Portland Holiday Ale Fest... Bah! Humbug!

Discussion in 'Northwest' started by damjadi, Dec 2, 2012.

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  1. damjadi

    damjadi Initiate (0) Sep 17, 2003 Oregon


    I have to say I was very disappointed with the HAF this year!

    First, the plastic mug had a strong odor and taste that affected the enjoyment of the beers.

    Second, the breweries were arranged in what appeared to be random order (you couldn't tell by the program).

    Third, there were very few "special beers" and only four VIP beers were released a day.

    Fourth, food offerings were limited....

    I much prefer San Diego Strong Ale.....
  2. MADhombrewer

    MADhombrewer Initiate (0) Jun 4, 2008 Oregon

    Was this your first time going? If not, what were your thoughts of the previous years compared to this year? I wasn't able to attend this year due to work. That said, the best beers seem to be poured, and consumed, before Saturday. Come Sunday I would imagine that there is not much left at all.
  3. kscaldef

    kscaldef Initiate (0) Jun 11, 2010 Oregon
    Beer Trader

    Those in the know bring their own glass and pour their tastes out of the plastic mug into that

    The random order doesn't really bother me. It's not that big a place, the website had the locations (and the mobile version is pretty good).

    There were actually quite a few more special tappings which were unannounced until they went on. For example, the 07-10 Abyss vertical, FW Rufus, one-off kegs from New Belgium, ...

    I'll give you the food. I know from the past that there isn't much available, so I plan my visits not to collide with mealtimes.
    LoPo87 and boMD like this.
  4. Reidrover

    Reidrover Poo-Bah (2,763) Jan 14, 2003 Oregon

    Never been but the food thing is a surprise..surely Portland is the capital off the food cart world?
    Why not invite the food cart people to the event?
  5. kscaldef

    kscaldef Initiate (0) Jun 11, 2010 Oregon
    Beer Trader

    HAF is held in a very space constrained venue. The event lasts for 5 days and you can leave and re-enter as much as you want. Walk 2 blocks to the food carts and come back, or time your visits for while you're not going to be hungry.
    bosco123 and LoPo87 like this.
  6. Reidrover

    Reidrover Poo-Bah (2,763) Jan 14, 2003 Oregon

    Indeed but wouldn't it be nice if they invited one or two to be right there?
  7. kscaldef

    kscaldef Initiate (0) Jun 11, 2010 Oregon
    Beer Trader

    If adding 2 food carts meant dropping 8 beers, I'm not sure if most attendees would agree. But, also, because the entire venue is tented over, there's limitations on where you can place food vendors and what sort of cooking they can do.
  8. damjadi

    damjadi Initiate (0) Sep 17, 2003 Oregon

    This was not my first time, and I thought the beer selection in the past was better.

    One in our group brought a glass, but the point is that the event should provide non-noxious drinkware with which to consume what is supposed to be rare or otherwise special beer....
  9. John_M

    John_M Moderator (5,533) Oct 25, 2003 Oregon
    Beer Trader

    Agreed. The space is so small (relatively speaking), I can't imagine fitting a couple of food carts in there. As it is, I always feel as if space is at a premium, especially if you attend this event at peak hours (Friday and Saturday evenings, and most of Saturday afternoon). That being said, I haven't attended in a couple of years, but yes, the food sitaution pretty much sucks (very limited options). However, if you've attended before you know that, and I don't think it's all that difficult to plan accordingly (eat before arriving, or reconcile yourself to grabbing a couple of slices of pizza at the event).

    As for the mugs, I only really noticed the problem at the outset of the tasting. After using a couple of lesser beers and some water as a rinse, I didn't think there was a problem. However, I can't disagree with the OP... it is something of a problem, and I do wonder why the organzers can't do something about it (for instance, I haven't noticed this problem with the plastic mugs used at OBF and the wet hop festivals).

    As for the selection... shrug. In my experience, it depends on when you go. I've gone at times when I expected to find a particular VIP beer available, only to be disappointed... either it wasn't tapped when it was supposed to be tapped, or for some reason the organizers didn't get it at all. However, in my experience that seems to happen at pretty much every festival I've attended (including the GABF). I can understand the disappointment, but again, just speaking for myself, I go to the HAF hoping for the best, but without really knowing what I'm going to encounter until I actually arrive. However, that's the attitude I take for every festival I attend. In my experience, the HAF is still one of the better ones (it's the one I miss attending the most since moving away from Portland several years ago).
  10. MADhombrewer

    MADhombrewer Initiate (0) Jun 4, 2008 Oregon

    The other side of the coin would be the food cart people would have to pack everything up and move the cart for only Sat and sun. They probably make more money in the spot they have Monday thru Friday (people who work downtown) then they would/might make on the weekend for just the HAF. I would think it would be more of a hastle for them.

    Btw- For those that went, was HOTD Jim pouring?
  11. kscaldef

    kscaldef Initiate (0) Jun 11, 2010 Oregon
    Beer Trader

    Really? The mugs at OBF this year were terrible. I literally poured beer into my mouth from a height because getting my nose anywhere near the mug was death to smell and flavor. As it was, I couldn't smell any of the beers, but at least by avoiding the plastic smell I could taste them. I assume this is mostly related to how short the time is between manufacture and the festival.

    As far as HAF goes (and OBF, for that matter), I think the organizers have a dilemma here. There's so many drunken yahoos as these festivals at peak time; do you really want to hand out glass to all of them? I greatly appreciate the festivals with real glasses, but they are universally much smaller and more civilized affairs.

    2008 and 2009
  12. John_M

    John_M Moderator (5,533) Oct 25, 2003 Oregon
    Beer Trader

  13. OregonHopmonster

    OregonHopmonster Aspirant (234) Jan 15, 2011 Oregon
    Beer Trader

    Pioneer Courthouse Square does not allow glass, so we are stuck with some form of plastic. As for the food issue- I go to a lot of beer festivals. Most offer the typical assortment of carnival food and people only eat it when they are too drunk to care. Being able to enter freely once you have a wristband and mug in my opinion makes this a non-issue.
    exitmusic00 likes this.
  14. MADhombrewer

    MADhombrewer Initiate (0) Jun 4, 2008 Oregon

    Damn! That beer is incredibly elusive for me.
  15. vurt

    vurt Crusader (741) Apr 11, 2004 Oregon

    Regarding the OP's comment about the Strong Ale Festival, the grass is always greener somewhere else. I live in Southern California, and I don't like the VIP approach to beer festivals down there which requires you to buy a separate and costly ticket to get access to the rarest beers. Yes, I know that's where the market has ended up. But that's one of the bigger reasons I haven't been down to a San Diego beer festival in quite a while.

    (Side note: I tried a couple times without success to try Stone Suitable For Cave Aging in the LA area. I laughed when I saw it on the website for this year's HAF. It was a very tasty brew, one of my favorites at the Fest.)

    Me and my lady had a great time at the Fest on Thursday and Friday. The HAF is one of my favorite beer festivals, and I hope I will be up here again in this beautiful city for next year's Fest.
  16. vurt

    vurt Crusader (741) Apr 11, 2004 Oregon

    Another note about the HAF: on Friday I started to notice some conspicuous absences from the line up. No Upright or HUB? No Boneyard or Caldera? It also would have been nice to see some holiday offerings from Natian or Two Kilts.

    I'm really not complaining, by the way. It's just more evidence of the vast number of breweries you have up here.
  17. maltmaster420

    maltmaster420 Aspirant (290) Aug 17, 2005 Oregon
    Beer Trader

    Breweries have to pay several hundred dollars and commit to several kegs to the event. If you're a small brewery on a budget (like Natian or Two Kilts) or you're already selling the beer faster than you can brew it (like Boneyard), why bother with the fest? The other explanation is that there's a limited number of spaces, so perhaps the brewries you mentioned were just a little too slow in responding and the slots filled up.

    On a separate note: IIRC, Preston has stated that he would love to use glass, but the city wouldn't let him.
    vurt likes this.
  18. kscaldef

    kscaldef Initiate (0) Jun 11, 2010 Oregon
    Beer Trader

    FWIW, I believe all of those breweries have attended in a past year except for Two Kilts. There's always some change from year-to-year. Personally I like variation and dislike it when we see the same beers over and over. (Although, I'd like Block 15 to come back...)
    vurt likes this.
  19. vurt

    vurt Crusader (741) Apr 11, 2004 Oregon

    Yes! They are one of the breweries I was really hoping to try on
    this visit.
  20. vurt

    vurt Crusader (741) Apr 11, 2004 Oregon

    All good points. I do remember my girlfriend telling me that Two Kilts had shortages when they committed some of their beers to an organic beer festival earlier this year.
  21. goodbyeohio

    goodbyeohio Initiate (0) Jul 13, 2004 Oregon

    I brought a glass in. Right as I was preparing to leave, two 'security' type people came up to me and told me i can't use it. So I finished my beer and started to leave. They intercepted me at the door and said "oh, we were mistaken, you can use your glass; you don't have to leave!" hah. i guess despite the 'rules', they will look the other way for people who really want to enjoy their beer and do so responsibly.
  22. msubulldog25

    msubulldog25 Initiate (0) Aug 3, 2005 Oregon

    During volunteer 'orientation' before each shift, they mention that people can do exactly what you did, Jim. The 'official' stance behind the scenes is: servers pour to the plastic mug only... but what you (the drinker) do with it after that is up to you. I think the reason the 'security' guys may have hassled you is the 'no glass' rule that is imposed on the fest organizers by the city (see reply #13 above).

    PS: Good to see you on Wednesday, btw, and looking forward to the festivities at The 'Mongers later this month!
  23. davemont

    davemont Initiate (152) Feb 20, 2008 California

    Having attended the Strong Ale Festival several times and the Holiday Ale for the first time this year, from Wednesday through Sunday, I can say I wish we had something like this in San Diego. I don't know of any festival with the scope and uniqueness of beers like HAF, and we thouroughly enjoyed it. If it was a disappointment compared to previous years, those years would have been amazing to attend. Among our friends, most people in the know brought small taster glasses. I thought the cheeses and the nuts were a nice touch and very reasonable, and beyond that it was easy to go in and out for a much needed walk and a visit to the food carts if the other fare didn't do it for you. I was impressed with the special beers (Rufus, 4 years of Abyss, 2 years of Jim, the New Belgium) and Diesel #2 for 1 ticket was as good as it gets. We had a really good time.

    All that being said, the Strong Ale Fest is great in it's own right. Such an embarassment of riches in both Portland and San Diego for sure.
    msubulldog25 and Sarlacc83 like this.
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