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Monday, December 01, 2014

Bird-Dogging the Best at Holiday Ale Fest

Holiday Ale Fest
Pioneer Courthouse Square
Wednesday 12/3 to Sunday 12/7
Full Details

The Holiday Ale Fest begins on Wednesday in its too-snug venue at Pioneer Courthouse Square.  A force of nature, the Fest has evolved into an event in which most of the beers are specialty one-offs, which makes it one of the most anticipated fests of the year.  And also makes recommending beers a total crapshoot. If you like red-hued beer, coffee, chocolate, and bourbon, you're in luck.  Lots of that this year.  There are a number of black ales to go with the usual complement of IPAs, and there are even several sours.  Overall, a nice variety.

It's a fool's errand to predict which beers will emerge as the big faves, but equally, the wide range also demands that the savvy get together a list of target beers.  In the interest of generating discussion, below are the beers that intrigue me.  I plan to head down the first day, so look for a report back on Thursday. 
  • Base Camp Dunkelrauch Weizenbock (8.9%) and Old Town's Bluth's Original Chocolate Banana Hefeweizen (5.5%).  Base Camp's is all right there in the name--a smoked dunkel (dark) weizen.  What more can you ask from a winter beer than smoky, clovey, banana? Old Town's, which makes the list owing to the "Arrested Development" reference, is a lighter hefe with cocoa nibs.  Not so many sub-6% beers, so it might be a welcome pace-setter.
  • Bear Republic Do Yo Want to Build a Snowman? (6.8%).  A melange of four barrel-aged beers I've never heard of, the result of which is billed as fruity and slightly tart.  Two or three years ago, Bear Republic had the best beer at the fest, and I'm hoping for a repeat performance.
  • Burnside Jingleberry (8.3%).  Of all the stouts, this one most beguiles for the addition of fresh cranberries.  Fruit stouts are often lovely, and cranberries seem like an inspired choice.
  • Cascade Gingersnaps (12.1%).  A gigantic blend of 2-year-old quads aged on bourbon and rum barrels.  Ron Gansberg usually sends over something special, and I like special things from Ron Gansberg.
  • Coalition Big Maple (9.0%).  When she co-founded Coalition, Kylie Hoyt wanted to express a bit of her native Vermont and turned to maple syrup.  Coalition generally sends their wonderful winter strong ale, Lost Glove, but this year it's the big brother to their maple porter.  I love the little brother (Loving Cup), so this is a pretty sure bet.
  • Ex Novo Moonstriker (8.0%).  A mole Baltic porter made in collaboration with Moonstruck chocolates.  This seems like such an obvious idea, and yet I've never encountered a mole porter/stout that really sings.  Let's see if Ex Novo pulls it off.
  • Hopworks Incredible Abominable of the Enchanted Barrel Forest (9.0%).  Pretty much the only bourbon-aged IPA I've ever enjoyed was one made for this event by Hopworks, Kentucky Christmas.  It has heretofore been a tradition at the Fest but in its place we have a different bourbon-aged IPA.  I'll take a flyer on it.  (Also, standard Abominable is my fave beer from Hopworks.)
  • New Belgium La Folie (7.0%).  Because New Belgium La Folie.
  • Ninkasi Doppelbock (7.5%).  After having established their rep based on hoppy ales several years ago (I sampled my first Ninkasi, Believer, at HAF), Ninkasi has quietly been building an inventory of wonderful in-style German lagers.  I'm looking forward to test-driving this doppel and have high hopes.
  • Oakshire Prestidigitation (7.0%).  This is not the first pale stout, nor even the first recent pale stout (or in Oakshire's locution, "white stout").  But it may be the first pale chocolate milk stout.  Coffee, cocoa nibs, and star anise are harnessed in service of wrapping a stout-y flavor in a pale wrapper.
  •  Sixpoint Lump of Coal Porter (7.9%).  The reasons to be interested in this beer are two: 1) Sixpoint is located in Brooklyn and is unavailable in the Beaver State, and 2) it was a collab with the Beer Goddess, Lisa Morrison.  Not bad as reasons go, eh?
There are, incidentally, two beers that use mint: Slanted Rock Cordial Tease and Widmer Brothers Frostie the Munchyman.  I hate mint, so they got struck from my dance card, but if you like them take note.  The fest also has two-ticket (usually vintage) rarities that pour at designated times on each day of the event, but the Fest hasn't announced the line-up yet.  Watch this page for updates.

I'll leave you with the latest "pin-up" for further consideration.  Why on earth does the fest continue this bizarre tradition?  Consider it a provocation for a discussion in comments.  See you Wednesday--

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