03 December 2005

Holiday Ale Festival Report

Yesterday, we hit the 2005 Holiday Ale Festival with our friends Ryan & Kelly. We were hoping that going in the mid-afternoon would maybe be a little less crowded.

Yeah, not so much. The festival was very busy. The lines for each set of taps was easily 45 feet long, and the tents were just jam-packed. I think the festival organizers wasted an awful lot of tent space on vendors selling stuff that nobody was buying.

We decided that we'd each get different stuff and share our tasters. Here are my somewhat limited thoughts on the stuff I tried:

Alameda BrewHouse's Papa Noel Olde Ale - Excellent. Very full-bodied and roasty-malty. Has English "Fuggle" hops, whatever that means. I liked it.
BridgePort's Ebenezer Ale - Excellent, but a little more bitter than the Papa Noel.
Fearless Brewing Co.'s Strong Scotch Ale - Best of the bunch, IMO. Smoothest and fullest ale I had at the festival, and probably the best I've had in a while.
New Belgium's
2°Below Winter Ale - This wasn't what I expected after checking out the web site. This was a ton more bitter than the 30IBU they claimed. Seemed to have too flowery of a tone to be a winter ale.
FestivAle - Pretty good stuff. Seemed like they were trying to do too much with this one, but it was tasty.
Widmer - I was thinking they'd have gone with their Snow Plow Milk Stout, but they had something different - the Lumpa Coal Stout. This was pretty good as well. Not the creamiest stout, but certainly a good one. Not as smooth as say, Guinness, but good.
Lagunitas' Cappucino Stout - Pretty good, a very interesting cappucino-ish flavor to it, just as you'd expect. Pretty smooth, too.
Sierra Nevada's Celebration Ale - This wasn't what we came here for. It was almost like an IPA or something. Very bitter/hoppy, which isn't what I'd consider a good winter ale. But I'm no expert.

After the festival, we went to Amnesia Brewing, which apparently was a stop on some kind of brewery tour that R&K had been on recently. They had some good food there, despite a rather limited menu. I had a pretty darn good burger, and the peppery potato chips hit the spot as well. I had a couple pints of their Sleigh Jerker Winter Ale, which was very good. I'd rate it around the same as the Rogue or the Alameda I had at the festival.


Breanna said...

i love your reviews...i know i say that all the time.

so, in an attempt to further "cool-a-nize" myself and be more accepted by all my guy friends, i've been trying to become more of a beer drinker (i think i've told you about this before). the other night we were out at the Horse Brass (have you been?) and i started with some winter ale or something that was quite good...it may have even been "winterberry" i think. then i saw a "cream ale" and i thought...mmm, that sounds pretty damn good...so i ordered it and........EWWWW! it was AWFUL. where did i go wrong?

Ghost Dog said...


Love the Horse Brass. I never did post about it, did I? Gonna have to go back again, so I can correct that oversight.
Belmont Station, the place next door, is a great place to buy obscure and hard-to-find beers from all over the country and the world.

RE: the Cream Ale - depends who makes it, and how they interpreted the style. You'll find, if you try enough beers, that each brewer interprets the style of a given beer a bit differently. I'm a big fan of Amber Ales, but some brewers' Ambers are more bitter than others, some more full-bodied than others. Red Ales are another favorite, but they vary pretty widely from one place to the next.

Whenever I decide to try something new, I try to go by the description, if the pub bothered to put one on their beer menu. Some pubs are great at this - they'll put a description of the hops, malts, and the general flavor/style of the beer. The really good ones will list the alcohol content and the IBU (International Bitterness Units). I try to keep away from anything over 40 IBU, because I don't really like a bitter beer. If they don't list the IBU, I look at the description - if it really highlights the "hoppiness", I'll usually pass.

You can also check out the 2 beer blogs listed in my sidebar, as well as BeerAdvocate.com if you want to learn a little more about beer terminology. It helped me make better decisions about what to try.