The 12th annual SAVOR returned to Washington, D.C., on May 17 with some big changes and rumors that this could be the last one. The Brewers Association sponsored shindig is a marquee event for local beer fans and industry folks alike. Reduced to a single night, but with an increase to 92 breweries, the night was one to remember.
The annual food and beer paring extravaganza is held that the National Building Museum which makes for a dramatic back drop. With each brewery pouring two beers, and with some supporting breweries pouring three beers, there were well over 200 beers to sample in three and a half hours. Or better put, 25 pints of beer to drink for the ambitious fans.
But we correspondents for CBB wanted to know: Is SAVOR still relevant, and what is its legacy after all these years in the changing craft beer landscape? Let’s point / counter point this question.
Has it lost its luster? No.
“SAVOR has been really important for us,” said Tomme Arthur, director of brewery operations and co-founder of Port Brewing and Lost Abbey. “We don’t distribute here in D.C., but this is a really great place to come and promote our beers and to work in an environment where beer and food pairings and beer in general is just being elevated. This is one of the premiere events that I can think of to be a part of. I am on the events committee for the Brewers Association, so I have a very deep appreciation and love for this event and I want to be here. This is something I truly believe in.”
On the lasting legacy SAVOR has, Kevin Blodger, cofounder and head brewer at Union Craft Brewing of Baltimore, said “It’s really crazy because when this started 12 years ago, beer wasn’t in these kind of fancy events, and now you see it everywhere, and SAVOR has been a big part of that in terms of showing that beer can be elevated and can be paired with a great meal, even better than wine in a lot of cases.”
Has it lost its luster? Yes.
If this is the last SAVOR, we wanted to ask some local beer fans why they think SAVOR has lost its luster.
For six-time SAVOR attendee, Zach Miknis, “SAVOR is being hurt by a combination of price, an inconsistent quality level among breweries pouring at the event, and an all too common occurrence of ‘shelf turds’ being poured by well-known breweries. All beers have their place and time, but when spending $150+ on a ticket, you’d like to have at least one of the two beers from each brewery be something a little special.”
I do agree with this assessment, when the Sierra Nevadas and other high profile breweries bring two canned beers that can be found in just about any grocery store, it is a bit demoralizing for such a high price admission event.
Don’t forget the lobbying
While SAVOR is the main event, it also coincides the annual Brewers Association Hill Climb. When you have 92 breweries from around the country, it is a great opportunity to lobby the law makers and visit with their representatives.
Rob Burns, cofounder and president of Night Shift Brewing, made the climb: “One of the main goals was to make the Craft Beverage Modernization Tax Reform Act permanent. It was on a two-year extension to lower the federal excise tax in half, which saved us a lot of money, and we were able to reinvest in our business and add new jobs. Since that got passed, Night Shift has added 100 new jobs. Hopefully we can rely on that for the future.”
The “Hill Climb” was certainly successful, adding 28 House and 3 Senate cosponsors to the bill.
So … has SAVOR lost its luster?
In my opinion as both a beer fan, five-time SAVOR attendee, and as an active member of the Brewers Association, I don’t think this should be the end of SAVOR.
Even reduced to one night, the revenue generated from the sold-out event from attendees, participating breweries and sponsors should make this a viable event year after year. A little more curating of the beer list and making sure the food lasts a bit longer would be enough to keep this event exclusive and must-attend. I for one would be sad to see SAVOR disappear.
Dave and Rich Hartogs are cofounders of Rocket Frog Brewing Co.