Festival organizer Preston Weesner talks to Firestone Walker's Matt Brynildson about the amazing 2006 Jim.
Portland Holiday Ale Festival 2008

There are obvious perks for covering the beer scene here in Portland. I get to meet a lot of great people, I get a free beer once in awhile, and chicks, chicks, chicks! The girls are great, but it's actually not the best part. The part I love most about this job is being involved in a community that knows beer--and knows how to appreciate beer.

For the media preview on opening night, festival organizer Preston Weesner picked twelve standout beers from this year's beer list. The beers were accompanied by historical notes, ingredients, anecdotes, and stories from anyone who had one to share. The beers ranged in color from light to pitch dark, ABVs from 6% to 15%, and so many ingredients and blends that my head would have been spinning without the beer.

The Holiday Ale Festival is all about diversity and complexity. So much so, that it's impossible to do any of these beers justice through any poetic descriptions I could write. If you consider yourself a beer aficionado, this is your festival. If you're an adventurous type, or if you like to experiment, this is your festival. Sure, there are going to be crowds and a bit of noise, but stacked against the fact that you'll never see many of these beers outside of this festival, there is only one option: go to this festival!

There are a lot of beers to try at the Holiday Ale Festival. Listed below are the twelve picks that Preston Weesner made for the media preview. These are great examples, but keep in mind that all of the beers at the event are hand picked by Preston, so if a few run out, there are plenty of others to try!

Portland Holiday Ale Festival 2008
Festival Crowd.
  1. Cascade Brewing: Drie Zwarte Pieten - Sang Noir (Barrel Aged Double Flanders Style Sour Red) -- Made exclusively for the festival, "Sang Noir" is a NW take on a traditional Flanders-style Sour Red Ale. Bigger than a traditional Red this Double Red is a blend of several barrel aged beers. Portions of the beer were aged in Pinot Noir and Whiskey barrels. Fresh Bing Blood Cherries were added to a portion and refermented in the barrel for three months before being added to the blend, giving it a big full bodied tart cherry red flavor with distinct barrel notes. This is a once in a lifetime beer from one of the most innovative breweries in the Northwest. ABV: 14%

  2. Deschutes Brewery: 2005 Mirror Mirror (Barleywine) -- Mirror Mirror is a double Mirror Pond barleywine that was aged more than eight months in a variety of wooden barrels, including American oak, pinot, port and Bourbon. It was then blended and dry-hopped. Mirror Mirror features a big, warm, malty flavor with complex oak undertones and esters. OG: 1.141, FG: 1.113, IBU: 90, ABV: 11.5%

  3. Dubuisson Brewery: 2007 Scaldis Noel -- Three different malts give Scaldis its complexity, including a caramel malt for a rich, amber color. This beer is dry, with a clean, nutty finish. The nose is characterized by sherry, caramel, and roasted filbert aromas, complemented by some floral, hoppy notes. The finish is long and warming, but remains in balance with the flavors. ABV: 13%

  4. Firestone Walker: Velvet Merkin Stout (Barrel Aged Imperial Stout) -- A rich oatmeal stout 25% aged in bourbon barrels blended back to the original batch. ABV: 5.5%

  5. Hair of the Dog/Holiday Ale: Jim 2006 (Blended Barrel Aged Specialty) -- JIM 2006 is collaboration between the Holiday Ale Festival's beer steward Preston Weesner and Hair of the Dog Brewer Alan Sprints. Made exclusively for the event, JIM honors the late Jim Kennedy, founder of Admiralty Beverage and a tireless promoter of craft beer and a major inspiration for many in the NW beer circles. This is a blended beer, made with Hair of the Dog beers Fred, Adam, Doggie Claws, Rose and Belgian Dubbel Maredsous 8, and then aged on oak; it's a beer not to be missed, and the Holiday Ale Festival is the only place to get it. ABV: 10%

  6. Hair of the Dog/Holiday Ale: Jim 2007 (Blended Barrel Aged Specialty) -- JIM 2007 is collaboration between the Holiday Ale Festival's beer steward Preston Weesner and Hair of the Dog Brewer Alan Sprints. Made exclusively for the event, JIM honors the late Jim Kennedy, founder of Admiralty Beverage, a tireless promoter of craft beer and a major inspiration for many in NW beer circles. This is a blended beer made with Adam, Fred and Doggie Claws, some German Pilsner was added to dry it out a little, and a few special bottles were added as a toast to Jim: from Alan a 1989 Thomas Hardy's and a 1991 Rodenbach Alexander, and from Preston a 9 Liter bottle of 2006 St. Feuillien Triple. The blend was then barrel aged for 6 weeks. Only available at the fest and the brewery. ABV: 10.5%

  7. Portland Holiday Ale Festival 2008
    Beer, beer, beer!
  8. Hair of the Dog/Holiday Ale: Jim 2008 (Blended Barrel Aged Specialty) -- JIM 2008 is collaboration between the Holiday Ale Festival's beer steward Preston Weesner and Hair of the Dog Brewer Alan Sprints. Made exclusively for the event, JIM honors the late Jim Kennedy, founder of Admiralty Beverage and a tireless promoter of craft beer and a major inspiration for many in the NW beer circles. This is a blended beer, made with Hair of the Dog beers Adam of the Wood aged 4 months in wet Elija Craig bourbon barrels, Fred of the Wood aged in new American oak, Blue Dot for Hop nose and Doggie Claws to nicely round it out. Jim was remembered and toasted with a 2003 Samichlaus and 2007 Chimay Grand Reserve. It's a beer not to be missed and the Holiday Ale Festival is the only place to get it. ABV: 9%

  9. North Coast Brewing: Old Stock Ale (Old English Ale) -- Like a fine port, Old Stock Ale is well-designed to round-out and mellow with age. Featuring a dark chestnut-amber hue and exotic winey aromas, this ale is brewed with classic Maris Otter malts, and Fuggles and East Kent Goldings hops, all imported from England. OG: 1.1, IBU: 36, ABV: 12.5%

  10. Redhook Ale Brewery: Double Brewed Double Black Stout (Imperial Stout) -- Double Black Stout is a smooth Imperial stout enhanced by the addition of rich, flavorful coffee and dark malts to create a big roasted flavor. This batch was double brewed especially for the Holiday Ale Festival: coffee was first introduced in the mash tun, then cold coffee was added during filtration. The resulting beer has a much richer coffee taste than the normal production batch. OG: 1.07, FG: 1.012, IBU: 47, ABV: 7%

  11. Rock Bottom Brewery: Blitzen (Belgian Style Tripel) -- Blitzen is a rich, golden strong ale with fruity and spicy notes. It tastes like Christmas! ABV: 8.3%

  12. Schloss Eggenberg: 2005 Samichlaus (Bavarian Doppelbock) -- Samichlaus Bier is brewed only once a year on December 6th and is aged for 10 months before bottling. Samichlaus is one of the rarest speciality beers in the world and with 14% alcohol by volume, it is the strongest of its kind. It is ideal for aging, and older vintages become more complex with a creamy, warming finish; perfect for the holiday season! ABV: 14%

  13. Widmer Brothers Brewing: Babushka's Secret (Black Raspberry Russian Imperial Stout) -- This extremely rich and complex beer was brewed exclusively for the Festival. Widmer started with its now cult classic KGB as the base beer, then added local black raspberries at a rate of 14 lbs per barrel throughout fermentation. The result is an almost purplish opaque color with a beautiful brown head. You'll notice the combination of fruit and chocolate in the nose, along with a coffee-like roastiness. You will feel a warming sensation from the alcohol that finishes with a nice hop bitterness. OG: 1.086, FG: 1.02, IBU: 70, ABV: 9%


Check out the rest of the photos here.