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Saturday, December 04, 2010

Three Good Ones At HAF

During yesterday's outing to the Holiday Ale Fest, I managed to cover a lot more terrain, and with just one exception, all the pours were in the good-to-excellent continuum. (The poor pour was Laurelwood's experimental black pepper Belgian ale, featuring too much pepper and a clash of disparate flavors.) But among the beers were three gems I wanted to highlight:
  • 2003 BridgePort Old Knucklehead Barleywine. Seven-year-old kegs are one of the central features that makes HAF special. Not all aged beers work, but when they do, there's nothing like them. This keg had been well-handled and was only mildly oxidized. It was marked by a port-like, long sweetness, full of caramel. Amazing.
  • Hopworks Kentucky Christmas. Mixing bourbon and hops is a risky business, but when it works, it works like a Swiss watch. The flavors locked together perfectly, balancing each other in almost shamefully tasty harmony.
  • Widmer Black Dynamite. Flying under the radar is the most successful spiced experiment I tried. The black pepper and chocolate are both very assertive elements, and the result is dessert-rich. I'm not sure what I'd think about a pint, but the small pour I had was like liquid dark chocolate, dense and decadent.
If you're headed into the scrum today, make sure you try the last two. I would also give a shout-out to Double Mountain Bockus (but make it your first beer--you won't appreciate its subtleties once your palate is blasted), Block 15 Figgy Pudding, which strikes me as the closest recreation of an English old ale I've encountered, and Ninkasi's Unconventionale, which is far more harmonious than last year's. I got heather, but not so much of the lavender.

Happy sipping--


  1. Darn. I missed all three of these! Did you happen to try Samiclaus 2005 on Thursday? I actually had to dump it. Nice flavor, but WAY too strong.

  2. My sentiments EXACTLY on the Kentucky Christmas. My favorite offering at the HAF this year by far.