Holiday Ale Festival Report #1

I’m at the Holiday Ale Festival in Portland, Oregon this weekend tasting many specialty and rare Christmas beers. I tasted a number of barrel-aged gems. Here’s my first report of 5 rare beers.

First up, Cascade Brewing’s Gingersnaps. This is a Northwest Style Sour Strong Ale. It pours cola brown with a root beer style bubbly head. The nose is ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and light bourbon. It tastes like bourbon sweet tarts, if there were such a thing. It begins sweet with cola, then the spice mixture moves forward followed by dried dates and raisins. It’s smooth and hardly bitter at all. The 12.1% ABV is well-integrated. It has good mouthfeel and will appeal to even those who do not care for Sour Ales.

Stone New Desecrator is a black Barley Wine that is over the top at 100 IBU. It pour brown with a thin, tight foam head. The nose is big resin hops and leather. It tastes remarkably balanced for the amount of hops. It has resin, dried plums, a touch of sweet caramel malts and a long bitter finish. This is nearly the same recipe as Old Guardian Barley Wine, includes de-husked barley. It’s 12% ABV with no booziness.

Burnside Brewing Barrel Aged Permafrost 2011.   Permafrost pours copper with a creamy, thin foam head. The nose is caramel, toffee, and  vanilla. From the nose I expected malt flavor, and was surprised with fruit hops and well-blended barrel notes. ( 8.3% ABV and 77 IBU )

Fort George Brewery Santa’s Dinner Jacket is a barrel aged Imperial Red Ale. Santa’s Dinner Jacket pours garnent red with a whisky cream foam head. Not much in the nose. The taste however is creamy, with toffee, caramel and pine hop bitterness. It’s aged in Bull Run Distillery barrels. The finish is a full, satisfying balanced hop bitterness. Don’t let the 8.3% ABV sneak up on you.

Gigantic Brewing Red Ryder BB Gun is a Cranberry Saison. Red Ryder BB Gun is pale rose colored with a thin white head. The nose is dominated by Belgian yeast and light fruit notes. It tastes clean with saison yeast, slight cranberry, traces of cinnamon and cloves. At 22 IBU the tartness of the berry illuminate without taking it to the sour category. Although smooth and fresh, this beer is not light weight at 6.3% ABV. Guaranteed to pair with A Christmas Story.

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    While it's difficult to picture Santa as a young man, he was once. He met the future Mrs. Claus one snowy night when she offered him a winter ale that she brewed herself. It was love at first sight - for both the Mrs. and her winter ales. With Santa's growing fame, his favorite brews became named after his favorite day - Christmas. Santa now travels the world each year to spread the joy that began in a stable in Bethlehem two millennia ago.

    Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.