The tenth-annual Savor Event—dubbed “an American craft beer and food experience”—took place earlier this month in Washington, DC, where 86 indie brewers descended upon the city’s National Building Museum for two days of glorious craft beer hedonism. The brewers served a total of 172 beers, each paired with a small plate designed for each brew—though truthfully, it was more like a wide arsenal of dishes that paired nicely with different beers that shared some underlining flavor similarities (less a criticism and more a consequence of hosting such a massive event).
Big names were noticeable, including New Belgium, Sam Adams, Deschutes, Allagash, New Holland, and Sierra Nevada, as were the littler guys, everyone from Bend, OR’s Crux Fermentation Project, a cadre of DC brewers, and more than a handful of cult beer makers. Sours and goses were a definite trend, as were imperial ales, big and boisterous barrel-aged monsters, and a few oddballs like the Albino Stout (a white version of the traditionally ink-black style from The Butcher and the Brewer), and a version of the Deschutes Abyss aged in brandy barrels. And Smuttynose served a great Blackberry Shortweiss that paired perfectly with the spicy lamb tartare with tamarind and Thai basil. Some were crazy-rare and in high demand; Allagash ran out of Uncommon Crow (a fruited American sour ale)—and fast. Other brewers went the other direction, presenting flagship brews that already populate most of DC’s discerning beer-buying spots.
All in all, it was a dizzying, overwhelming success, once again highlighting the questionable plight of your humble beer writer: how to try everything, and stay on your own two feet? I didn’t make it through them all, and can confirm that an evening of sampling small pours of outstanding beers and eating…just a little too little…can definitely sneak up on you.
Here are a few that stood out, as well as a bit more about the event itself, which is held annually at the start of June and is accompanied by beer events and tap take-overs throughout the city.
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After staging the sixth Savor in NYC, the event returned to the National Building Museum in 2014, one of Washington, DC's best venues. Built in 1887, it served as the Pension Building for years, hosted several presidential inaugural balls, and offers an amazing interactive art exhibit each summer. Plot your summer 2018 plans accordingly.
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Unlike previous iterations, which included break-out salons to laser-focus on particular parts of the craft brew scene, Savor introduced "The Grand Marketplace'—seen here—with brewers stacked against the walls and filling the floor in two concentric circles. Lining the second floor balcony, more breweries, along with food from local producers, including cheese, oysters, charcuterie, chocolates, and a raw bar.
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All of the food paired originated from the Brewers Association's Master Chef, Adam Dulye, and covered the gamut of international cuisine, from mole and ceviche to duck sausage and lomo.
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Bend, Oregon's Cruz Fermentation Project brought two beers—a one-off sour golden ale aged in Viognier barrels, and Better Off Red. The latter won out, a bold and tart Flanders Red that paired nicely with the elk mole.
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Brooklyn Brewery's Cloaking Device is just hitting the shelves—and it's worth finding. The brett-infused porter that brings a bit of funk and sour to the beer's deeper, cacao backbone with hints of wood from the nine-month barrel aging in French oak.
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Connecticut-based Two Roads have been playing with funky, sour beers for a while, and their Country Funk proves it's time well spent. It registers in at a modest 6% ABV, and uses yeast captured from an experimental barley patch growing on the brewery grounds, then barrel-aged for the perfect mix of funk, fruit, and sour.
Two Roads Brewing
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The brewers from D9 proudly proclaim that they "science the shit" out of their beers to make them distinctive, but they might've also worked with a magician on their Defying Gravity. The papaya sour uses three distinct fermentations to create an insanely smooth-drinking ale that completely disguises its 14% ABV. Easily the most dangerously drinkable brew that I tried that night.
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In addition to more than 170 brews on offer, each Savor guests also receives a special 750Ml collaboration beer. This year it was the Savor X, a robust Baltic porter brewed with hops and coca husks, courtesy of Hardywood Park Craft Brewery and New Belgium.