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Roundtable: Staff Thoughts on SAVOR 2014

WOW. Okay. So, we’ve had a nice little break since SAVOR Week ended. We needed it. Families fell apart. Our health got shot to hell. We started getting the delirium tremens, and not the beer version.

But we survived SAVOR Week (and SAVOR) 2014. If you’re reading this, so did you. Congrats!

Thanks to you all for your support and encouragement about our SAVOR coverage. We know the profiles take over everything for a while, but we think it’s worth it, and based on the feedback we’ve gotten, you do, too.

Below please find some of our staff insights and pictures from SAVOR Week. Please add your comments on the week or the main event below!

Jake Berg: First up: I thought the beer and food service at SAVOR was much more of a mess this year than in the past. The food wasn't as good, and there wasn't enough of it. If SAVOR is going to give lip service to food, it needs to get better.

Similarly, the Brewers Association should know by now that DC likes to drink. Too many places didn't bring enough beer. More troubling, a lot of what I had was served too cold, which is why several of you saw me cupping Funkwerks cognac-barrel aged Deceit, trying to get it to warm up. I had to do that for a few other beers, too.

The good: Reueben's Cream Ale (I had big plans to walk out with a case of this, until they ran out), Cigar City Lacto Guava Grove, Crux Imperial Stout, Oakshire Hermanne, foie gras, hamachi crudo, stuffed mushrooms.

Chris Van Orden: Top beers of SAVOR proper (and yes, I have a type):

  • Allagash Coolship Red
  • Bell's Boon Companion
  • Brooklyn Kriek
  • FATE Uror Gose
  • Port City Colossal ONE
  • Sly Fox Pikeland Pils

Best beer during the week: Oakshire 7 at Scion's Extraordinary Ales event.

Agreed, the food was underwhelming, more in quantity than quality, but I wasn't wowed by much flavor-wise this year.  Hushpuppies were memorably bad (crazy dry), but nothing else stuck with me. You're right, Jake, if you paid that much money to attend and expected beer and food to be on relatively level footing, you'd have been disappointed.

I stopped by the hop trials salon, which was just OK.  The talk, while informative, could have been a bit more dynamic/interactive.  Worse, the volunteers were slow about pouring the beers, so we only tasted about 2 samples in the almost 30 minutes I stuck around.  That said, people were wowed by the huge difference swapping hops can make in a beer, so the concept was solid.

Despite the shortcomings, I had a better time this year than two years ago, not only because I ate ahead of time this go around.  I never felt rushed from table to table, never had to wait in a huge line, never encountered the painfully drunk.  Brewers were open to in-depth discussion of beer.

Aaron Morrissey: The best beer was the Oakshire Hermanne 1882. Plenty of other strong beers (Coolship Red, namely), but that was my number one, no question. Have a feeling that Oakshire was everyone's SAVOR revelation this year.

I also strongly second the food issues. The best food I had during the event was the free jerky they handed out inside the jerky pairing salon that needed seat-fillers.

Nick Rakowski: SAVOR Week: I didn't get out that much this week, so I don't have huge comments. Like Bill said, I didn't hear about any issues with overcrowding, which is a plus in my eyes – enough bars doing enough events in a wide enough variety of different locations. That's what growing the scene is all about. I really enjoyed the Funkwerks Raspberry Provincial I had at Scion during the cheese pairing event. Well, I was enjoying it until I was talking to Dave and Bill and accidentally spilled half of it. Thanks, guys. Jerks.

Beers: As usual, there were a number of fantastic beers that stick out to me. It has already been mentioned, but the Oakshire Hermanne was particularly fantastic. Those guys have been consistent performers at SAVOR for a number of years now. Remember Skookumchuck from 2012? Fantastic. A few other standouts for me:

  • Allagash Coolship Red (duh)
  • Fate Brewing's Barrel Aged Uror Gose – this worked spectacularly. I was skeptical going in, but really enjoyed it.
  • Reuben's Brews Cream Ale
  • Lucid Brewing Halucidation Solera – One of the few beers at this event that was really made by the pairing (strawberry rhubarb pie)
  • Green Flash, Little Freak and Flanders Drive
  • Strangeways Whap! Sorachi Sour
  • Sun King Hop Up Offa That Brett – I thought this was really refreshing with just the right amount of funk.

Food: Pretty meh. The actual pairings themselves were, by and large, oversimplified. I think we captured this in our profiles to a pretty significant degree. For example, pairing Tank 7 with "compressed melon" was a big mistake. Firstly, the compressed melon consisted of two melon balls on a stick. Come on. Secondly, Tank 7 is a beer that pairs with SO MANY things, and that's what they go for?

There were a few solid food options and pairings that I enjoyed, but it was mostly just okay. Some thoughts:

  • The strawberry/rhubarb pies were tasty, particularly with the Lucid Halucidation. Also, I bit into one right after it came out of the oven and got to yell "Hot Pie!" after doing it, so the nerd in me was particularly pleased with that.
  • The foie gras was good if you took it off the toast.
  • The smoked brisket on yucca chip was pretty solid, particularly with Nola's Irish Channel Stout.

What did everyone think about the cheese/meat tables? I stood in line for quite a while to get some cheese and wasn't disappointed when I actually made it to the table, but holy shit was that a long wait. Naturally, when I finally made it up there I consumed enough cheese to turn my arteries into tubes of heavy cream, but that's neither here nor there. I think they'd be much better served by putting a bunch of smaller cheese tables all over the venue, and potentially putting the cheese on crackers before-hand. There was such a delay while people were cutting their own slices. It's just a shame that, in order to get some cheese/meats/oysters, you have to take so much time away from the rest of the event.

Bill DeBaun: Overall, SAVOR Week seemed much more restrained this week. The beer nerds were out en masse, but it didn't feel like the DC mainstream food media (such as it is) really got onboard with SAVOR this year. This made crowds relatively tame where I was. This is with the caveat that I didn't make it to ChurchKey, Meridian Pint, Smoke and Barrel, or some of the other heavy hitters all week. With that said, I didn't see a lot of griping about crowds on the Twitter, which was a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you want the folks who are repping beer 50+ weeks out of the year to reap the benefits of not having a lot of folks out and about. On the other, you don't want to pass up an opportunity to grow the scene beyond just the usual suspects. This is, and has been, a tension in the community overall for some time.

I really enjoyed the stand-up event at The Big Hunt on Monday. Makes me wonder why we don't do more events in this format. Just a good time to chill and enjoy some great beers. Yeah it wasn't about the beer primarily, but everything doesn't have to be.

Props to the folks at Roofer's Union for pulling off their first beer dinner (and thanks to them and Boulevard for hosting me). Pairings were very thoughtful, and the flavor profiles overall were pretty nuanced rather than killing you with tons of bold flavors. The brewers, for their part, picked pretty nuanced beers as well (minus Boulevard Rye-on-Rye, which is bold and tasty).

It was nice that there was something for everyone this week. If you wanted giant out-of-town tap takeovers, you could get them. In my case, I wasn't about that, so I was able to hit some things on the periphery that still offered tasty beers. (Lil Opal at Pizza P on Tuesday, e.g., or the Great Raft collabs at Bluejacket on Thursday)

Props to Founders for putting on a pretty full media tasting (that took over our Instagram). Attended by our field reporter Jake Bishop-Green, he got the full lineup of Founders beers but came away particularly impressed (per usual) by Founders Red's Rye IPA. Also notable were the Bolt Cutter Barleywine and Mango Magnifico. Thanks to Founders for hosting!

For the main event, the food was not as good this year as has been noted by others. I looked at all 76 profiles before they were posted, and I was dismayed by how simplistic some of these pairings were. Pairing DIPAs with clams, for example, because both have some element of citrus is just not a good look. The pairings themselves were very small and not ubiquitous (Jake and I share the “so terrible…and such small portions” mindset, I guess). I don't mean to give the caterers and Chef Adam Dulye too hard a time, SAVOR is a Herculean effort every year. It can be really difficult to get everything right, and I don't envy having to find pairings for 152 beers. There were some clunkers, some winners, and some in between. So it goes.

The beers more than made up for this shortcoming though. Great lineup, and this is the first SAVOR I can remember where the "oh damn I didn't get to that" list was in double digits the next day. Sorry to FATE and Two Kilts for not making it to your tables, which half a dozen people each told me to get to. Best SAVOR beers: Strangeways Biere de Mars and Sorachi Sour, the Odell Celestrina in the saison salon (sorry to Doug Odell for being so adamant that you bring back Saboteur), Allagash Coolship Red, and Crux Half-Hitch Mosaic Imperial IPA.

This was a much more relaxed SAVOR it felt like. Events didn't materialize until two weeks out which made building momentum tough. With that said, this was one of the best beer weeks I've experienced in terms of having a good time myself. Thanks to the brewers and bars who made it happen and apologies to the standouts who I couldn't make it to because I hate crowds.

Finally, here are some pictures from SAVOR Week. Please leave your comments below to agree with or rebut us. Cheers, and on to DC Beer Week!


Created with flickr slideshow.

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