Both SAVOR and SAVOR Week came and went, and our jaded thoughts on the main event and the lead-up to it are below. As always, share your thoughts (likes, dislikes, hopes, and dreams) in the comments.
Bruce Webster: My highlights of the Savor week events were Brookland Pint's Allagash and Moonlight Mead event (I had never been there and really liked the space and location), and the Brewers Brunch at Birch and Barley on Saturday, which is always fantastic.
Jacob Berg: I want to second the Allagash and Moonlight event. It was a very interesting line up, with tons of Allagash sours, and some great meads, including Termirity, which was aged in a Sam Adams Utopia barrel. It was somehow grapey, oakey, sweet, sour, and dry.
Victory brought a bunch of single-hopped beers to GBD, which was a good time. They had a very juicy pale ale made with Hull Melon hops. I'd like to see more of that around. Also, there were Luther schnitzels. That's a tres leches donut with schnitzel bits and ranch dressing. Consensus was that using General Satan's sauce was better, though.
Chris Van Orden: On Tuesday, I popped into Right Proper to check out Plissken, their collaboration with Schlafly. I was lucky enough to join RP and other DC area breweries in St Louis for their annual Repeal Day Festival when Plissken was brewed, so I was eager to check out the final product. Very tasty, but I won't go into details, since it may be a while until another batch is brewed. But it was great seeing so many familiar faces at an event so early in the week. Besides the St Louis crew, there were other brewers, bar managers, miscellaneous industry folks, and civilians in attendance. It's a testament to the devotion of the beer crowd in DC that a Tuesday night tapping of a 4.5% farmhouse collaboration was enough to bring out a really great crowd.
Paul Josuns: I went to City Tap House for their Dogfish Head takeover. They had all 40 lines devoted to Dogfish, almost a third of which were Randall-ized versions of beers we all know. I guess I had a thing for big beers because the Palo Santo through coffee beans was awesome. It was also good to try 61 Minute Randall-ized with sangria ingredients. I don't typically like the way the grape must goes with the 60 Minute hopping, but the extras in the Randal made this a really refreshing beer.
Last, we took in the DC Reynolds patio for DC Brau and Sun King. I had a little bit of Sun King when I lived in Chicago and I wanted to try more. It was great to try a beer whilst sitting on the patio.
Secret and Sour
Bill DeBaun: To no one's surprise, I was a big fan of Secret and Sour at Scion/Crios, although I don't think we will use that format again. In past years, we have given people at least some descriptors of the beer they're ordering. This time it was truly a crap shoot. If you ordered number 17, you got a beer that you had no inkling of what it would be. I'm not sure that was fair to people. If you come in knowing you like a certain flavor profile, you could at least try to find one of those if we had listed descriptors. Live and learn. This is part of the process of developing innovative beer events. Everyone knows how to do tap takeovers and meet and greets; there isn't a lot of complication there. But if you want to give people something different (and we often hear that people want something different), there's a bit of trial and error to see what actually works.
Chris Van Orden: I was again floored by the support from the participating breweries, drinking public, and of course the Scion/Crios team. Even with a cheat sheet, it was really surprising to learn which beers were which. While the format could use a few minor tweaks, the intellectual exercise of tasting a beer devoid of marketing, street cred, and preconceptions made it a fun evening.
Michael Stein: Finback's Basil Lee mentioned how pleased he was with Secret and Sour and how this unique event seemed to represent the plethora of formidable funky and tart treats DC is so often spoiled by. We wondered why an event like this has not happened in NYC or the five boroughs. My guess? Nerds. The nerd culture in DC seems to run rampant throughout our brewing, distilling, coffee and foodie cultural threads.
Jacob Berg: I'm glad that Lee enjoyed Secret and Sour, because Finback's Plumb and Proper was one of the standouts that evening, as was Sun King's Cherry Busey (we get jokes).
Bill DeBaun: I didn't visit a number of top tier craft venues in DC once during SAVOR Week. The events were great, but I can't see swimming in a sea of bodies to get a beer when there were so many options and so many great beers on all across the city. I've got little else but scorn for anyone who waited to get into ChurchKey for either Wicked Weed or the Florida beer event. Waiting 45 minutes to have the privilege to elbow your way to the bar to order four samples of beer doesn't sound like my idea of a good time, but to each their own. Obviously there are plenty of folks willing to brave crowds for beer, which is great for the venues that spend so much time and capital procuring these awesome lineups, I'm just not one of those folks anymore.
Bruce Webster: I may have to be a magnet of scorn, because I spent a lot of time at Churchkey during Savor Week, including both events that Bill mentioned. I will note that I didn't have/wasn't able to line up super early for either (I arrived at around the opening for Wicked Weed and maybe 10 minutes early for Cigar City), and I didn't find either event to be too bad (grabbed a bar seat as soon as I got in to the FL one). I appreciated the staggered entry times, and I'm sure the bar staff did too.
Paul Josuns: After our convo about what Churchkey was going to be like for the Florida event, we decided to get our fix at Jack Rose for their Cigar City/Saucony Creek event. I'm very happy I went. There were quite a few people in the upstairs portion, but we got a table to sit at pretty quickly. I wanted to try Caffe Americano and am so glad I did – the espresso coupled with chocolate and vanilla notes of the beer were perfect for the rainy afternoon.
Bill DeBaun: Allagash continues to be a standout at SAVOR. Mattina Rossa was nothing short of exquisite. I was also quite pleased with the Country Boy Barrel-aged Black Gold and Fremont Abominable. It was nice that nothing I had off of our top 25 list disappointed me this year; that has happened in years past, and it's frankly kind of embarrassing when we miss that way, but so it goes. I was fairly bummed to miss out on the Zero Gravity lagers, which both kicked on Friday night. There were a lot more bottle pours this year (though Zero Gravity was kegged), and consequently a lot of stations ran out quite early on Friday. I counted at least 8 breweries that had one or both beers kick. Food this year was abundant, which was a nice change from prior years.
The out of town brewers I spoke with were quite pleased with their time in DC, which is always nice to hear. When people bemoan DC's standing among other beer cities nationally, they need to understand that SAVOR/SAVOR Week go a long way toward building that reputation. These are the tastemakers (literally) who go back home and applaud or decry their experience. SAVOR itself wasn't a standout (it wasn't particularly good or bad, it was mostly the same as prior years), but SAVOR Week at the end of the day lived up to the high standards we've all come to set for it.
Bruce Webster: I would echo the Allagash praise (it's consistently a table I can recommend to anyone who asks), and the Country Boy/Fremont/Surly table was excellent (I wish I knew how they decided on the table assignments, I would have suggested an alternative to that arrangement). I would add Reuben's Blimey That's Bitter, Fate's beers, and Societe's beers to the list of things that impressed me.
I'm surely biased, but I think the event went really well for the most part. After last year's step back, the food was better and more prominent. I don't spend a lot of time lingering at any one table and I try to show up really full for volunteering, so I don't spend a lot of time on pairings, but I will say I enjoyed Kuhnhenn's Fluffer with the crudo more than once. I also think I heard the least complaints that I can remember (though the lack of seating was noticed and I have passed on feedback related to that). Brewers were impressed with the beer scene and attendees seemed pretty happy in general.
Jacob Berg: Again echoing Bruce, I think that we at DCBeer need to add a note or two about tables. The Country Boy/Fremont/Surly table was the "group of death" as far as tables went; you could have spent all night there and left happy, at least until they ran out of beer.
As for sours, I really liked Mattina Rosa, but I loved Yazoo's Deus Rouge. Per usual, Upland also came correct, with two very good sours on the floor and some excellent ones in a salon. But what excited me most was Zero Gravity out of Vermont bringing two lagers, and kicking them both nights. I am usually worried that non-sour/funky lower alcohol by volume beers will get lost in an event like SAVOR, but nice work, fellow beer geeks; we drank them out of tmavé.
Overall, I thought they quality of beers brought was stronger than in previous years. Fewer whales, highly coveted beers, but tons of quality all over the floor. In particular, I want to shout out IPAs from Societe and Three Weavers, two California breweries that did a great job with that style.
Chris Van Orden: I started the night as I usually do with a salon. It's hard to go wrong with Allagash sours, but with Jason Perkins leading the way, it was pretty special. He's a soft-spoken guy, but everyone was rapt as he walked us through five sours. If memory serves, three were not yet commercially released, either pilot batches or blending bases. While all were fantastic, I had to go against every instinct I had to ask the steward to go easier on the pours. It was a long night ahead.
The rest of the evening was a blur. There were a few standouts – I can still taste the Zero Gravity tmavy – but I spent less time this year on the beer and more time on the people. Thanks to all the profiles we wrote and all the interactions and events the rest of the year, I couldn't walk from one table to the next without encountering a familiar face. In the end, I think that's what made this SAVOR a great one – it was more of a social event than a drinking festival.