I almost resisted putting this on the list because of the actual name, so bad we shan't speak of it here, but I concluded that that was a little petty. Truth is, this will be one of my first pours, because it was aged with Sharffenberger cacao nibs, so it makes the list.
There are more Holiday Ale Fest considerations to be made, and more posts as well. But ponder these in the meantime. Have a look a the list. What will you absolutely have to try?

*Special beers also pour on Wednesday and Thurday nights--that's stuff for another post.


  1. I think the Yellow Snow is a newly reformulated IPA

  2. I think you named most of my 'musts', but I'd like to add Firestone Walker's Parabola and Saucerful of Secrets...

  3. Jeff, check out to learn more about blackraspberries. Marvin Decker was the farmer that we worked with. The great thing about blackraspberries are their antioxidant properties. Chances are a couple kegs of this will get set aside and be forgotten about for a couple years. Hopefully it will hold up well.