The 11th annual SAVOR, an American craft beer and food experience, was not your typical beer festival (check our photo blog of the event). Held at the grand National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., SAVOR comes with a high price tag, fancy attire and has the beer population buzzing (and buzzed) for the whole week leading up to the event. With 90 breweries, serving two beers each, and every beer paired with a different food, it’s no wonder why this is such a popular event among foodies and beer nerds alike. It’s also a popular destination for breweries to show off their wares, as evidenced by the need for a lottery to get a coveted spot at SAVOR. We wanted to explore why breweries feel it is an important event, and how they chose the beer they wanted to showcase.
Steve Fechheimer, CEO of New Belgium, perhaps best sums up SAVOR’s importance to breweries: “We want beer to be on the same level as wine and spirits when it comes to pairing food with beverages.” New Belgium brought its Voodoo Ranger Juicy Haze, its take on a hazy IPA within its flagship Ranger IPA series. To give you an idea on the food pairings, this was served with a Belgian endive topped with poached chicken, brûléed grapefruit, avocado and sesame. Fancy.
Dogfish Head brought two newer bottles in its Mixed Media beer/wine hybrid and Dragons & YumYums. Kenyon Hayes, the Off-Centered Sales Rep for DC, stated, “We like to showcase something that’s a little bit different, something that is new. We’ve been making culinary-inspired beers for 23 years, so for us it’s really nice to have an event that showcases the relationship between beer and food.”
Breweries bring a variety of beers to the event for their own reasons as well. While many bring one-off barrel-aged, super-rare beers, others bring flagship brands or new year-rounders or seasonal products. But what goes into choosing your products for such a prestigious event? For Fechheimer who also brought bottles of their Sour Saison, it was easy: “We want attendees to be able to recreate this experience at home.”
Other breweries, such as The Bruery/Brewery Terreux, want to bring something rare and exclusive. They chose to bring Yount, which was one of the most hyped beers of the event. A variation of their signature Black Tuesday imperial stout, this beer is then aged and blended on skins of Napa Cabernet grapes from Yountville before aging for a year in French oak puncheons and finally packaged in a wine bottle with a wax seal. Patrick Rue, co-founder of The Bruery, noted, “We wanted to pick beers that are going to get some attention, and something that is going to start a conversation on, ‘how do I get this beer?’ as a way to talk about our Reserve Societies.”
One of the coolest parts of the event is the take-home bottle all attendees receive. This is always a collaboration between two participating breweries, and this year’s offering was a true collaboration between Crux Fermentation Project in Bend, Oregon, and local brewery Port City, based in Alexandria, Virginia. Each brewery brought their core strengths to the table, and the end result was Brett De Vinum, an imperial wit as the foundation with crushed pinot noir and viognier grapes before it was placed in red wine barrels.
Port City has extensive experience using raw grains with its multi-award-winning Optimal Wit, including a bronze at the 2015 GABF. And Crux has won numerous awards for its barrel aging and wild fermented beers. Bill Butcher, founder of Port City, also comes from a wine background. On why Port City has been a long-time supporter and sponsor of SAVOR, he had this to offer: “We are always happy to welcome all of these breweries from all over the country.”
SAVOR truly has become a signature event for the Brewers Association. As local residents, we hope it stays in D.C. for a long time to come, allowing our nation’s capital to showcase some of the best beers from across the country.
David Hartogs and Jennifer Showell-Hartogs are co-owners of Rocket Frog Brewing in Sterling, Va., as well as part-time CBB correspondents.