Holiday Ale Festival toasts the spirits of the season
17th annual event offers one of the nation’s finest gatherings of winter beers
The 17th annual Holiday Ale Festival will take place Nov. 28 through Dec. 2 at Pioneer Courthouse Square, located at 701 SW Sixth Ave. in downtown Portland, on the MAX Light Rail line. The popular event will feature at least four-dozen big, bold ales designed to fend off the cold chill of a long winter night. From Belgians, barleywines and CDAs to winter warmers, porters and stouts, these beers have either been crafted specifically for the event or are hard-to-fine vintages, underscoring the event’s reputation as one of finest gathering of winter beers anywhere in the nation.
Event hours are Noon to 10 pm Wednesday, 11 am to 10 pm Thursday through Saturday, and 11 am to 5 pm Sunday. To avoid the lengthy lines that often accompany Northwest beer fests, the recommended days for attendance are Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday. The Holiday Ale Festival is for ages 21 and over.
What makes this festival standout from other similar events is the beer selection: the festival works with every brewery involved to make sure they send a beer that has either been made or blended specifically for the event, or is a rare or vintage beer that isn’t commonly tapped in the state.
According to festival manager Preston Weesner, “It’s really special to be able to hold this event in such close proximity to so many of the breweries that Oregon is known for. The savvy beer faithful come to the fest to meet up with friends and sample the special offering their favorite brewery has decided to share, then make plans to go visit the breweries after the event is over. It’s a great time to be a beer geek and appreciate the amazing craft beer scene.”
To enter and consume beer, the purchase of an entry package is required. The general admission package at the door costs $30 and includes the 2012 tasting mug and 10 taster tickets. Advance general admission packages cost $30 and include the tasting mug, 12 taster tickets and expedited entry all five days. Advance VIP packages are available for $65 and include the tasting mug, 28 taster tickets, a bottle of water, access to VIP lines (including special tappings) and express entry all five days. Express re-entry requires a wristband and the 2012 mug, and is subject to the festival’s capacity. Previous year’s mugs will not be filled. Advance packages are available online at www.holidayale.com after Oct. 19.
Once inside the festival, a full mug of beer costs four taster tickets, and a four-ounce taste costs one ticket. Certain limited release and special tappings may not be available in full mug pours, or may cost double tickets. Additional beer tickets can be purchased for $1 apiece. Designated drivers in a party of two or more may purchase a designated driver wristband for $5, which includes Crater Lake Root Beer or bottled water for the duration of the stay.
Despite being held outdoors during one of the coldest months of the year, more than 17,000 festival attendees stay warm and dry over the five day festival under clear-topped tents that cover the venue. Gas heaters create a cozy ambiance beneath the boughs of the region’s largest decorated Christmas tree. In addition to beer tasting, the festival also features meet the brewer events, a root beer garden, food vendors, beer pairings with cupcakes & cheese, event merchandise and a coat and bag check that raises funds for the Children’s Cancer Association.
One of the event highlights is often the beer names themselves: this year, look for Frosty’s Revenge, Blitz’n Prancer, Milk & Cookies, Figgy Pudding and Very Ill Tempered Gnome. The marjority of the beers hail from Oregon, but there are also breweries representing Washington, California, Colorado, Delaware and Montana.
Returning to the event is the ninth annual Sunday Beer Brunch, taking place on Dec. 2 from 11 am to 1 pm on the upper level of Pioneer Courthouse Square. The auxiliary event features European pastries, cured meats and artisanal cheeses to accompany an assortment of exclusive vintage winter beers not available at the festival itself, plus special large format bottles to be shared. Tickets cost $65 and are available at www.holidayale.com.
For more information, visit www.holidayale.com.