More than 17,000 beer lovers toasted the spirits of

the season at the 17th annual Holiday Ale Festival

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Holiday Ale Festival continued its run as one of Portland’s favorite holiday traditions, as more than 17,000 gathered in Pioneer Courthouse Square over five days to raise a mug to the big, bold craft beers of winter. The Northwest’s most prestigious winter beer festival took place Nov. 28 through Dec. 2.

The majority of beers served were either made or blended specifically for the event or were vintage offerings not commonly served in the region. In some cases, the kegs tapped were the last known kegs available of a particular beer.

Wednesday and Thursday of the event were all about beer appreciation, as true fans took off work to come early and avoid the typical weekend lines. Attendees took advantage of a real-time mobile website that listed the beers, their on-site location and descriptions, and up-to-the-moment updates on special tappings. There were an additional 32 limited tappings in addition to this year’s main lineup of 44 beers.

While all the beers were well received, a few rose to the top in terms of popularity and buzz. Firestone Walker’s Wild Merkin, a barrel aged oatmeal stout blended with a gueze, was incredibly popular, as was Stone Brewing’s Suitable for Cave Aging Imperial smoked porter. Cascade Brewing, known internationally for its sour beers, surprised fans by sending a non-sour; however, the Diesel #2 barrel aged Imperial stout did not disappoint, with many listing the beer among their favorites.

But the stars of the show were the limited tappings – specialty beers tapped once or twice on select days. One of the highlights included the smallest sour collaboration ever, as Lauren Woods of New Belgium Brewing joined Preston Weesner of Cascade Brewing to produce a custom blend of two of their sour beers in real-time, straight from the tap. The 80/20 blend of New Belgium’s Love (Felix) and Cascade’s Glueh Kriek was deemed both “delicious” and “fascinating to watch in real time.”

Clear top heated tents provided so much warmth that the coat check took in a record number of garments. This was good news for the Children’s Cancer Association – the Holiday Ale Festival takes all funds raised from the coat check as well as the Crater Lake Soda Garden, rounds up to the nearest hundred then doubles the amount and donates it to the worthy organization.

The Sunday Beer Brunch, an auxiliary event always held on the final morning of the festival, hosted 120 people – more than half from out of the region – who sampled vintage large format beers and noshed on Belgian waffles, pastries, meats and cheeses in an area overlooking the main festival tents.

The 18th annual Holiday Ale Festival will take place December 4 through 8, 2013, at Pioneer Courthouse Square. For more information, visit www.holidayale.com. Follow the festival at www.Facebook.com/HolidayAleFest or www.Twitter.com/HolidayAle.