Tuesday, December 09, 2008

2008 Holiday Ale Festival – Day 2

I arrived back at the HAF about the same time I did the day before and was surprised to see that there were actually fewer people than Wednesday.

Yakima Craft Brewing Co. - Twin Stag Oaked Scottish Ale (ABV 7.2%): Started off the day with a relatively low alcohol (for the HAF) barrel aged (to mellow the flavors) beer to get warmed up. This was just what I was looking for. A faint oakyness and sweet molasses aroma and a malty sweet flavor with just a hint of earthyness.

Southern Oregon Brewery - Old Humbug II (ABV 8.2%): Time to kick it old school. Old Ale style that is. I’m not sure that worked… Anyway, the aroma of this one was packed with lots of dark fruit and dark sugars. The molasses notes stand out in the flavor but are well balanced with the US Golding and Styrian Golding hop making for a smooth drinking beer that finishes with some nice alcohol warming in the back.

Eel River Brewing Co. - Climax Noel (2007) (ABV 10.8%): This doppelbock was my only +10% beer all day. No wonder I was so much more alert at the end of the day. The yeast took over the aroma here and tossed up a lot of dark fruit and just a hint of bubble gum. Another well balanced flavor profile tilting towards brown sugar. But in this case the alcohol flavor was completely hidden.

Lagunitas Brewing Co. - Yersinia Pestis Holiday Stout (ABV 8.2%): I was all excited to make a Ween reference when I saw this was an Imperial White Pepper Stout, but it probably has more to do with the ripe peppercorns used in the brewing process. Apparently this recipe was developed from a brochure for a defunct bunker fuel cracking refinery located somewhere outside of Fossil, New Jersey. There was a hint of something that seemed like black pepper aroma, but it was mostly milk chocolate that I smelled. The flavor was very chocolaty and I did get a bit of spicy warmth on the back of my tongue. Still, even if it is from NJ, I can’t figure out why they would name the beer after the bacteria strain responsible for the plague.

McMenamins Thompson Brewery - Santa Baby Stout (ABV 5.8%): I could have and should have gone without this one. There were coco and grainy aromas and a dark chocolate flavor with some mild bitterness. However, it had a water body and after the all the big and rich beers I had been drinking, this one was relatively unimpressive. Should have gone for the Firestone Walker Brewing Velvet Merkin Stout.

Cascade Brewing Co. - Barrel-Select Baltic Porter (ABV 9%): ‘Tis the season for blending beers I guess. Here is one that mixes a 2006 Bourbon barrel-aged Porter and a 2006 French oak barrel-aged Porter then had lactic acid added just to sour things up a bit. It had a somewhat unexpected aroma with notes of dark fruits and herbs. It tasted sweet and tart like you would find from raspberries, but with hints of bourbon. It finished slightly sour.

Hopworks Urban Brewery - Noggin Floggin' Barleywine (ABV 9.6%): With one script left I looked around for a short line for a beer I hadn’t had yet and finished off the festival with a barleywine brewed with hops grown in Independence, OR. The aroma was a little lighter than the past beers but the fruity and malty smells were there. It had a sweet caramel flavor followed by and some alcohol warming and. I find it funny that the description for this beer was “gunter glieben glauchen globen”. I wonder if they just really like one-armed rock band drummers. For my part, by this point in the evening, I was feeling pretty fly for a white guy.

Monday, December 08, 2008

2008 Holiday Ale Festival – Day 1

There were many firsts at the 13th annual Holiday Ale Festival (HAF). It was the first year that they opened the festival on a Wednesday. It was the first year they added an annex to the upper level of Pioneer Courthouse Square to provide more room for the event. It was the first year I actually had to wait in line to get into the HAF despite getting there only 15 minutes after it opened. It was also the first time that they required the purchase of a $20 package to get the beers. The package included a cup that doubled in price (from $5 to $10) over the previous year.

Economics aside, I was here for some beer! First stop was the annex to sample some vintage JIM beer. That meant going to the annex via the three sets of stairs and two causeways that seem to be intentionally arranged as a sort of sobriety test. I guess if you couldn’t get to the annex you were probably to drunk to drink the beer in there anyway. Being achingly sober I had no problem getting there, but found that there was a line for JIM 2006 & 2007 that was longer than the line to get into the tent. I opted to start with the JIM 2008 since the line was much smaller and to occupy me as I waited in line for it’s older siblings.

Hair of the Dog – JIM 2008 (ABV 9%): For those who don’t know, this is the third year that Alan Sprits has made a blended and barrel aged a beer specifically for the HAF. It is named after the founder of Admiralty Beverage, Jim Kennedy. This year’s blend consisted of Adam of the Wood (aged four months in wet Elija Craig bourbon barrels), Fred of the Wood (aged in new American oak), Blue Dot and Doggie Claws. There was also some 2003 Samichlous and 2007 Chimay Grand Reserve added for good measure. The aroma was thick with molasses, brown sugar and raisins. Much of that came through in the flavor and was accompanied by a surprising amount of bitterness and some alcohol astringency. It had a full and sticky mouthfeel.

Hair of the Dog – JIM 2006 (ABV 10%): I distinctly remember that this was my favorite beer from the 11th annually HAF and am more than a little surprised to see it since only four kegs were brewed. Maybe more was brewed, but only 4 were for the festival. Anyway, I was very exited to see what 2 years had done to this beer. This vintage was a blend of Fred, Adam, Doggie Claws, Rose and Belgian Dubbel Maredsous 8, and then aged on oak. It was much lighter in color than the ’08. It still had some of that brown sugar aroma but it was much less powerful and notes of oak and alcohol were easily detected. The flavor too was much less intense and more rounded. Woody and dry with some faint malty sweetness and almost no bitterness.

Pyramid Breweries – Snow Cap(‘n and Tennille) (ABV 7%): Heading back to the main tent I decided to slow down a little. I enjoyed this year’s standard Snow Cap so I decided to see what this offering was all about. BTW it a really good day when a 7% one-off beer that has been dry hopped with English Kent Goldings and aged with cacao nibs from Scharffen Berger is used as palette cleanser. It was a very dark colored beer with dark fruit aromas. There was some fruitiness on the flavor with just a hint of coffee. After the JIMs I found this to be light, clean and refreshing.

Brauerei Schloss Eggenberg – Samichlaus (2005) (ABV 14%): I will have to go into the story of Samichlaus some time, but not now. The aroma was dominated by the sent of barley with just a hint of some malty sweetness. It was thick and sweet, but not cloying. The dark sugar flavors suck to my lips after just one sip. The flavor was simple; brown sugar and alcohol. Complex and yet simple at the same time. This is an old world brew at its finest.

Hair of the Dog – JIM 2007 (ABV 10.5%): I checked back up stairs and the line was finally gone, so I pick up the middle child of the JIMs. Along with Adam, Fred and Doggie Claws a few other special beers were added to this vintage: 10% of a Spaten Pilsner, a 9 liter bottle of Val Du Trippel, 1989 Thomas Hardy's (The year Alan met Jim), a 1991 Rodenbach Alexander that Alan bought from Jim, and a 1994 Maredsous 10 that Jim enjoyed drinking. It was all then aged in a barrel for 6 weeks. Compared to the ’08: it’s just as dark, but the aroma is more controlled by the dark fruits and oakyness than the dark sugars. Without the Blue Dot, there seems to be little to no bitterness.

JIM Wrap-up – For my part I loved them all, however the 2008 was a bit of a wild child with flavors of sweet and bitter going to extremes. I hope that they bring it back next year I bet it will be amazing after resting for a year. The 2007 was probably the most complex beer, and demanded the most attention. The 2006 was the other side of the coin, it was not a simple beer, but it was much easier to drink and relax with. Asked which one is my favorite and my answer would be completely dependant on my mood at that instant.

Astoria Brewing Co. – MacGregor (ABV 6.5%): Back to the main tent and a less extreme beer. In this case a Scotch Ale from the Oregon coast. The Pale, Caramel, and Munich malts dominated both the aroma and flavor. Caramel sweetness in the nose and on the tongue until the end where the roasted barley malt kicks in and contributes some coffee and dark fruit flavors. The East Kent Goldings seem to contribute little more than balance to the beer.

Cascade Brewing Co. – Drie Zwarte Pieten "Sang Noir" (Three Black Peters “Black Blood”) (ABV 9.5%): Stacy called this one the “wine of beer” due to its tart fruit and acidic flavor. The name comes from an old Dutch tale where “Black Pete” was one of Santa’s helpers. He did more than just help deliver presents to the nice kids; he actually scolded the naughty ones. There are three because of the two brewers for Cascade and the HAF Beer Steward who all worked on the beer. Blood Cherries were added to the Pinot Noir and Whisky barrels the beer was aged in.

Stone Brewing Co. - Smoked Porter w/ Vanilla Beans (ABV 5.9%): I can’t believe that the makes of Arrogant Bastard had one of the lowest alcohol beers at the festival. This creamy porter tuned out to be just what I need after that tart “Sang Noir”. The vanilla is faint but distinct in both the aroma and flavor. Notes of faint smokiness and malt sweetness were also detected.

Max's Fanno Creek Brew Pub - Fanno Creek Dopplebock (ABV 6.8%): This is my first chance to try one of their beers since Max Tieger left back in February. Why it’s still called Max’s? Who knows. The 9 malts used in the beer combined to give the beer a caramel and vanilla aroma and the yeast contributes just a hint of bubble gum. The beer is medium bodied with a malty sweet flavor and some faint minty bitterness contributed by the Perle hops.

Widmer Brothers Brewing Co. - Babushka's Secret (ABV 9%): One of the great things about brewing a beer specifically for an event like this is that the brewers can have fun with experimentation and not have an impact on there regular line-up. In this case the Widmer Brothers decided to see what would happen if they added 14 lbs of black raspberries per barrel of there KGB Russian Imperial Stout during the fermentation. It smelled a lot like a chocolate cake with raspberry filling. The roasted coffee flavor gave way to a tart sweetness and alcohol warming in the end.

Three Creeks Brewing Co. – Rudolph's Imperial Red (ABV 9%): Unfortunately, by this time my senses had become quite dulled by alcohol and fatigue. The fact that we were near the exit meant that the cold air wasn’t helping either. 11 different malts and copious amounts of 4 varieties of hops went into this beer which meant that the slightly floral aroma and faintly bitter flavors I detected were not nearly all there was to experience with this beer.