Guest post: Savor Festival Review
By Ed Roberts
SAVOR is the premier food and beer food pairing event in the United States. Now in its fourth year, it is presented by the Brewer’s Association. It is held in a beautiful location, the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. Seventy-two breweries are represented, most chosen by a regional lottery system. They each present two beers, paired with small amounts of food meant to complement the flavors in each.
I decided a few months back I was going to attend SAVOR. I threw out the word via social media that I would have an extra ticket if anyone was interested in attending with me. Joel Kodner, also known as Brewkakke on Twitter, took me up on my offer.
SAVOR expanded to two nights this year, Friday, June 3, and Saturday, June 4. Pre-sale tickets went on sale March 1, and they sold out in minutes. I bought my tickets to Saturday night’s tasting that day.
A major difference between SAVOR and other great tasting events held around the country is the access to the top people in the craft beer world. GABF also gets a lot of the same attendees but you don’t get nearly the same access to them. Four thousand people attended SAVOR this year over two days while 39,000 attended GABF over three days last year in Colorado. Here are a few of the luminaries that we were able to get up close and personal with during the event: Sam and Mariah Calagione (Dogfish Head), Tomme Arthur (Lost Abbey), Jim Caruso (Flying Dog), Ken Grossman (Sierra Nevada), Bill Covaleski (Victory Beer) and Kim Jordan (New Belgium).
We flew Friday on Jet Blue from Fort Lauderdale and landed on time in Washington. We picked up our rental car and headed straight into the city for our first event at ChurchKey, an Odell Brewing founder meet-and-greet featuring their beers. We did not have an easy time with parking here. Everything we found was pretty costly street parking with a one-hour limit, so we had to keep leaving to feed the meter.
ChurchKey is on the second floor over its sister property, the Birch & Barley restaurant. They had 50 taps, five cask options, and more than 500 bottle choices. The staff was young, friendly, energetic, and knowledgeable. They were careful to serve their beers in the proper glassware.
I was excited to see the option of a 4 oz. taster for their draft beers, which allowed for trying more beers. There had 30 Short’s beers on draft the night before for an event so there were still many of those available.
I tried Odell’s Myrcenary Double IPA, and Short’s Mama’s Strawberry Milk, Soft Parade, Whiskey Sour, and Carrot Cake. The standout for me was the Carrot Cake. The 4 oz. taster was probably the perfect amount of this. The nose and flavors were incredible and accurately reflected its namesake.
We then headed to Pizzeria Paradiso in Dupont Circle. Here parking was again difficult. I found what I found was a good spot near a stop sign with no meter. We got a table quickly. I ordered the special, a white pizza and the current cask beer, a collaboration saison between Stillwater and Mikkeller called Our Side. I was really impressed with this beer. It didn’t have much of a nose but it had complex flavors and was perfectly balanced. Stillwater has really mastered the saison style. I enjoyed my pizza as well.
When we got back to the car, we were greeted with a ticket for parking within 25 feet of a stop sign. As a Florida resident, I had no idea this law existed. My free parking spot cost me $50.
We then headed to our bottle shop stop. While traveling I always try to stop at a local store with a great single beer selection to bring some beers back that I can’t get at home. With no Total Wine in the immediate area we went to Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits, which I visited during my prior trip with good success.
This trip was no different. The prices seem a bit higher then I am used to paying but I am comparing that to Florida Total Wine prices. I don’t mind paying a bit more to get quality products that I don’t normally have access to. If you plan on going here, there is a free shared parking lot behind the store with ample spots.
We will be getting Crispin cider in South Florida soon; however it would be a while before we see a limited release like the jacket so I picked it up. I am very excited to try this. Check out this review from the A Perfect Pint website and you will see why.
We then headed into Alexandria, Virginia, for a Bell’s event at Rustico. We arrived around 8 p.m., and some of the limited beers were gone already. In all fairness, this event had started at 4 p.m. so we were late to the party. We sat at the bar and tried a couple of tasters of Bell’s beers and some others. Rustico was fine but after the amazing experience that was ChurchKey, this was a bit of a letdown. We left rather quickly.
Originally, my plan was to hit the Brasserie Beck at 11 p.m. Friday for a SAVOR after party with Ommegang. We were tired after our whirlwind tour so we decided to go there a little early.
The place was packed at 9:30 p.m. We were quite lucky to get seats at the bar. South Florida Total Wine stores had just received bottles of the Brasserie Beck house beer Antigoon earlier in the week for $9.99 for a 750ml. I picked up a bottle the day we received them. It is a 6% Belgian session beer with nice flavors and balance. I really enjoyed it. Since I had just had it I passed on having it on draft.
Since I still had to drive back to the hotel and we had had a long day, so I went with something light – a bottle of Augustiner Edelstoff. Technically available in South Florida, it is not carried by Total Wine. I’ve done a couple of special orders for customers so I’ve wanted to try it.
We had eaten dinner already but I had raved to Joel how good the food was so I decided to order dessert even though I wasn’t particularly hungry. I got an order of strawberry waffles. It was just as good as I remembered. I have never tasted waffles this good before. Brasserie Beck is not cheap but is well worth a special-occasion dining experience.
It was now 11 p.m., and we were exhausted, so we headed back to our hotel in Rockville, Virginia, and immediately went to sleep to recharge for Day Two.