They did it again, those enthusiastic folks from the Brewers Association, Boulder, CO. The third annual Savor, the quintessence of beer and food events located in Washington DC, was a stunner with tickets selling out in minutes. Back at the National Building Museum, with its soaring columns, Savor meant fifteen stations with four breweries each, two beers per brewery, and a food pairing for each beer adjacent to the beer serving station. The brewery booth layouts were bracketed by an oyster bar on one end and a cheese bar on the other with a round center station with another ten breweries. That’s the mechanics.
Most of the beers were presented by senior members of the brewery – beer celebrities such as Greg Koch of Stone, Brett Joyce of Rogue, Kim Jordan of New Belgium, Gary Fish of Deschutes, Brian Buckowski of Terrapin, Patrick Rue of The Bruery, John McDonald of Boulevard, Brian Dunn of Great Divide, Gene Mueller of Flying Fish, Jamie Emmerson of Full Sail, Sam Caligione of Dogfish Head, Rob Tod of Allagash, were among the many brewery types on hand to talk beer. The lucky few who got tickets had the best and the brightest to learn from.
Savor now soars to a completely different aesthetic than simply the mechanics. While the logistics are extraordinary, and Bob and Nancy of the Brewers Association manage them very well, it is the questions that are raised which separate this event from all others. Fortunately, I had Bruce Paton, the Beer Chef, at my elbow during most of my wanderings to help with just such questions of sensory perception and analysis. Here are a few of the pairings where I can at least read the notes!
Ballast Point Sculpin IPA paired with jerk chicken. Unfortunately there wasn’t much “jerk” to the chicken. However, the Sculpin was a hop feast with a lot of spicy mouthiness to it.
Deschutes Brewery Obsidian Stout paired with mac and very cheddar cheese. Perhaps the catering company was a little conservative because, as with the jerk chicken, cheese lacked the expected sharpness. Easily remedied. Bruce and I took our Obsidian Stout to the cheese booth and found a sharp chedder, which just nailed the pairings, a perfect compliment of rich nutty texture and sharp malt/cheddar finish
Dog Brewing Pub Dog Very Cherry Ale paired with oatmeal stout chocolate truffles. A dynamite example of cutting, or as Bruce put it “relieve the flavor.” When the truffles followed the cherry ale there is a brief flash of the flavor than a surprisingly clean palate.
Flying Fish Exit 16 Double IPA paired with a paella. The paella lacked the punch I’d usually associate with the dish. However, the pairing gave Bruce an opportunity to talk about two types of heat – herbal that goes well with hops versus spicy that elevates the heat when paired with hops.
Green Flash Trippel paired with asian bbq salmon. The Trippel is all malt, no candy sugar added to get it to the alcohol. The salmon accented the malt base perfectly, with the fish oil pairing the Saaz hops.
Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery Big Cypress Brown Ale paired with buffalo chili. Fortunately the chili was barely present allowing for the nutty brown to shine. Meaty meets malty in a nice collision.
North Coast Brewing Le Merle with baked goat cheese in a tomato sauce. Bruce described this as a very happy marriage. The texture was very complimentary with the acidity of the goat cheese balancing the Belgian funk.
Uinta Brewing Co. Detour Double IPA paired with mahi-mahi fish tacos. The double IPA just roared over the tacos. Mahi-mahi has some subtle flavors accentuated by the pico de gallo. The malt depth and spicy levels of the IPA were just too big. However, the Cockeyed Cooper paired with salted dark chocolate caramel truffles showed how the sum can be greater than the parts. The roasted barley and cocoa beans laid a nice foundation brining out the heat of the alcohol.
Although many others were tried, the above represents the limits of my note taking and my ability to read what notes I have. Too much a hedonist and not enough a journalist.