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Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Holiday Ale Fest Reprieve

Update.  John Foyston has a great piece about the fest in today's print edition of the O.  Go have a look.

Update 2.  I see that they're pouring Hair of the Dog Jim, vintages '08 and '09 at 2pm today.  I've attached a video of Jim hijinks from fests past down at the end of the post.

I've given myself the day off tomorrow to go to the Holiday Ale Fest, that event featuring the best beer and worst crowds of the year.  I've just pulled up the details for the fest and had a gander.  What I notice immediately is the heavy emphasis on stouts this year.  Of the 45 regular beers, 14 are porter/stouts (they're all big boys, so the style name is a matter of preference, not distinction).  Red ales and old ales (four each) are also well-represented, and surprisingly so.  Nobody brews old ales.

When you're looking at a list of beers, you have no idea which ones are going to be winners.  The barrel-aged raspberry tripel with roasted chestnut flour may suck and the unassuming porter may be the best beer at the fest.  What you can identify are the most interesting beers.  They are these:
  • Bison/Logsdon Cocoa Bretta.  What happens when you combine a chocolate stout and a brett-aged saison?  Sounds a bit like combining a hurricane and Miami to me, but we'll see.  (Interestingly, not on the website.  So maybe we won't see after all.)
  • Firestone Walker/Barrelworks Wild Merkin.  This is apparently an experiment to see what happens when you combine the two most disparate types of beer you can think of.  They came up with oatmeal stout and gueuze.  Well, stouts were once a sour beer.
  • Speakeasy Payback Porter.  Spiced like chai.
  • Commons Boysen. Okay, not so crazy--Belgian dark with boysenberries--but alluring.
  • Walking Man Santa's Little Black Homo.  CDA* spiced with cinnamon and allspice.  Also known as Alworth's Nightmare.
Lots and lots of interesting looking beers.  I want to give Gigantic special notice for Old Man Gower's Holiday Tipple, which is, I assume, a reference to Mr. Gower the druggist who almost accidentally poisoned someone until George Bailey noticed and stopped him.  Later, in the alternate, wish-I-had-never-been-born version of Bedford Falls Pottersville, George finds Gower, now a drunk and derelict since George wasn't there to save him.  What that has to do with the story Van and Ben tell of their beer I can't quite piece together.
"The recipe for this malty, caramel holiday beer was passed down to the brewer by Old Man Gower. According to the brewer, "It was Christmas Eve in the drunk tank. An old man said to me, 'Won't see another one.' And then we sang a song, The Rare Old Mountain Dew. I turned my face away, and he told me about this brew."
Anyone who has been and would like to guide me to must-try beers, I'm all ears.

*In case you missed the Amazing War for Cascadia (TM), go here first, then go here and finally go here.  It's uber fascinating. To get the full texture of the spleen--yes, Canadians do vent spleen--read the comments. 


  1. The Homo was not good, in my opinion, though I am usually a big Walking Man fan. I thought Breakside's India Passion Elixer was best in show. Bison Cocoa Brett was interesting--not my cup of tea, but I could see how it would be pleasant for some. I wad also a big fan of the Burnside Brewery offering as well as Bayern's Eisbock. All in all, I think I had at least a sip of about 2/3 of the offerings, and there weren't any that weren't drinkable, and most were at least interesting if not quite what I'd call "good," but I have my own tastes, after all. I went from 3-7 on Wednesday afternoon, opening day for the first time, and I must say that I was very happy with the experience: enough of a crowd to be a fun and festive experience but not so many that it was hard to navigate, and NEVER more than 2 people in front of me in a line. I know that many can't afford the luxury of going at that time of day, but it was a much more enjoyable and less chaotic way to experience the great beers offered.

  2. I concur on the Breakside/Lompoc collaboration. It was the best I tasted. The Bison/Logsdon was unimpressive. The Walking Man was dreadful. Firestone Walker's Wild Merkin was interesting...a nice blend of sour, bourbon and stout. Lost Mirror Mirror 09 was fantastic, but you won't get to taste it on Friday. Plenty of good beers down there, so have fun on your last hurrah.

  3. Cascade's Diesel #2, I liked the Wild Merkin twist, great keg of Raison D'être, 2009 Sang Noir is even more complex than last year, the Commons Boysen, and Migrations Feel the Rath (a tad too sweet for me but I think it is true to style). Add Kell's Mexican Porter to the strange mix -it brings a decent punch of heat at the end. And I would avoid Bear Republics Prepare to be Boarded.

  4. Hey Jeff,

    Old Man Gower's Holiday Tipple and it's description combine two of our favorites - It's a Wonderful Life and The Pogues Fairytale of New York. We presuppose the drunk in the Pogues song is Mr Gower.


  5. Ah, the Van and Ben story is a conflation of 2 Christmas classics, It's a Wonderful Life and the Pogues' Fairytale of New York.