A week of pre-event events culminated in the 2011 Savor American craft beer festival held at the National Building Museum over the weekend. Savor — which brought in 72 craft breweries from around the country, twice that number of brews, and a lot of oysters and food pairings — sold out, as usual, in less than an hour earlier this year. Eater was on hand for Saturday night's festivities, where Volt chef Bryan Voltaggio continued his collaboration with Flying Dog Brewery in an educational salon and Granville Moore chef Teddy Folkman was one-half of the team responsible for all 42 of the food pairings. On to the hangover observations!
1) As you might expect from a sold-out event, the National Building Museum was packed with self-proclaimed beer-nerd attendees who spent the night running around to sample all the rare craft brews in the house (some using handy checklists). But the longest lines in the house tended to be for the bigger-name breweries — especially a ridiculously long line for Dogfish Head's Hellhound and Namaste.
2) Choptank Oyster Company was shucking oysters all night for party-goers, which led to another ridiculous line.
3) Chefs Teddy Folkman (Granville Moore's) and Adam Dulye (San Francisco's Monk's Kettle) were behind the 42 small dishes that made up the pairings. Word in the hall was that the quality of the food at this year's Savor far exceeded that of past years. Particularly popular was the DLT (duck, arugula pesto and sun-dried tomato), biscuits and (pork) belly, hickory-smoked beef riblets, Carr Valley bread cheese served with vanilla sour cherries and the devils on horseback — smoked bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese.
4) Some of the best-named beers: Hell or High Watermelon Wheat (21st Amendment), Monkey Bizz-Ness (Big Boss), Idiot IPA (Coronado), Friek (Odell), Son of a Peach Wheat Ale (RJ Rockers), Fancy Lawnmower Ale (Saint Arnold), Hop Toddy (Schlafly), Cane & Ebel (Two Brothers).
5) Volt chef/owner (and former Top Cheftestapant) Bryan Voltaggio teamed up yet again with his friends at Frederick-based Flying Dog Brewery for an educational pairing just before Savor opened its doors to the general public. Voltaggio prepared four dishes for about 90 people that he specifically picked to pair with four Flying Dog brews. The pairings? Hay-smoked oysters with Doggie Style Pale Ale; a Ferran Adria-inspired deboned chicken wing cooked sous vide with celery puree, frozen bleu cheese and a little fancy CO2 canister use for good measure paired with the Snake Dog IPA; spicy sausage with the controversial Raging Bitch; and, finally, braised short ribs, smoked grits and baked hazelnuts served as the barbecue to Backyard Ale, the collaboration beer from the brewery and Voltaggio.
6) "Restaurant people find interesting ways to smoke interesting things." — Flying Dog brewmaster Matt Brophy, as Voltaggio explained how he came up with the idea for the hay-smoked oysters.
7) On the subject of his edible beer spheres, Voltaggio pointed out that Jell-O shooters were the original edible cocktail.
8) Voltaggio has visited 12 barbecue joints in about five states and discovered that barbecue is about the pitmaster, tradition and having fun. Oh, and there is always banana pudding, no matter where you go. He recommends Smitty's Market in Lockhart, Texas.
9) The smoky Backyard Ale is a one-time, fun collaboration between Voltaggio and Flying Dog, the chef explained. He'll have some pairings for it on Volt's menu, but mostly the beer is about what he does on his days off from the kitchen.
10) Julia Herz of CraftBeer.com and the Brewers Association hosted a beer and food pairing that challenged four beer experts to pick a brew to best pair with the bacon-wrapped dates available in the hall. The audience awarded journalist Matt Bean (of Men's Health and Spike TV) the win for his selection of Two Brothers' Askew sour ale that balanced the sweetness of the date. Chef Adam Dulye had picked a Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot, Victory Brewing Company's Bill Covaleski chose Odell's Saboteur, and defending champ Lauren Buzzeo of Wine Enthusiast paired the dates with The Lost Abbey's Judgment Day.