SAVOR is a beer and food pairing event with a feel unlike anything else I’ve experienced in craft beer. This year and last, it was held in Washington D.C. at the National Building Museum.
Ben and I attended last year, not knowing what to expect. We had an amazing time, so we naturally planned to attend this year’s event.
It’s a little like a dressed up beer festival and a beer and food pairing dinner had a badass kid. It’s discernibly an event for foodies and beer geeks alike. You’ll see many people dressed up, but you wouldn’t feel out of place in jeans and your favorite brewery shirt either. They do take some fun red carpet photos once the event gets underway!
Tables form a bunch of little islands all over the event floor. Each island hosts 4 different breweries, and each brewery can showcase 2 different beers. Each beer has a food pairing picked specifically for the beer, and the bite-sized pairing sits on a large serving dish in front of where the matching beer is being poured. There are helpful signs at each station with each beer to tell you what food and beer are being paired there.
One of the things I love most about this event is that you usually have the opportunity to meet some incredibly badass people in the beer industry. Kim Jordan of New Belgium poured me a beer last year. And this year, I met one of my all-time favorite people in the industry, Dogfish Head’s Sam Calgione!
His beers truly got me into craft beer, and Dogfish Head remains one of my all-time favorite breweries because of that, the incredible beers they put out, their fantastic attention to detail and exploring history through beer. And Sam was even more awesome than I thought he’d be. A few people were asking him as he was pouring their beer to pause for a photo. I asked him if he’d mind photobombing a quick selfie in the background, but he insisted that I get someone to take a picture of the two of us. Very cool.
Ben and I attended one of the salons during (before) Savor. You have to buy tickets in advance, and there are typically a handful of salons each night at various times throughout the event. Last year we attended a kick ass beer and donut pairing with Stone Brewing’s “Dr.” Bill! (So much fun!) And this year we chose a salon on barrel aging in barrels with different spirits by Allagash. Definitely attend one of these if you have the opportunity. They provide an intimate, informative, and unique chance to talk to someone from a brewery in a very small group setting and ask questions.
This year, 76 breweries were at Savor. Lots of them bring brand new beers, and some bring some of their more rare and sought after brews.
Having sampled about 60 different beers (and definitely trying the food pairing with those that really impressed me), the best pairing of the night for me goes hands down to Hops And Grain Brewing’s Volumes of Funk: Sour Porter Culture paired with Beef Cheek & Oxtail Stew w/ Heirloom Carrot Butter Persillade. A brown porter in itself will highlight the stewed beef with its mild roastiness that comes from the malts in the beer. Caramel and toffee notes in the beer also match well with a beef stew. One of the most classic pairings in the world of craft beer is beef stew and a Flanders brown ale (a sour brown). So a soured brown porter makes a ton of sense to me.
Ben talked to one of the brewers at the booth about how he made the beer, and I remember it involved a long period of time adding Lacto at one point and Pedio at another and then seemingly doing 700 more things before the beer was finished. All of that hard work paid off in my opinion.
Some other cool little perks are the glasses they give you to keep (that you use to sample all night) and the fun parting gift of a 22 oz. bottle of beer brewed especially for Savor attendees. This year’s glasses were some nice Tekus, and the beer this year is called Philtimore, a pale ale brewed by Heavy Seas and Yards.
To learn more about this annual event, check out savorcraftbeer.com.