Bottoms up!

My feet are killing me. I’m more than a little dehydrated. And I came home with some Mardi Gras-style beads I don’t remember acquiring.

Yes, it was a successful Holiday Ale Fest.

The Holiday Ale Fest is one of Portland’s cooler beer festivals. Most of the festival’s 50+ beers are brewed exclusively for the event, and none are readily available at local restaurants or grocery stores. So it’s a nice opportunity to sample some unique brews.

I first attended in 2010 and enjoyed myself, despite showing up on the busiest night of the festival and waiting in line for a combined 30 minutes for two beers. As this year’s festival rolled around, I knew I wanted to switch things up a bit — namely by attending on a weekday and avoiding the biggest crowds. (The plan worked — we all but avoided lines until the after-work crowd filled the festival tent.)

It’s nice when the biggest problem faced on a given Friday is deciding which beers to sample. The choices were many. I wound up enjoying mugs of five brews, all excellent. I didn’t take notes on these, unlike some of the more enthusiastic drinkers with whom Steven and I conversed. I don’t remember much about the individual beers now, other than that I enjoyed them all and that each brought something new to the table. The damage:

  • Hopworks Urban Brewery Kentucky Christmas
  • Firestone Walker Brewing Company 100% Bourbon Barrel Aged Velvet Merkin
  • Deschutes Brewery Super Jubel
  • Widmer Brothers Peppermint Paddy Porter
  • Breakside Brewery Cranberry Biere de Table

There were a few more samplers in there, and I would have added one more brew to the list if I hadn’t knocked that mug over. (It wasn’t drunk clumsy, though — it was Matt being Matt clumsy. I was gesticulating wildly, and I got a little carried away. As is my wont. Anyway, that was it for the mug of beer. Can’t win ’em all, I guess.)

But no matter. The various beers were all pretty unique. Some were chocolaty or carried a definite coffee flavor. Some were aged in whiskey barrels. Others, like the Widmer Brothers beer, offered an altogether new taste. Some were brewed with fruits like cranberry. Still others were bolstered by the additions of spices such as cinnamon. There’s something for all beer fans at the festival; even if you don’t like chocolaty beer, there is a variety of tastes to appease your palate.

I was already a fan of winter ales before the festival, but I came away from it with a new appreciation for the thought craft brewers put into their beer. They experiment with unusual ingredients and take risks with odd combinations. More often than not, it works. I love the creativity on display and am most grateful that I get to partake in the results.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention lunch at Big Ass Sandwich. Early on, Steven and ambled down to the food cart pod for lunch. There I ordered this week’s special — a sandwich filled with cream cheese-stuffed, bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers; roast beef; and French fries. Read that sentence again. You didn’t read it wrong. It was amazing. But combine that gut bomb with the five beers I drank, and you can imagine how I’m feeling tonight.

It was a very full day. A great day. A day worth remembering, for sure. I’m exhausted, and I’m excited to crawl into bed. As I look ahead, it doesn’t slow down any. I have a packed Saturday ahead of me, a day trip to Astoria on Sunday, Christmas shopping on Monday, and the Mumford & Sons concert on Tuesday. But I like it that way.

I enjoy a day spent in and around bed as much as the next guy, but sometimes, I love attacking life with gusto and making the most of it. I love filling my days with great memories and even better people. I love days that leave me exhausted and thinking to myself “I sure got the most out of that day.”

And, as Steven and I stood around a table, sipping ales in the shadow of Pioneer Courthouse Square’s Christmas tree, not a care in the world between us, it hit me — today was one of those days. If that’s not worth toasting, I don’t know what is.

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2 responses to “Bottoms up!

  1. Pingback: Recapping a December to remember « I Gotta Shine·

  2. Pingback: Recap: Holiday Ale Fest 2012 | I Gotta Shine·

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