The West Coast’s most prestigious winter beer sampling opportunity
The Holiday Ale Festival is a joyous tradition among beer lovers who treasure the big beers of winter. Held outdoors in the chilly month of December, the festival pours more than three-dozen robust winter craft brews, the majority of which have either been created specifically for the event, or are vintage or reserve beers not available in the general market. It is effectively the most prestigious winter beer sampling opportunity on the West Coast.
The 12th annual Holiday Ale Festival will begin on Thursday, Nov. 29, and continue through Sunday, Dec. 2 at Pioneer Courthouse Square, located at 701 SW Sixth Ave at the intersection of SW Broadway and Yamhill streets, immediately on the MAX Light Rail line. Hours for the event are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Admission into the venue is free. A purchase of a 2007 souvenir mug is required for tasting beer, and costs $5. Patrons purchase script in $1 increments. It takes $4 in script for a full mug of beer, or $1 for a taste. The event is for ages 21 and over.
Despite winter-like temperatures and often-inclement weather, attendees stay warm and dry under a large clear tent that covers the venue while allowing for views of the city lights. Gas heaters create a cozy ambiance under the boughs of one of the region’s largest decorated Christmas trees. In addition to beer tasting, the festival also features on-site food, beer merchandise, complimentary sodas for designated drivers, mead sampling, and seasonal background music.
The Holiday Ale Festival annually draws more than 15,000 people to the event. To alleviate long lines and facilitate better access to the beer, festival organizers have increased this year’s event space by 20 percent.
Also returning to the event is the fourth annual Brewers Brunch, taking place on Dec. 2 from 10 a.m. to Noon on the upper level of Pioneer Courthouse Square. The auxiliary event features breakfast and an assortment of local and imported winter beers not available at the festival itself. Tickets cost $30 and are available at www.holidayale.com.
The roots of brewing special winter and holiday beers trace back to the mythologies of Greece and Rome. The pagan celebrations of the winter solstice marked the return of light to the world, and triumphant ale was brewed to mark the occasion. Today, these "winter warmers" ward off the chill of winter and warm both the palate and soul. Complex in aroma and flavor, these heavier beers are big in body and high in alcohol. Thanks to an extra dose of malt, most of these beers are rich and bold, with chocolate, caramel or coffee flavors; others benefit from the addition of herbs, spices, and fruit. In keeping with the flavors of the season, there are often hints of nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves in the brews.
For more information, visit www.holidayale.com or call 503-252-9899.