The Holiday Ale Festival is held each year the first week of December in Pioneer Courthouse Square, 701 SW Sixth Ave. Known for assembling a prestigious lineup of winter beers, the festival features more than 50 specialty ales that 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, nearly 14,000 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 with rare beers, a root beer garden, food vendors, self-guided beer pairings with cheese, event merchandise and a coat/bag check and raffle.
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. This festival offers the brewers a chance to reward their fans with amazing holiday gifts in the form of one a kind beers. This year’s beer list will be announced in early October.
To enter and consume beer, the purchase of an entry package is required. Advance general admission costs $35 and includes the 2016 tasting cup and 14 taster tickets, plus expedited entry all five days with a print at home ticket. General admission at the door is the same price, but includes only 12 tickets and no expedited entry. Advance VIP packages cost $100 and include the tasting cup, 30 taster tickets, special VIP beer lines with little to no waiting, exclusive VIP only vintage beers, bottled water and express entry all five days (VIP tickets are limited to 250 and are not available at the door). All advance packages will go on sale in late September at www.holidayale.com.
Once inside the festival, a full beer costs four taster tickets, and a taster costs one ticket. Certain limited release and special tappings may not be available in full pours, or may cost extra tickets. Additional beer tickets can be purchased for $1 apiece. Previous years’ mugs will not be filled. Express re-entry requires a wristband and the 2016 tasting cup, and is subject to the festival's capacity.
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; the festival matches then quadruples the proceeds from all designated driver tickets, root beer garden, bag and coat check and raffle sales. All proceeds are given to the Children's Cancer Association’s MyMusicRx Program, which delivers the healing power of music to children battling cancer and their families.