Holiday Ale Festival Review

Holiday Ale Fest 2011

By Chris Crabb

More than 17,000 beer lovers gathered  at this year’s 16th annual Holiday Ale Festival

Nick Rivers at HAF The Holiday Ale Festival continued its run as one of Portland’s favorite holiday traditions, as more than 17,000 gathered in Pioneer Courthouse Square over five days to raise a mug to the big, bold craft beers of winter. The celebrated winter beer festival took place Nov. 30 through Dec. 4 and featured more than 60 winter craft beers.

The beers served were either made or blended specifically for the event or were vintage offerings not commonly served in the region. In some cases, the kegs tapped were the last known kegs available of a particular beer.

Wednesday and Thursday of the event were all about beer appreciation, as true fans took off work to come early and avoid the typical weekend lines. These same fans took advantage of a real-time mobile website that listed the beers, their on-site location and descriptions, and up-to-the-moment updates on special tappings. There were an additional 22 limited tappings in addition to this year’s main lineup of 42 beers.

While all the beers were well received, a few rose to the top in terms of popularity and buzz. The People’s Choice winner, as determined by the beer that sold the most kegs, was Firestone Walker’s 100% Barrel Aged Velvet Merkin, a traditional oatmeal stout that was aged on 100% Bourbon barrels. This was followed by Collaborator Hallucinator, a malt driven English old ale; Collaborator is a project where homebrewers submit recipes and the selected beer is brewed commercially by Widmer Brothers Brewing Co. The third most popular tap was not a single beer, but rather a rotating series of beers from New Belgium Brewing. The Lips of Faith series featured small batch beers that showcased everything from saisons to Belgian strong ales to a German dark hefeweizen.

Jenn Stubbs, Jamie Floyd, and David Chappel at Holiday Ale Fest '11

Clear top heated tents provided so much warmth that the coat check took in a record number of garments. This was good news for the Children’s Cancer Association – the Holiday Ale Festival matches all funds raised from the coat check as well as the Crater Lake Soda Garden and donates it to the worthy organization.

The Belgian Beer and Brunch, an auxiliary event held on the Sunday of the festival, hosted more than 100 people who sampled vintage large format beers and noshed on pastries, meats and cheeses in an area overlooking the main festival tents.

The 17th annual Holiday Ale Festival will take place November 28 through December 2, 2012, at Pioneer Courthouse Square. For more information, visit or call 503-252-9899.