February/March 2003
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Holiday Ale Fest Draws Festive Crowd

by Tom Dalldorf

     PORTLAND, Ore. -- December in Portland? "Bring the rain gear," says the conventional wisdom. Having arrived from the torrential rains of the San Francisco Bay Area, I felt well equipped to deal with all Portland could send my way, rain-wise. With cowboy hat and ankle-length duster, I was ready for wet. The Holiday Ale Festival, held annually at the historic downtown Pioneer Court House Square, was absent only one thing: discernible moisture. Oh sure, there was a light sprinkle every so often, but for monsoon-quality drenching you had to go back to the Bay Area. I was actually enjoying brief glimpses of the sun in Portland!

[an error occurred while processing this directive]Add to the unseasonably mild weather an awesome collection of winter brewing -- to be found in one place! This year's Holiday Ale Festival had it in profusion: great winter ales and lagers, music to soothe the savage beer enthusiast, food purveyors and a curious shopping opportunity for those who would chance buying holiday gifts after indulging in the high-gravity brews of the season. A fine idea, all things considered.
Upon arrival at the fest, I ran into Celebrator writer Mike Rasmussen, who thrust a beer into my hands and said, "This is awesome!" And so it was. The Mt. Hood Old Battleaxe Barleywine was unbelievable! It was so good, in fact, that there was precious little of it the next day. A huge malt base with unbelievable hop presence (100+ IBUs?) -- but all this massive beerness contained a balance that made it memorable.
All the beers being served were the richest and most assertive styles of the brewing year. That's what makes the Holiday Ale Fest a must for beer lovers. BridgePort's Ebenezer was for a time being served by old Ebenezer his own Scroogelike self! There was buzz on the fest grounds for several great or unusual offerings, including Deschutes Jubelale, Fish's Snowblind Winter Warmer from Leavenworth, Golden Valley's hilariously named Tannen Bomb and several of Widmer's offerings, among others. I loved the blended bourbon-barrel Bock, but it ran out early. The Collaborator Sledcrasher, a cooperative project between Widmer and the Oregon Brew Crew, was wonderful, as was a limited offering of the Collaborator Milk Stout. That last was not for the lactose intolerant!
Gill Campbell and Chris Crabb of Campbell Productions (who also put on the Oregon Brewers Festival) did their usual fine job of running a quality event and appeasing the quirky OLCC alcohol cops for yet another day. And they make it look easy!
Visit www.holidayale.com for more information and news of next year's event.

Copyright 2003, Celebrator No material herein may be reprinted without permission of the Celebrator Distributed On the W3 For personal, non-commercial enjoyment and use only. Cheers!

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