2005 | REGIONAL | PACIFIC NW
Holiday Ale Fest In Portland
By Tom Dalldorf
Portland, Oregon – Beervana, to some – is a
great beer town. No further evidence is needed than the annual
Holiday Ale Festival held in December outdoors (!) at the
Pioneer Courthouse Square, smack-dab in the middle of the
bustling downtown shopping district.
Thousands brave Portland's predictable cold and dampness
to gather under tents (the gathering can become intense as
well) and raise cups (no glass allowed) of some of the finest
winter warmers, holiday ales, Belgian styles and barley wines
This year's edition was the best yet, with an extraordinary
lineup of great beers: old ales from Alameda and Alaskan;
winter warmers from BridgePort, Collaborator (Widmer), Deschutes,
Dick's, Golden Valley, Hazel Dell, MacTarnahan's and Redhook;
strong ales from Cascade Lakes, Full Sail, Lagunitas, Laurelwood
and Pelican Pub; and Belgian and Belgian-style offerings from
Chimay, Bosteels (Tripel Karmeliet), New Belgium, Rock Bottom
and Walking Man!
The "buzz" beers (not that kind of buzz beer; the
way-talked-about kind, silly) included Widmer Halo Imperial
IPA, Tuck's Gluteus Maximus barley wine, and Caldera's chocolate
Old Lompoc might get the hoppiest beer award for its Imperial
IPA, while Fearless and Raccoon Lodge squared off on the Scotch/Scottish
category. Rich, roasty stouts were covered by Pike, Rogue
and Wolaver's Organic, and Bill's Tavern had a unique orange
blossom honey-infused ale with cranberries and cedar! Still
hankerin' for the pumpkin spice? Mia & Pia's had a wonderful
pumpkin ale, made with fresh hops, no less. Several people
told me they went back for seconds of the classic Sierra Nevada
Celebration Ale — still hoppy after all these years.
Meanwhile, Mountain Meadows Meadery offered a spice nectar
and cranberry mead that was a honey, so to speak.
Because of the location, public transportation was a breeze.
The MAX stop was literally at the event, and buses ran by
regularly, taking beery explorers to Portland's many beer
locations with no hassle. Higgins restaurant was within walking
distance and offered superb food and a spectacular beer list.
Higgins has about seven draught beers, and all are significant.
The Gouden Carolus Noël was superb on draught (and was
served in the proper glass, naturally).
The fairly new streetcar runs out to the trendy Pearl District,
where BridgePort Brewery and Pub is located. The first time
I visited, it was a foreboding warehouse area with railroad
tracks down the middle of the sometimes-paved roads, which
provided quite a challenge to the new visitor. Hearing that
BridgePort was going to close for 10 months for renovations,
I made a special pilgrimage to visit the former rope factory
in all its rough-hewn wood and brick glory.
The plans for the renovation are ambitious, thus requiring
the long closure. A second story will be added for public
access, and a skylight will allow sunlight to fill the vast
space. Many traditionalists have voiced concerns about changing
the original look and feel of the place, but assurances have
been made that the upgrade will be in keeping with the historical
nature of the building, and the outdoor loading dock patio
"Touch not a leaf on that vine-covered wall," they
say. And a special historical consideration is the massive
antique urinals in the men's room, which entice "special
tours" by the ladies at odd times of the day. The urinals
will remain, and an additional one will be added from storage.
There is hope for the future.
Meanwhile, a short ride across the Hawthorne Street Bridge
will get you to BridgePort Ale House, where I had breakfast
before the next day's assault on the Holiday Ale Fest. The
brunch menu is extensive, with tempting offerings like Smoked
Salmon Hash and Crab Cakes Benedict. "The Woodcutter"
is an apple pork sausage omelet with leeks and Gruyere cheese.
Mmmm. Get there before 10:00 a.m. and the Hair of the Dog
(no relation to the beer), consisting of two eggs, sausage
or bacon, toast and a pint of your choice, is only five dollars
(eight bucks after 10:00 a.m.). Talk about motivating menu
All of BridgePort's beers are available in various sizes,
but most appealing to me was the cask selection: BridgePort
IPA, Ebenezer from the wood, and Old Knucklehead barley wine
all poured from firkin! Great breakfast drinks. And the wood-aged
Ebenezer was phenomenal!
My final few hours back at the fest were spent revisiting
some of my favorite beers, including several retastings of
the Widmer Halo! The gathering is a who's who of the Northwest
beer-geek community, and much beery camaraderie was in evidence.
Make plans for a winter wonderland of beer at the next annual
Portland Holiday Ale Fest, to be held December 2–4,
2005. I'll see you there!
Tom Dalldorf is publisher and editor of the
Celebrator Beer News.