The foam has finally settled since D.C. was taken over by Savor and the week of revelry that accompanies the annual craft beer and food event. Two evening sessions at the National Building Museum brought 144 beers from 72 small and independent U.S. brewers, each paired with one of 42 different small dishes planned by our very own Teddy Folkman of Granville Moore’s and Adam Dulye of San Francisco’s The Monk’s Kettle.
Say what you will about the price of the tickets, quality of the food, density of the crowds, or scarcity of supply by the end of the night. The fact remains D.C. beer fans owe gratitude to Savor. The tasting event, put on by the Brewers Association over the past four years, has played a large role in building D.C.’s craft beer culture, and been one of the reasons D.C. bars and shops have such a wide variety of craft beer from across the country.
Like many other area beer geeks who have attended the event over the years, I look forward to Savor as a chance to learn about breweries and beers that I have never tried. Out of my list of top ten Savor brews below, only four of the breweries are distributed in the District, and only one of them for longer than two years (Avery). It is my guess, and not a far-fetched one, that several will be shipping their suds to D.C. in the next year. In fact, Odell Brewing Company founder Doug Odell, who had no plans to ship to D.C. when I asked him at last year’s event, told me this year that he is looking into sending beer our way.
- Funkwerks Saison, Funkwerks, Inc., Colorado: Funkwerks was the table I made a bee-line for upon arrival and I was not disappointed. Their 6.8 percent alcohol-by-volume saison was a nice balance of ginger, pepper, and citrus. Its dry, refreshing finish was a great antidote to the heat of D.C. in June.
- The Dissident, Deschutes Brewery, Oregon: Summer strikes again! The acidity in this oud bruin, or Flanders-style brown ale, was perfectly matched by notes of rich cherry and earthy wine. The Dissident ferments for eighteen months with wild yeast and is aged in part in pinot noir and cabernet barrels.
- Hunahpu Imperial Stout, Cigar City Brewing Company, Florida: I enjoyed this impressive brew at Friday night’s “Califlorida” salon featuring innovative beers from Cigar City and The Bruery. This was my third encounter with a bottle of Hunahpu, which is aged on vanilla, cinnamon, cocoa nibs, and pasilla and ancho peppers, but I was no less impressed by its complexity.
- Dihos Dactylion, Avery Brewing Company, Colorado: This sour ale brewed with saison and three kinds of funkifying wild yeasts is aged for eighteen months in cabernet sauvignon wine barrels. The 10 percent-alcohol brew was tart and delicious, with fruit and red wine flavors.
- Parabola, Firestone Walker Brewing Company, California: Another “not-for-the-first-time” brew, but what can I say? This Russian imperial stout from one of the newest breweries to hit D.C. is a perfect blend of bourbon, tobacco, dark chocolate, and oak.
- Friek, Odell Brewing, Colorado -This Belgian lambic-inspired barrel-aged ale is a blend of beers brewed with sweet and tart cherries and wild yeast. Organic raspberries were hand-picked and added just before bottling, creating the bright tartness that made this 6.5 percent alcohol by volume brew stand out.
- Rosemary Swamp Fox IPA, Moon River Brewing Company, Georgia: I really liked this herby, bitter India Pale Ale from the swamps of the South. (And I’m not alone; it won a gold medal at last year’s Great American Beer Festival.) The brew had intense citrus, pine, and of course, rosemary flavors but was impressively well-balanced.
- Oude Tart, The Bruery, California: Another stand-out from the “Califlorida” salon, this 7.5 percent alcohol-by-volume Flemish-style red ale is aged in red wine barrels for eighteen months. It’s uniquely acidic and tannic, with flavors of tart, unripe berries and oak.
- The Sixth Glass, Boulevard Brewing Company, Missouri: This Kansas City brewery’s Belgian-style dark ale is not cloying or overly boozy like many quadruples. Its rich malt and dark fruit flavors are balanced for a brew with an alcohol content of 10.5 percent.
- Hop Toddy, Schlafly Beers/The Saint Louis Brewery, Missouri: One of the more unique beers I tasted, this knock-off of a Hot Toddy cocktail had everything you’d expect: honey, lemon, and bourbon aromas and flavors, with a nice softness from the wheat and bitterness from Citra hops used for dry-hopping.
For those of you who attended the event, what were your favorites and which would you like to see at your local watering hole? For those who missed out, mark your calendar for June 8 and 9, 2012, which is when next year’s extravaganza will take place, again at the National Building Museum. In the meantime, catch up on this year’s tasting panels and brewer interviews at Craft Beer Radio. For other thoughts on this year’s event, I recommend:
- Friday and Saturday night recaps from The Washington Post
- Eater DC‘s list of experiences and observations
- Photo slideshow from DCBeer.com
- A personal account from Saturday’s session at Food Republic
- The Brewers Association’s post-event press release
Photo by Eddie Arrossi Photography, courtesy of the Brewers Association