Well, I made it all the way through. There were a few days of struggle, a few pushes. In the end, I had the gumption to get it done. 30 days and many beers – but each night a Christmas ale – are complete.
There were highs thanks to De Dolle and Hair of the Dog – and there were lows due in part to Ninkasi and Bridgeport. But all in all, I loved each evening. The beer did as I had hoped: restored Christmas to its rightful jolly state.
Throughout the process, I posted a blurb about each beer on our Facebook page. After 30 days, I made my choices. Here are the results:
Top 5 Beers – Overall Quality:
1. De Dolle Stille Nacht 2009
2. Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws 2009
3. Troegs Mad Elf
4. Nogne O/Jolly Pumpkin/Stone Special Holiday Ale 2009
5. Great Lakes Christmas Ale
Honorable Mentions: Brasserie Thiriez, Goose Island 2009 Xmas Ale, Fremont B-Bomb, and Silver City Old Scrooge
Top 5 Beers – Christmas Style:
1a. Nogne O/Jolly Pumpkin/Stone Special Holiday Ale 2009
1b. Great Lakes Christmas Ale
3. Anchor Christmas Ale 2010
4. Maritime Jolly Roger
5. Thirsty Dog 12 Dogs of Christmas
Honorable Mentions: Eggenberg Samichlaus, Silver City Old Scrooge, De Dole Stille Nacht, and Breckenridge Christmas Ale
Top Beer Description:
Most of the time when I wrote these reviews, I was half intoxicated at a bar typing on my phone. The quality of the review depended on my motivation level and surrounding conversations. Some beers were cheated, others were given too much (See De Dolle Stille Nacht for “too little” and Fremont Abominable for “too much”)
My favorite description came from drinking an Anchor Christmas Ale at Collins Pub in Seattle:
The Xmas ale is their staple, a seasonal release of many years. This year it tastes like some took a glass of milk, nuked it, dropped in 5 gingerbread houses and a black tea bag and put it in a laundry machine for 6 hours. After that, I drank it. It’s delicious, a fine example of Christmas flavors.
Top Memory of 30 Days of Christmas Ale
One night, Timperial came and surprised me with a party pig (finally, my own tap) and a bottle of Brasserie Thiriez Noel. We got sentimental:
I have a pretty good story about this brewer. Timperial and I drove out to West Flanders one morning to visit Saint Sixtus Abbey and drink the Westvleteren 12. After we got biblical, we decided to peruse the towns. We visited St Bernardus, shot the shit with local Woesteners, and proceeded to make the journey across enemy lines (kind of a joke) to France.
Escalbecq is literally 10 kilos across le border. The border is an unrecognizable line where my Tom Tom starts speaking french. We pulled up to a shanty of a farmhouse and went searching for Daniel (owner of Brasserie Thiriez). We bumped into a brute of a man (seinfeld Kramer reference) who had on denim suspenders and a weird rat tail haircut. I engaged him in conversation. He stared blankly and retorted: “oui?….” imagine the most confused vocal tone on earth, in French. That was this guy.
After nearly 10 minutes of charades, awkward hand signals and phony sign language – he finally understood “Daniel” and illistrated that he was sleeping. This guy? Le brassuer.
He also finally grasped my guzzling booze depiction. He led us to the farmhouse and we – extremely awkward – downed a few samples an bought a few bottles. On the way back to Belgium (10 kilos), we road soda’d a blonde and laughed hysterically at the hijinks. Tonight, we formed a consensus that a return was a necessity.
Thiriez makes amazing beer. They have one of the best yeast strains I have ever tasted. Grassy, earthly, active – but clean – it’s always a different experience under each cap. The Noel is phenomenal. It has a clean, yet significant scent. It packs a mouthful of cherries, strawberries, vanilla, and hay. There is no denying the French farmhouse styling – and we love it. A lively beer with a fresh scent yum.
All in all, it’s the best Thiriez brew we’ve had. Kudos to Bottleworks for pulling this guy in. If it’s on the shelf – it’s a must buy.
It was a good ride. Look for a repeat, with all new beer, next year.
Last week, a bombing attempt shut down Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland. Yep, its real. The best part though is that it could not lead to the surrender of Portland’s famed Holiday Ale Fest.
Holiday Ale Fest hit its 15th Anniversary this year with over 60 beers flowing from the taps. We didn’t get the opportunity to go, but from the comments we have read – we missed out. Next year.
Check out the Festival’s press release for more recounts of the famed weekend. Hoppy Holidays!
Neither bomb threats nor Civil War kept crowds
away from this year’s Holiday Ale Festival
PORTLAND, Ore. – Dec. 9, 2010 – A thwarted bomb attempt at Pioneer Courthouse Square less than one week prior didn’t stop beer lovers from attending this year’s 15th annual Holiday Ale Festival. A crowd of more than 17,000 gathered in Portland’s Living Room over five days to raise a mug to the big, bold craft beers of winter. The Northwest’s most prestigious winter beer festival took place Dec. 1 through 5 and featured more than 60 winter craft beers during its five-day run.
The beers served were either made or blended specifically for the event or were vintage offerings not commonly served in the region. In some cases, the kegs tapped were the last known kegs available of a particular beer.
New features to this year’s festival were well-received, including the addition of a printed map of the five different bars on the required festival tasting mug; a real-time mobile interface that listed the beers, their location on-site and their descriptions (m.holidayale.com); and a VIP ticket, which cost $45 in advance and allowed users to bypass long lines at both the entrance and the bars.
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 in an area overlooking the main festival tents.
The People’s Choice winner, as determined by the beer that sold the most kegs, was Moore Holiday Ale. A Collaborator beer (Collaborator is a project where homebrewers submit recipes and the selected beer is brewed commercially by Widmer Brothers Brewing Co.), the Imperial Bohemian Pilsner was made with Saaz hops and smooth Pilsner malts that refreshed the palate.
Hopworks Urban Brewery Kentucky Christmas came in second, while four breweries tied for third: Deschutes Streaking the Quad, Lompoc Franc’ly Brewdolph, Stone Smoked Porter and Ninkasi Unconventionale.
Two fundraisers for the Children’s Cancer Association (CCA) were deemed a success: the Crater Lake Soda Garden, which poured 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 festival matched the monies raised by both projects, bringing in $2,500 for the charity. The CCA also held a raffle that raised an additional $2,000.
Festival attendees stayed warm and dry under a large clear-topped tent that covered the venue while allowing for views of the city lights. Gas heaters created a cozy ambience under the boughs of the city’s Christmas tree. In addition to beer tasting, the Holiday Ale Festival also featured on-site food, event merchandise, organic cheeses, roasted nuts, mead sampling, and seasonal background music.
The 2011 Holiday Ale Festival will take place November 30 through December 4. For more information, visit http://www.holidayale.com or call 503-252-9899.
Photo Credits: Matt J Wialter on Flikr