West Coast’s Holiday Ale Festival Celebrates the Beers of Winter: 19th annual event offers one of the nation’s finest gatherings of winter beers
The 19th annual Holiday Ale Festival will take place Dec. 3 through Dec. 7 at Pioneer Courthouse Square, located at 701 SW Sixth Ave. in the heart of downtown Portland. The popular event will feature at least four-dozen big, bold ales designed to fend off the cold chill of a long winter night. From Belgians, barleywines and CDAs to winter warmers, porters and stouts, these beers have either been crafted specifically for the event or are hard-to-fine vintages, underscoring the event’s reputation as one of finest gathering of winter beers anywhere in the nation.
Event hours are 11am to 10pm Wednesday through Saturday, and 11am to 5pm Sunday. To avoid the lengthy lines that often accompany beer festivals, the recommended days for attendance are Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday. The Holiday Ale Festival is for ages 21 and over.
Despite being held outdoors during one of the coldest months of the year, more than 15,000 festival attendees stay warm and dry over the five-day festival under clear-topped tents that cover the venue. Gas heaters create a cozy ambiance beneath the boughs of the region’s largest decorated Christmas tree. In addition to beer tasting, the festival also features meet the brewer events, a root beer garden, food vendors, beer pairings with cheese, event merchandise and a coat and bag check that raises funds for the Children’s Cancer Association.
What makes this festival standout from other similar events is the beer selection: the festival works with every brewery involved to make sure they send a beer that has either been made or blended specifically for the event, or is a rare or vintage beer that isn’t commonly tapped in the state.
To enter and consume beer, the purchase of an entry package is required. Packages cost $35 and include the 2014 tasting mug and 12 taster tickets. Once inside the festival, a full mug of beer costs four taster tickets, and a taster costs one ticket. Certain limited release and special tappings may not be available in full mug pours, or may cost double tickets. Additional beer tickets can be purchased for $1 apiece. Previous years’ mugs will not be filled.
Advance GA packages will be available for the same price, but will include expedited entry all five days. Advance VIP packages will be available for $80 and include the tasting mug, 30 taster tickets, bottled water, access to VIP lines (including special tappings), VIP only vintage bottles and/or draft and express entry all five days. Express re-entry requires a wristband and the 2014 mug, and is subject to the festival’s capacity. All advance packages will go on sale in October at www.holidayale.com.
Designated drivers in a party of two or more may purchase a designated driver wristband for $10, which includes Crater Lake Root Beer or bottled water for the duration of the stay.
Returning to the event is the 11th annual Sunday Beer Brunch, taking place Dec. 7 from 11am to 1pm on the upper level of Pioneer Courthouse Square. Ticket holders are greeted at the door with a warn Liege style waffle from the Waffle Window paired with vintage Brasserie Dupont Avec les Bons Voeux. The auxiliary event features European pastries, cured meats and artisanal cheeses to accompany an assortment of exclusive vintage draft and bottled winter beers not available at the festival itself, plus several special large format bottles to be shared during the event. Tickets cost $80 and will be available at www.holidayale.com in early October.