Winter’s Best Beer Fest

Cold weather’s better with a big brew and thousands of friends.

holidayalefestivalWhat fall? It’s suddenly full-on winter across much of the United States, with freezing temps coast to coast. The best part of the big mercury drop is what’s currently chilling in your mug. The prevalence of bigger, richer beers that simply don’t call your name in, say, mid-July.

Why? Maybe they’re slightly sweeter, fuller-bodied, and darker-roasted, even onyx-black. Maybe they’re spicier (or spiced!) without being overly hoppy, bitter, or pumpkin latte-like, and certainly boozier with an added kick. No matter what, if you’re like us, you’re happy with a brawnier brew this time of year.

What’s even better? A winter beer fest, that’s what—a time to grab friends and family and gather ‘round the ol’ yuletide taps. As we count down the days to the 15th annual Vail Big Beers Festival (January, 2015; deeper preview coming soon), we turn to a West Coast bash that’s become a real tradition.

What’s your favorite winter brew fest? Tell us below.

And read on for details on Portland, Oregon’s Holiday Ale Fest, one of the nation’s top cold season soirees.

19th Annual Holiday Ale Fest
Dec. 3-7, Portland, OR

Portland’s best, booziest cold weather bash takes place in the heart of downtown, in Pioneer Courthouse square, styled out with heated, clear-topped tents (and the most massive Christmas tree in the entire region). Organizers feature mostly winter beers created expressly for the fest itself (!) and break out vintage and other rare beers they’ve been cellaring, some for years.

Among this year’s most anticipated brews the festival organizers have tipped us to: Cascade Brewing’s Gingersnaps, a NW style sour blend of red, spiced red and spiced quad ales aged in Bourbon and rum barrels for up to two years on spices; Eel River’s Gargantua II, an imperial strong ale aged on Bourbon vanilla beans and blended with a strong ale aged in Jack Daniels barrels for six months; Dogfish Head’s Rasion d’Etre, a Belgian-style brown ale brewed with beet sugar, raisins and Belgian-style yeast that is rarely seen in the Northwest; and Stone Brewing Liberty Station’s New Desecrator, a black barley wine with nearly the same profile as Stone Old Guardian, but surrounded by de-husked darkness.

For a list of the beers expected to pour all weekend, click here.

For tickets (from $35 and up), visit the fest’s advance admission page here.

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