An American Craft Beer & Food Experience
I love the Brewer's Association event SAVOR. The event's subtitle is "An American Craft Beer & Food Experience”. It is my favorite beer event each year for many reasons. For one, the diversity of beer and their sources. Breweries that normally aren't available to our area (Maryland / DC) bring some of their best beers. There are many smaller breweries from around the country here, too. I've met and enjoyed beer from breweries almost in my backyard that have become favorites after discovering them at SAVOR — think Adroit Theory and Hardywood Brewing.
SAVOR is held Washington DC since 2008 except for 2013 it was held in New York, NY. It typically is held the first Friday and Saturday in June. You can get tickets for either evening but I've heard people that have traveled some distance to say they get tickets for both nights. I can see how that makes sense since there are so many great beers to sample that you really can not consume them all in one event… and still standing. So to spread your tastings over two night adds some sanity to the event.
While 2018 was my fourth trip to SAVOR, each one is slightly different. Take 2017, that year they didn't have salons nor in 2018. The salon was a high point of the evening for me, where you would choose one from many hour-long sessions with a couple of beer celebrities while they bring special beers related to their theme. One year I heard Julia Herz moderate a discussion on beer menus and pairing beer with food — which is a major theme for the SAVOR event in the first place. In 2016, I listened in as Sam Calagione (Dogfish Head) and Stan Hieronymus (author of Brew Like a Monk, For The Love of Hops) discuss Indigenous American Beers – Past & Present. Not only were you able to get a bit closer to the beer celebrities, they would bring specialty beer not available to the general attendees. At the Beer Bloggers and Writers Conference (renamed Beer Now) I had the chance to ask Julia Herz why they no longer have the salons. She said they wanted to give more attention to the beer. Hum, sorry Julia, that sounds like a convenient answer to me. I made my plea with Julia, who I greatly admire for her knowledge and approachability. Unfortunately, I do not expect to see the salons return soon.
Drinking Beer From a Firehose
Mae West was attributed to saying ”too much of a good thing is wonderful”. One of the things I've learned about beer festivals, especially a high-end event like SAVOR, is that you must pace yourself and choose carefully which beers to try and which to pass. I have learned that I can only experience so many beers during an event so each slot is precious and I must choose wisely. One of the great attributes of the SAVOR event is that they post which breweries have been selected — there is a selection process — to attend and which beers they will be pouring ahead of time. I do take the time to review the list and select which ones will be a priority for me during the heat of the battle. When you're in there, in the heat of the battle, there are temptations all around, and you are twelve beers in and have to make a decision, it's nice to have a game plan. So, I print my list and examine it throughout the evening. Not to say there isn't room for an audible call and a capricious beer sucks me in. You must be flexible about these things, right? Early in the evening I'm very careful to keep a recorded of which beers I've tasted. Sometimes I'll take notes on particularly great tastes. By the end of the evening, I'm not so sure of the accuracy of my record keeping. For the 2018 event I circled seventeen beer tastings. Some of my favorite breweries have come from SAVOR events. Adroit Theory is one. Others are from cities where I have travels planned and make it a point to visit when I'm in their city. NOLA in New Orleans and Urban Chestnut in St. Louis are just two examples.
Recordings & Prosperity
There are a few of the salons I've attended or listened to later that I found particularly interesting.
Coopers Dance: Wood and Beer (recording) The simple yet complex nature of barrel maintenance and use will be demonstrated by Peter Bouckaert and Dick Cantwell, authors of the 2016 book Wood & Beer published by Brewers Publications. At the time I'm writing this, I'm in the middle of reading Wood & Beer. I regret that I missed this salon since I'm enjoying the book so much.
Beer Dinner Epiphanies (recording) Presenters: Julia Herz, Brewers Association; Jeremy Cowan, Shmaltz Brewing Company; Doug Constantiner, Societe Brewing Company
I like serving beer with meals and sharing these together with friends and family. There’s more to putting on a successful beer dinner than meets the eye. Complement your SAVOR experience by attending a mini beer dinner hosted by Julia Herz, craft beer program director of the Brewers Association and co-author of the CraftBeer.com Beer & Food Course, Jeremy Cowan, founder of Schmaltz Brewing Company, and Doug Constantiner, brewer for Societe Brewing Company. Learn how to plan beer dinners, how to approach a test tasting, how to pick a theme, how to incorporate beer ingredients into your meal, and gain a better understanding of pairing practices, all while working through a three course mini-meal that is sure to impress and inspire.
Favorite Breweries Discovered
Each year I discover great beer from breweries I didn't know existed and some I knew only in legend. This year was no different and always adds to the element of beery wonder and adventure.
Coop Ale Works
2017 Territorial Reserve Barrel Aged Wild Wheat Wine Honey Ale (Wood-Aged Strong Beer)
2017 DNR Cask-It: Rye Barrel Aged (Belgian Dark Strong Ale)
Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project
Sour Rosé (American Sour Ale)
Origins (Wood-Aged Sour)
Crux Fermentation Project
[BANISHED] TOUGH LOVE (Wood-Aged Strong Stout)
[BANISHED] IN THE POCKET (Specialty Saison)
Deschutes Brewery - Actually not a new discovery, but their Black Butte Porter is so good I had to taste these beers and put them on the list.
The Abyss Tequila (Wood-Aged Strong Stout)
The Ages (Belgian Gueuze Lambic)
Foothills Brewing - While on a personal travels to central North Carolina I stopped by the brewery only to find it closed for a special staff event. I shared this with the fellow pouring their beer and he said it was a delayed staff Christmas party.
Dead & Berried Blackberry Imperial Stout (Wood-Aged Strong Stout)
Lawson's Finest Liquids - For my friends from Vermont, SoS is their go-to beer of choice.
Sip of Sunshine (American IPA)
Fayston Maple Imperial Stout (American Stout)
Lord Hobo - I had discovered Lord Hobo and Boomsauce during a recent trip to Central Massachusetts.
Glorious (American Pale Ale)
Boomsauce (American IPA)
Rhinegeist Brewery - I have had a few of their beers from Cincinnati OH.
Double Oaked Mastodon (Belgian Dark Strong Ale)
Spencer Brewery - I've enjoyed Spencer beers before and have journeyed to their brewery (actually I wasn't allowed into the brewery, just the gift shop).
Monks Reserve Quad (Belgian Quadrupel)
Peach Saison (Specialty Saison)
The Lost Abbey - I have tasted a select few of their beer, a brewery I have to try more of.
Bat Out of Hell (Wood-Aged Strong Beer)
One of my favorite breweries is Brewery Ommegang. I've not been to the brewery, yet, but it is on the short list. While tasting their beer during the evening I mentioned how much I would like one of their fine Belgian glasses sitting on the counter and if I may have one. “If you come back at the end of the show I can give you one”, the women pouring my beer told me. As the lights came on to indicate the show was closing I remembered the promise and heading back to the Ommegang table. As soon as she saw me, she reached down and pulled out the trophy glass she had saved for me. I kissed her hand in appreciation and headed home.