Monday, December 26, 2005

Holiday Ale Festival 2005

It is events such as this that make this truly the most wonderful time of the year. This, the Northwest’s only beer festival to be held outside in December, is held in the first part of December every year at Pioneer Courthouse Square in Downtown Portland. This year they changed things up a little by adding a “Big Boy Bar” that was comprised of mostly Belgian beers that I can more cheaply get at Liquid Solutions. But the big change that I really liked was the fact that they opened on Thursday this year.

I thought I would try a little different format for this post and just use it to relay some notes I was able to take before my taste buds became too fatigued and my brain became too numb. I also end each review with a star rating that I used to describe my overall impressions:

2º Below Winter Ale (New Belgium Brewing Co) – The first beer of the day had a caramel color, and a very floral nose. It has a medium body with a sweet malty backbone. Very lightly hopped, despite the aroma, and finished with a light sweetness. 3 out of 5 stars.

Free Ride Winter Ale (Big Horn Brewing Co) – A very dark brown color. This one had a much more complex aroma. I got some of the same floral hop smells as the 2º, but to a lesser degree, but the malts came out much more. There were roasted malts, and I could pick out raisin and caramel smells. It had a light body with a toffee sweetness and a light coffee like bitterness in the finish. 4 out of 5 stars.

Fearless Strong Scotch Ale (Fearless Brewing Co) – There is a dark amber color to this beer. Another beer with a complex aroma, but very week at the same time; I got a bready/nutty malt nose, with a little spiciness and citrus notes. It had a wet mouthfeel without being watery and like the aroma it has kind of a week flavor. There is a definite caramel malt backbone with almost no hop bitterness. 2 out of 5 stars.

FestivAle (Rogue Ales) – This one had a haze to it. Since just about all the Rogue beers I’ve had are clear, I can only assume that it was from a chill haze. The color is a standard brown and it had a floral and yeasty aroma. It has a light body with moderate carbonation. I was able to pick out some spicyness in the flavor along with cloves, citrus, and apple flavors. It has a light malt sweetness and finished very dry. 3 out of 5 stars.

Blizzard of Ozz (Off the Rail Brewing) – This little Forest Grove brewery is moving up in the world, making it the HAF and all. It had a clear amber color. There was a very pleasant herbal hop and sweet malt aroma. Somehow I was also able to pick out coriander from it too. A very good beer with a full body and a sweet malty flavor, and there was the ever-present coriander. It finished dry and tart. 4 out of 5 stars.

Rudolph’s Revenge (McMenamins) – Here was a vary dark brown beer with a sweet caramel nose. Thanks to Anglia, I also got it stuck in my head that there was a “gum” aroma. It was probably more like a roasted malt aroma. This beer tasted pretty much like it smelled, caramel and roasted malty sweetness. 3 out of 5 stars.

N’Ice Chouffe (Brasserie d’Achouffe) – This was a very special beer. There was only one keg and it was tapped at 5:00 on Thursday. It was a deep mahogany color with a full body and was incredibly complex in both aroma and flavor. I got a nose full of herbal hops, sweetness from the malt, cloves and other spices, and that distinctive Belgian yeastyness. My taste buds were treated to a very sweet caramel flavor along with cloves and bananas. So very good. 5 out of 5 stars.


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