Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Holiday Ale Festival Re-Cap

Over 18,000 people attended this year's 14th annual Holiday Ale Festival, which took place Dec. 2 through Dec. 6 at the Pioneer Courthouse Square. This year featured more than 60 winter craft beers during its five-day run, all of which were either created for the event, or were rare or vintage beers not readily available in the state.

The festival's opening day - a Wednesday - exceeded expectations, with more than 2,500 in attendance. According to festival manager Preston Weesner, "Wednesday is the new 'must attend' day. We credit the increase to the eight rare beers we tapped that were only available on that particular day."

The sky bar, introduced last year to alleviate crowds in the main tent, was again popular with festival-goers who climbed a maze of scaffolding to arrive at the venue. Two fundraisers for the Children's Cancer Association were deemed a success - the Crater Lake Soda Garden, which offered complimentary root beer for designated drivers and accepted tips for donation, and a coat and bag check that ran at capacity much of the time. The monies raised by both projects were matched by the festival, bringing in more than $2,500 for the charity.

The Belgian Beer and Brunch, an auxiliary event held on the Sunday of the festival, sold out, with more than 120 people sampling prestigious beers and noshing on pastries, meats and cheeses.

The People's Choice winner, determined by the beer that sold the most kegs, was the Holiday Ale Festival/Hair of the Dog's commemorative Jim '09, a blended beer that featured Hair of the Dog's Doggie Claws, Adam, Fred from the Wood and Blue Dot, along with an English brown ale, a German bock and an American strong ale, plus a bit of Cantillon St. Lamvinus, Scaldis Noel, Corsendonk Christmas Ale and Orval.

Deschutes Brewing's Lost Barrels of Mirror Mirror and Rock Bottom Brewing's Blitzen came in second and third. Other buzz beers of the festival included Cascade Brewing's Sang Noir (my personal favorite) and New Belgium Brewing's Lips of Faith series (the Lychee was awesome!); both breweries are well-regarded for their sour beers, and their offerings introduced many attendees to the current sour beer/wild ale movement.

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