Over the years and through the beers, I’ve compiled a personal “Beer Bucket List”, which has steadily grown and evolved into a collection of craft beer-centric places to visit, beers to sample, and festivals to attend. Last weekend, I was able to cross one of those festivals off the list, when I had the honor of attending SAVOR: An American Craft Beer & Food Experience in Washington D.C.
Held at the National Building Museum in the Nation’s Capital, SAVOR showcased a variety of beers from 76 craft breweries, each beer paired with a bite to eat, making the event enticing to both beer geeks and foodies. The menu itself was designed by a tasting panel led by Adam Dulye, Executive Chef of the Brewers Association (BA), and Kyle Mendenhall, BA Chef Consultant and Executive Chef at The Kitchen. The menu accentuated beer’s ability to pair with a variety of ingredients and dishes from around the World.
Walking into the National Building Museum was a breathtaking experience. With its Roman columns and eye-catching architecture surrounded by a massive spread of world-class beers, I quickly realized this was going to be a special night.
At a time in the industry when the pioneers of craft beer could easily step away from the fanfare, they thankfully choose not to. Instead, Dogfish Head Founder Sam Calagione was pouring his new Raison Brett’ra (a Barrel-Aged, Brettanomyces fermented version of Raison d’Etre), while just down the way, Sam Adams Founder Jim Koch was explaining the story behind the delicious Kosmic Mother Funk. A sincere slow clap to these gentlemen and many others that continue to make the effort to connect with their consumers. As evidenced by the crowd surrounding Calagione, it’s still very much appreciated.
As with many beer festivals, half of the fun is seeking out the newcomers and discovering the hidden gems along the way. There were plenty of great new beers to discover at SAVOR, as the majority of breweries in attendance brought either new or limited offerings to share. While impossible to sample everything, we managed to put a pretty good dent in the menu. Here’s a look back at a few of our favorites.
- Foolery, Hardywood Craft Brewery, Richmond, VA
A 14% ABV Imperial Stout that spent 8 months aging in Bourbon Barrels. Thick, rich, boozy and sweet.
- Simtra, Knee Deep Brewing Company, Auburn, CA
This 11% ABV Triple IPA was dank and bitter, thanks to the punch provided by the Citra and Simcoe hops.
- Le Flâneur, Right Proper Brewing Company, Washington D.C.
The hometown brewery set the stage with this open-fermented Wild Ale, aged in Sherry Casks. A visit to Right Proper’s Tasting Room later in the weekend had us hooked on their solid lineup of Farmhouse-style offerings.
- Lazy Ballerina, Schlafly Beer, St. Louis, MO
The first release in Schlafly’s Ibex Series, Lazy Ballerina is a Biere de Garde brewed with Chambourcin grapes and aged in Chambourcin barrels for 3 months.
- Vinosynth Red, Upland Brewing Company, Bloomington, IN
This blend of 50% Sour Reserve and 50% Malefactor Flanders Red is aged on Catawba grapes from Oliver Wineries. The resulting beer is sweet, fruity, acidic and complex.
- Embrace The Funk – Deux Rouges, Yazoo Brewing Company, Nashville, TN
A Flanders Red that was aged in Merlot Barrels. Funky, earthy, lightly acidic and tart.
- Mattina Rossa, Allagash Brewing, Portland, ME, paired with Loin of Venison with Fried Parsnips, Pomegranate & Red Eye Gastrique
As if the beautiful Raspberry Sour from Allagash wasn’t enough, the pairing of mouth-melting Venison really set this pairing off. Amazing.
Many attendees tried their hand at creating their own pairings, thanks to the rotating selection of more than 40 cheeses presented by The American Cheese Society.
Similarly, a raw oyster bar with multiple garnishes was manned by the team from Choptank Oyster Company. As a land-locked seafood lover, the oysters were a sight to behold and went down nicely with some of the playful Saisons being poured.
As the night wore on, some attendees broke off to one of the numerous Salons, which offered additional educational opportunities on topics ranging from the history of Wood Aged Beer, led by New Belgium Brewing’s Peter Bouckaert, to a Beer vs. Wine talk, led by Boston Beer’s Jim Koch.
On the way out, guests were given a souvenir 22oz. bomber of Philtimore, this year’s official beer of SAVOR. The English-style Pale Ale is a collaborative effort between Philadelphia’s Yards Brewing Company and Baltimore’s Heavy Seas Beer.
As the night drew to a close and we spilled onto the noisy streets of D.C., I began reflecting on the night. It was a great one and certainly very different from any beer event I’ve ever attended. A welcome departure from pretzel necklaces and plastic tasting glasses. Instead, SAVOR offers craft beer lovers the opportunity to dress up and sip rare beers from a Teku. An experience we don’t get very often and one we’ll not soon forget. Make sure you add it to your personal Beer Bucket List.
By: Mark Robinson
Photography: Patti Robinson