Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Saturday, June 4th I had the good fortune to attend the second evening of SAVOR. I was able to get the tickets, which sold out in something like 20 minutes, thanks to a librarian friend who’s also a member of the Brewers’ Association. It was my first time at SAVOR and I had a blast, although it was a bit overwhelming. My thoughts follow.

SAVOR bills itself as a place where fine food and craft beers are paired, but very few people are there for the food, which was fine. Think high-end wedding Hors d'oeuvre (what, you’ve never been?) getting lukewarm and you’re in the ballpark. That being said, a few pairings really stood out. Serving Alaskan Brewing’s Smoked Porter with smoked salmon doesn’t win any points for originality, but it was delicious all the same. I went back for seconds, then thirds. Odell Brewing Company’s sour fruit beer, Friek, was paired with Carr Valley bread cheese, and the vinegar-esque sourness from the beer cut through the dairy fat of the cheese. Like Greg Kitsock, who writes for the Washington Post, I paired Moon River’s Swamp Fox IPA with pork belly on a biscuit instead of a tiny mushroom tart. The dank woodsy flavors of the beer, rosemary is a featured ingredient and this beer does taste a bit like fresh forest floor undergrowth (this is a good thing, trust me), complimented the spices in the biscuit and the earthiness of the pork belly. This pairing had something like terroir, an impressive feat.

Each brewer pours two of their beers at SAVOR, and because I’m a guy and I’ve read High Fidelity, everything not only can be ranked. but must be. The best breweries, based on each brewery's two offerings,
were Yazoo Brewing (a rye saison and a porter named Sue) and Captain Lawrence Brewing (a smoked porter and a tripel aged in applejack barrels). I also enjoyed the aformentioned Friek from Odell, and their second beer, an oak aged quad called Woodcut #5, packed a wallop.

Other standouts included

Avery Brewing Company’s Dihos Dactylion, a spontaneously fermented ale that’s hard to describe, but easy to drink. If you like red wine, maybe, just maybe, this will get you into beer. And if you like beer, but aren’t sure about sours, maybe, just maybe, this and Odell’s Friek will convince you.

Funkwerk’s Wit, a Belgian-style white ale brewed with lemons, oranges, ginger, with ginger dominant. You could drink this with brunch, you could drink this with Southeast Asian food, you could drink this by yourself.

Tank 7 from Boulevard Brewing, a saison infected with brettanomyces, which creates a slightly funky aftertaste that really does taste a bit like a farm, the origin of this style of beer.

Buckbean Brewing Company’s Orange Blossom Ale, a pale ale with a sweet and honeyed, but not syrupy or cloying, aroma of orange blossoms. For some reason it’s sold in 16 oz cans. Yes, craft beer in tall boys.

Trinity Brewhouse’s Decadence, a double IPA aged in Woodford Reserve barrels. Based on that sentence you should be interested. (Note: I feel dirty for linking to Beer Advocate. It won't happen much here. Promise.)

RJ Rocker’s Son of a Peach Wheat Ale. An American wheat ale, but with peaches.

If you’re noticing a trend above, there were an awful lot of excellent beers with fruit in them this year. I, for one, welcome our new fruit overlords.

The dark side of SAVOR is that too many breweries ran out of beer, often only half-way through the event, while the kitchen didn’t fare much better.

Also, an observation: it’s probably not a surprise to hear that the far majority of the attendees were white males between the ages of 25-50, but wow. With about 2000 people in the building, that’s a lot of white males.

Finally, it was great to be able to talk to the brewers themselves; with only a few exceptions they were the ones pouring the beer. That’s not something you’ll find at most other festivals, and many of the brewers I talked to were genuinely excited and appreciative of my interest and support. Well done, SAVOR. Until next year, cheers.

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