The Final Day of HAF

I knew going into the Holiday Ale Fest that I couldn’t make it till Sunday, and that many beers I wanted could be tapped out. Even though things were tapped out alot of my first choices were still around. The problem is they were disappointing and my backups were tapped out. I still used my 10 tickets, but stopped at 10 since I had only found one beer worth drinking. 1 in 10 is bad odds.

Ok, start off reviewing the fest itself.

What else is there to say other then what’s usually said? No rinse stations, servers who aren’t knowledgeable, beers too cold. You know, the usual. One thing that surprised me was the number of drunks. When we showed up around 3:30 pm at least half the people had had a few to many. I couldn’t believe the number of people getting full pours at every station. Maybe Portland’s beer drinkers are more amatuer alcoholics then connoisseurs like Docs been saying. The other thing is the amount of room and tables available. I’d brought a notebook so I’d have room to write detailed reviews of the beers, but there was no surface to write on and it’s hard to hold a beer and write at the same time. If the fest is going to be so full maybe they should think about a change in location. One more thing, the random cheering is fine, but every 15 min??? Really??

And the Beers……

Listed in alphabetical order by brewery

Papa Noel’s

I know this is available in bottles, but by the time I’d gotten down to the last four tickets I didn’t care. I thought since it said special reserve that it might be a vintage pouring and I was in the mood for some complex flavors. Turns out it wasn’t vintage. It was hoppy and green. Not fair to review a beer before its prime.

Oaked St Nick

Another one not on my list of beers to try, but I had just two tickets left and was next to the line for this one. Turned out that this was my favorite beer of the evening, and the one I didn’t take notes on. I remember that my first sip tasted slightly off, but then smoothed out alot and finished nicely. I wish I could say more, but I was tired of the fest by this time and had already put my notes away. Normally I don’t like “oaky” beers, but this one did really well trying to win me over. Amazing how much better oak aged beers taste when they don’t have that woody flavor to them.

Sang Noir

I tried this after drinking some La Foile. That turned out to be a mistake because the beers ended up getting compared and Sang Noirlost. So much acidity that it overpowers the malts. This is sour for the sake of sour with no complexity. There was a nice cherry note, but it was drowned by the pucker power. No barnyard, no muskiness. Where are the typical sour off flavors? Smell was hard to get out of all the beers, but this one was especially hard. Sinus issues and ice cold beer don’t work well for tastings. I still find it amazing so many people seemed to like this one. Give me more La Foile any day.

North III

Not what I expected. With the sugar plums I was hoping for something slightly fruity and alcoholic. While not watery, this beer didn’t taste as alcoholic or heavy as I would have liked, and I got almost no plum flavor. Flavors were fairly muddied in the 3 or 4 sips I had (we were sharing beers earlier on). Had a nice bread like almost nutty finish. Other then the finish this beer didnt have a ton going for it.

Jim 2009

I was reading Dr Worts reviews before I headed up today to get an idea of what I was getting into. When I tired this beer I was eagerly expecting some heavy cascade/citrusy hop flavors. Instead I got pinesol and pine. To be fair to Doc he did mention the pinesol. I think I got a hint of some malt in there somewhere, but this was just one big piney hop bomb to me. My notes just say the word pinesol though followed by multiple exclamation points.


Reading reviews I thought picking Kronan as my baltic porter was a mistake that I would rectify. When we arrived though Eel River and Lauralwood were tapped out. Resigning myself to what lay ahead I got in line for Kronan. All I can say is watery, bitter, and burnt. There was absolutely no redeeming qualities in this one. Maybe if the beer was served at the proper temp some malts would have showed up to balance things, but that bitter burnt grain taste overan my palate.

La Foile

My second favorite beer, and only number 2 because I knew I’d enjoy it going in so it lacked that pleasant surprise factor. First beer where the smell upped my expectations. very musty, sour odor. I loved this beer at first smell. This beer is much more balanced in terms of sourness then I remember. Just sour enough to temporarily overun your palate and give you a mild pucker. After that it finishes slightly sweet. All those great complex bacterial off flavors are there. The other great part is it doesn’t leave you straining to un contort your face after you drink it like the Sang Noir did. I love sour beers, I just want them more balanced is all. If I just wanted to pucker without flavor I’d suck on a lemon.


I had high hopes for this one, but those hopes were dashed. A fairly generic stout though perhaps a little heavy on the burnt grain flavor. The herbs were pretty much undetectable in my opinion as well. There were some muddied flavors that I’d periodically catch on to, but not enough to say I tasted the herbs, let alone call this an herbal beer. Not as overhopped as I’d thought after reading some reviews. If they’d put more effort into making this a good stout and had some lavender aromatics I would have loved it. I’d put it in the not quite there yet but good try category.


I wish I’d kept up the note taking, but by the time I got to drunkel I was just about ready to bail. All I wrote for this one was not what I expected and I didn’t like what I got. I know, lame review.

For my 10thticket I went and got a 1oz pour of wildflower mead to clean my palate and end on a positive note. This was my dad’s first time at a beer festival withme and I think that experience alone saved the day. My dad really enjoyed himself, and I think we may be going to another beer fest together in the near future. If next years is like this years though I may pass. I’d much rather drop $50 at the bottle shop and taste some great beers at home with my friends and family then drive up to Portland for something of this caliber. Heck, the $40 for my dad and I alone could’ve gotten us several bottles of great world class beers.

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7 Responses to “The Final Day of HAF”

  1. jbx says:

    Interesting in total.

    Nice wrap from ‘Forth the 10th ticket’ to completion.

    Positive, memorable, man-to-man, adult-to-adult, shared, common, experiences with father, son, or brother are hard to beat / are to be relished. Strengthen the bond / lodge a memory.

  2. kandn says:

    I’m glad you mentioned the people who appeared to be at the fest just to get drunk. Isn’t that what bars are for? We noticed several people doing the same thing at Oregon Garden’s beer fest.
    Your dad is lucky. I think it would be a great experience to go beer tasting with someone who could point details out and educate my palate.

  3. Dr Wort says:

    Pretty ho hum, eh? ;-}

    Proof you can get pretty buzzed drinking a lot of half ass beer…. :-O The natives don’t seem to notice the difference! They just gladly suck down the Pinesol, off balanced, over hopped, under malted, bland, green, poorly described, not even close to being within a named style, murky and muddy Holiday Beers! They Whoop and swagger, fill dem mugs to the top! Ha, yes, it’s a drunk fest for the moral mediocracy. ;-}

    I’ve been reading the other bloggers reviews, did I go to the wrong festival? Is there some quality version of these beers I’m missing?

    La Foile! Oh, I would have enjoyed that! New Belgium was doing a rotation of different Lips of Faith. It would have been better to just have one selection! When I was there they had a Dandalion Ale. YUKO! You can’t beat La Folie, it’s a wonderful beer. Pairing La Folie with Sang Noir would have been quite fun. It would be like matching up Beauty and the Beast! Backyard Science experiment will polished quality.

    Pinesol! All the way! I was like WOW, this is really obnoxiously North West to the point that it could be the butt of every joke.

    I’m with you…. I don’t see a point of coming out of retirement for THIS!

  4. Jared says:

    @ kandn

    I was nice to my dad this year and just let him enjoy the fest without asking him to critique. Surprisingly he had similar reactions to alot of the beers we shared. Granted he didn’t go through and describe them, instead he just screwed up his face and went ” That wasn’t very good.” I went over his notes and he rated beers on a 1 to 3 star system. Funny enough very few beers made the cut for him as well. Even if he isn’t trying to develope his palate he still has enough of one to realize alot of the beers were jokes.

    @ Doc

    I gotta admit I was a little dissapointed when you came out of retirement 🙂 I was really hoping for a guest post so I could post our reviews side by side. I wanted to try that Dandilion Ale, but haven’t been able to get ahold of it. I guess I just got lucky on La Foile. The Fall Wild one was pouring too, and while I liked it I didnt taste enough to review it. I’ve been bringing holiday beers for the parents to try this year, and we’ve had better luck with that then we did at the fest. Sad when a fest with unique pourings can’t beat what’s available at Roth’s, Fred Myers, and the local bottle shop.

  5. Dr Wort says:

    Don’t worry, I’m pretty sure the Doc won’t be doing to many more DW Blog reviews. Considering the HAF had become the only Local Beer fest that the Doc was interested in covering. There’s really not much interest in maintaining a blog. The interest just isn’t there, nor is the quality.

    I have a 4 year old bottle of Belgian Dandelion ale in my cellar…. want to come by and try it?

    I may send ya some exclusive reviews that you can post.

    Local Holiday beers…. the Doc’s either completely bored with the local Holiday beers or those beers have lessened in quality. Snow Cap’s quality has become a gloppy mess of sweet wortiness and muddy flavors for many years. Ebenezer is now following in it’s tracks. Jubel… meh!

    Want to try a superb Holiday Ale??? I just had a wonderfully balanced and extremely well executed St Bernardus Christmas ale on tap at Henry’s tavern in downtown Portland. Best Holiday ale I’ve had so far this year. I’ll send ya a review. Also, had a wonderful Ommergang Grand Cru at Green Dragon post HAF.

  6. Jared says:

    Who says they gotta be local?? The succesful beers here this year have been ’09 Goose Island Christmas Ale, ’08 Goose Island Burbon County (local shop still has plenty of bottles), ’09 Anchor Christmas Ale, ’09 Anderson Valley Winter Solstice, and ’09 Ebenezer. I know Ebenezer is a shadow of it’s potential. It tastes a bit watered down. But it wasn’t the worst holiday ale I’ve had this year. We only purchased one sixer so the repeat value couldn’t have been too high. So that’s only one Portland brew in the mix. Granted we’ve been drinking some heavier non winter seasonals as well. Interestingly I’ve taken to cracking some ’08 barlywines long before I wanted too to keep me warm. Sadly I’m down to only a few more that I’d be willing to sacrifice and my homebrew herbal sour is down to 2 bottles. May need to stock some Adam to have something to drink here soon

  7. Dr Wort says:

    No one says quality Holiday ales have to be local…. and It’s a good thing because they’re all not! ;-} The Doc routinely receives Holiday beers from friends outside of the NW and buys Holiday beers from all over the world.

    While Rogue’s SAnta Reserve seems to make many people list of great Holiday Beers, I really have no clue why? It’s just a simple strong ale, overhopped as the norm up here. HOTD Doggie Claws is often overlooked as a great Holiday beer, while most of the others are “meh.” Ebenezer, you say? It’s a shadow of it’s past not of it’s potential! It’s potential has come and gone! Those Texas boys have sunk their teeth into Bridgeport’s beers and the quality has been dwindling ever since. Of course, you can play the Widhook game! Lets’ just keep the beer community guessing…. Randomly keep making a bunch of similar beers, but just keep repackaging and changing the name. Kind of the “3 Card monty” of beer advertising. It was a “W” now it’s a BRRR, keep your eyes on the cards. A winner every time! Step right up and play the Three Beer Monty…. ;-}

    Here’s a list of Holiday beers that have been winners in the Docs book:

    Odell Isolation Ale (Arizona)
    Smuttynose Winter Ale (New Hampshire)
    Anchor Our Special Ale (California)
    Avery Brewing Old Jubilation Ale – Colorado
    Berghoff-Hazelnut Winter – Wisconsin
    Boulevard Nutcracker Ale – Missouri
    Breckenridge Christmas Ale – Colorado
    Bristol Brewing Winter Warlock Oatmeal Stout – Colorado
    Capital Winter Skol – Wisconsin
    Flying Fish Grand Cru Winter Reserve – New Jersey
    Goose Island Christmas Ale – Chicago
    Great Divide Hibernation Ale – Colorado
    Great Lakes Christmas Ale – Ohio
    Hales Ales Wee Heavy Winter Ale – Washington
    Harpoon Winter Warmer – Massachusetts
    He’Brew Jewbelation – California
    Lost Coast Winterbrau Holiday Ale – California
    McMenamins Sleepy Hollow Nut Brown
    Maritime Pacific Jolly Roger Winter Ale – Washington
    Pelican Pub & Brewing Stormwatcher’s Winterfest – Oregon
    Shipyard-Winter Ale – Maine
    Sierra Nevada Celebration – California
    Silver City Winterbock – Washington
    Sprecher Winter Brew – Wisconsin
    Woodstock Ichabod Crane Holiday Beer – New York

    Aas Jubel – Norway
    Blaugies -La Moneuse Special Winter – Belgium
    Camerons Christmas Ale – England
    Orkney Brewery Clootie Dumpling – UK
    Corsendonk Christmas Ale – Belgium
    Delerium Noel – Belgium
    De Dolle Winter Nacht – Belgium
    De Ranke Pere Noel – Belgium
    Fantome de Noel – Belgium
    Fuller’s Old Winter Ale – England
    Fuller’s Vintage Ale – England
    Gale’s Christmas Ale – England
    Gouden Carolus Christmas – Belgium
    Harvey’s Christmas Ale – England
    La Choulette Noël – France
    Mahr’s Christmas Bock – Germany
    Petrus Winter Beer – Belgium
    St. Peter’s Winter – England
    Samichlaus – Austria
    Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome – England
    Scaldis Noel – Belgium
    St. Feullien Christmas Beer – Belgium
    St, bernardus Christmas ale – Belgium
    Wintertraum – Germany
    Young’s Winter Warmer – England
    Baladin Noel (Italy)
    Samichlaus (Austria)

    I’m sure there are more I have forgotten……

    Felinfoel Brewery – Wales! Their Winter Fest used to be an amazingly dense Old Ale.

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