Among beer nerds in the DC area, there’s a question that arises annually: is SAVOR dead? Inevitably we kick the question around endlessly for the weeks leading up to SAVOR and continue the debate while drinking at the awe-inspiring list of events put on by area beer bars during “SAVOR Week”, attending the big show itself, being more or less satisfied, and then determining that, “nah, it’s not dead yet” before the entire cycle repeats itself again the following year.
It’s true that SAVOR was annually the hottest beer ticket in town four to five years ago. Tickets would sell out within the first hour, if not half hour. Those in the beer industry whose breweries were on the outside looking in called in all manner of favors to get their hands on tickets. Last year, tickets were available at a reasonable price right up until the two-day event, and surplus tickets within the industry weren’t that hard to come by. Pick your favorite metaphor: the wind is out of the sails, it has lost its momentum, etc.
The Washington Post’s Fritz Hahn had a less sanguine take on whether or not the event is dead in 2016 when he examined “why one of the nation’s premier beer festivals seems to have lost its luster.” In short, there are many reasons: an increasingly robust beer scene means there are many high-end beer events in town, SAVOR Week offers a plethora of events that often features breweries who will be at SAVOR, the prohibitive cost for both ardent beer fans and new ones alike, the food situation that often leaves guests hungry or waiting in lines, and a brewery list that fails to get the blood flowing.
It remains to be seen if all of the above reasons will ring true for SAVOR 2018, scheduled for June 1 and 2 at the National Building Museum, but one thing is clear: the brewery and beer list that the Brewers Association assembled for their marquee event is the best it has been in years.
For better or worse (okay, for worse), excitement in craft beer, and especially among many (but notably not all) beer nerds, is driven by hype and rarity. This year’s SAVOR list provides both in abundance in terms of beers and breweries. Young, hypey breweries like Ardent, Arizona Wilderness, Night Shift, and RAR all make an appearance along with mature, hypey breweries like Crooked Stave, Crux, Lawson’s Finest Liquids, Lost Abbey, and Maine Beer Co. and national mainstays like Allagash, Boulevard, and Dogfish Head.
Locally, the DC metro area will be well represented with Beltway (Sterling), Fair Winds (Lorton), Port City (Alexandria) all flying the flag. Notably, there will not be a DC brewery at SAVOR this year.
Stylistically, the beer list is diverse, but it of course leans toward the barrel-aged, sours, and IPAs. Some things never change. We’ll have a more in-depth analysis of the list closer to the event.
Let's make one thing super clear about this post and its clickbait title: realistically, SAVOR isn't going anywhere. The event serves as an important way for the BA to bring brewers into town for a day on Capitol Hill that they can use lobbying their representatives. It's a gala event that serves an important organizational purpose met by neither Craft Brewers Conference (which isn't always in DC) nor the Great American Beer Festival (which is never in DC). The one-year move to New York City for the event proved a disaster, and although the event could be moved to another city, it would then drop the ability to serve as a Hill day. In some form or fashion, SAVOR will be around. This list's salvation, then, is for the event's relevance in the eyes of craft beer nerds and enthusiasts rather than for its continued existence.
To that point, as a craft beer nerd and enthusiast, seeing this brewery and beer list makes me more genuinely excited about SAVOR and SAVOR Week than I have been in recent years. It will be a pleasure to preview the beers and breweries that will be there. All of out-of-town guests also means that the events leading up to the main attraction will also be awesome. Mark your calendars now for May 27 to June 3 and stay tuned for our coverage, including our annual Can’t Miss Beer List and, probably, power rankings of every beer that will be poured at SAVOR.