Savor - June 3, 2011
Soon after attending the Great American Drunk Fest .... I mean Beer Fest ... in Denver last year we began looking about for an alternative beer tasting event to attend. Something a bit more dignified where true beer lovers could experience many great beers without having to swim through hordes of drunken asses who can't tell the difference between Miller and Malheur. After being so very dissappointed at the GABF we are pleased to be able to report that Savor was our savior.
Savor, which is presented at the National Building Museum in Washington DC, features beers from 70 breweries chosen by lottery. Then 2 well known Washington chefs (Adam Dulye -Executive Chef ofThe Monk’s Kettle and Teddy Folkman - Executive Chef/Co-Owner—Granville Moore’s Gastropub, Capital Loungea) were chosen to create food pairings for the 144 beers being presented. We were really able to take out time and enjoy the beer mainly because only 2000 attendees were allowed in at each session.
The brewers are anxious to present their finest beers to be sampled at the event with several beers being produced specially for Savor. We on the other hand were anxious to try some rare beers, some regional beers not available in Texas, and some beers that have had great press and reviews, and sample we did.
Some of the highlights of the evening were as follows in alphabetical order by brewery and not necessarily in order of preference.
Allagash Confluence (7.4% ABV) is a Belgian Style Ale that uses 2 yeast strains and both imported pilsner and domestic pale malts as well as a portion of caramel malt to create a surprisingly light and complex beer. The beer is aged in stainless steel tanks then dry hopped before bottling with Glacier hops that give the beer it's floral, spicy aroma. Really, really, really good beer. The food pairing for this brew was a Chilled Pork Rillette, a rustic pork rillette (a rillette is a slow cooked meat with a texture much like a pate') served with a black olive tapenade and toasted brioche.
Avery Dihos Dactylion (loosely translated greek meaning 'missing tip of the middle finger' ... *shrug*) (ABV 10.74%) is a barrel aged sour ale and is the 7th beer in the barrel aged series. 'The Finger' is aged for 18 months in Cabernet Savignon barrels with Saison yeasts, wild yeasts and a couple of interesting bacteria to add sourness. Sour is what they were after and sour is what they achieved. The nose is quite entertaining with wine and fruits coming strongly through. The taste is of red wine, oakey tannins and lots of tart fruits. Interesting but not really my cup of tea. Thankfully, the food paired with it was superb. Devils on Horseback which was smoked bacon wrapped dates, stuffed with Coach Farm Goat Cheese. I could have eaten a tray of these evil little bastards.
Boulevard The Sixth Glass (10.5% ABV) was one of two magnificent beers from what is rapidly climbing my list of favorite breweries. A Belgian style quaddrupel was a pleasant surprise due to the fact that the beer tasted much better than it smelled, which was almost non-existent. The flavor was very earthy with dark fruits (raisins, plums and bananas) coming strongly through. The hops are a bit more prevalent than a typical Belgian and gives and additional flower and piney layer to accompany the alcohol burn. The food pairing was a Grilled Hanger Steak, thinly sliced, and served with caramelized shallots on a garlic and herb crostini. Pretty damned fine pairing.
Boulevard Saison (8.0% ABV) is in my opinion the finest saison produced in America. Quite a statement, eh? The beer pours a hazy, golden yellow and smells like a typical saison. The complexity of the taste is hard to describe. Fruity, but not sour, sweet, cloves, yeast, pepper, citrus ... mother goose my tastebuds were dancing a waltz. I could drink this every day during the summer and never get tired of the flavor. The food paired with the saison was a Cuban Sandwich, shredded pork, lettuce, pickles and mustard on a soft roll. Pretty good, but I thought that the beer needed something a bit simpler to offset it's complexity.
Brooklyn Brewery Sorachi Ace (7.6% ABV) is another dandy saison and quite different than the Boulevard Saison. Sorachi Ace is a rare hop from Japan that is noted for it's lemon zest, lemongrass aroma. The high carbonation makes this saison more like a champagne than a beer. A yeasty, citrusy, earthy champagne. Light, bright and delicious. The Hot Smoked Pepper Salmon served with chive crème fraiche and a pretzel cracker was a superior accompaniment.
Bruery Loakal Red (6.9% ABV) is another one of those misnamed beer types. It is described as a red ale or an American amber, but I would consider it an IPA hybrid. Aged in oak barrels, the hazy copper brew has notes of pine, citrus and hints of caramel. The highly carbonated ale tasted much like it smelled, but as typical with California beers, hops are king. Those who dig hops will find this beer complex and enjoyable. The red was also paired with the cuban sandwich and was a much better pairing that with the saison.
Evolution Migration (10.0% ABV) is an American Strong Ale by a brewery that I have never heard of before. No surprise that I have not heard of a brewery as that there are thousands nationwide, but a bit more surprising considering the quality of this ale. You may have guessed that I have a penchance for beers aged in used booze barrels. This ale was aged 7 months in Cruzan Rum barrels so that this rum soaked beauty, golden and smooth, got all of my attention. Apples, caramel and yeast flavors perfectly accent the rum. You can bet that I will actively search for more beers by this brewery. Caramel Apple Hand Pies accompanied this ale and were filled with roasted apples and salted caramel.
Lost Abbey The Angel's Share (12.0 % ABV) is another bourbon barrel aged ale. Am I becomming predictable? This was probably the best beer that I tried at Savor. The beer poured dark, dark brown and the smell of bourbon hits you immediately. The taste begins as chocolate, vanilla and toffee but is overpowered quickly by the bourbon taste. I think that they didn't completely empty the damned barrels because this one has lots of burn from the bourbon. Luckily the ale itself has massive flavors so that the blending with the bourbon makes this very, very interesting. The pairing was the aformentioned Devils on Horseback. I think that I ate about 10 more of the little devils.
Moon River RosemarySwamp Fox IPA (5.8% ABV) was so strange that I am still not sure that I like it. You get the bitterness, citrus and spice that you expect of an IPA, but the rosemary comes through strong, but not in a bad way. It is crisp and dry with no discernable sweetness or maltiness. Little, yellow, different. It was paired with Herb Roasted Mushrooms on Toast described as earthy, roasted mushrooms with thyme and garlic.
Troeg's Brewery Troegenator (8.2% ABV) is a double damned delicious doppelbock. The dark mahogany beer pours with a tan head that leaves nice lacing. The smell is spicy, bready and malty with a smooth, creamy texture. Bread, grains, malts and sweet with a noticable alcohol burn make this a beer that I will be happy to drink again and again ... assuming that I can find it here. A New York Style Cheesecake served with porter caramel sauce paired nicely.
While the foods were not exemplary they were good examples of how you should choose your beer when you visit a finer restaurant with a decent beer selelction. There was also a stand alone cheese table that featured every cheese type imaginable from around the country. Heavenly.
I would say that you should schedule a trip to DC next spring and experience a beer tasting the way that it should be experienced ... slow, with dignity and grace ... but frankly don't want to see this become any more popular. So schedule your trip to the GABF in Denver in fall instead.