Don't have tickets to SAVOR, the Brewers Association's food and craft beer extravaganza that sets down in D.C. next weekend? Not to worry. One of the great ancillary benefits to DC hosting this annual event is the abundance of SAVOR-related beer tastings, beer dinners and tap takeovers that pop up throughout the week.
In fact, with 70 breweries and their representatives in town to promote the intersection of great food and even better beer, SAVOR Week has become an unofficial event unto itself, with opportunities to sample unique collaborations and out-of-market beers, and to meet some of the rock stars of the brewing world up close and personal. At last count there were more than 75 SAVOR Week events scheduled between Monday, May 5 and Sunday, May 11 (SAVOR itself takes place over two nights on May 8th and 9th), and new ones seem to be announced daily.
With so many options from which to choose, Eater want to point drinkers toward a few particularly interesting options. While it's hard to go wrong at pretty much any of the events taking place next week (craft beer, good food; what's not to like?), the ground rules for this exercise included free admission and the chance to sample beers not normally found in D.C. any other week of the year.
Monday, May 5th
Ease into the week with Bier Baron's aptly-titled "Liver Warm Up Event", featuring nothing but session beers with lower alcohol content. While most of the beers being offered are seen regularly in DC — Smuttynose Brewing (NH)'s new Bouncy House IPA and Victory's (PA) Session IPA being the exceptions — this one caught the eye based on concept and potential for avoiding a hangover alone.
Tuesday, May 6th
Firestone Walker — famously owned by tire heir and former "Bachelor" Andrew Firestone — consistently produces some of the best brews coming out of California. On Tuesday night Churchkey will dedicate 13 of its tap lines to their beer, including Parabola 2014 and Anniversary 17, the former a Russian Imperial Stout and the latter an American strong ale, both of which routinely earn near-perfect scores from various beer-rating services.
Tuesday also finds Smoke and Barrel highlighting one of the country's most under-appreciated beer regions when it stages its "Best of the Midwest" event. The highlights there will include a range of styles from Indiana's Sun King and Kentucky's Country Boy brewing, as well as one-off appearances from favorites Bell's (MI), Perennial (MO) and Schlafly (MO).
Wednesday, May 7th
Wednesday brings another civil war to town when Churchkey hosts a "North vs. South" takeover that dedicates its 50 tap lines to 4 just breweries. Allagash (ME) and Ithaca (NY) will represent the Union, while Terrapin (GA) and Foothills (NC) are there to prove the South may indeed rise again. While the recent DC debuts of Ithaca and Foothills mean all four can now be found around town, the event will feature a number of single batch and one-off beers from each brewery. Highlights include the May edition of Foothills' IPA of the Month program, a barrel-aged version of Terrapin's Big Hoppy Monster, and a dry-hopped cask of Ithaca's renowned Flower Power IPA.
If you're in Northern Virginia on Wednesday, head to Rustico's Ballston location for a Sam Adams tap takeover. Yes, we know, craft beer geeks love to diss the Boston Beer Company for being, well . . . so incredibly successful. Whatever one thinks of the company and its ubiquitous billionaire founder Jim Koch (who'll be in attendance), however, it's safe to say that without them SAVOR Week — and much of the craft beer industry — wouldn't even exist. While it's therefore worth stopping by for no other reason than to just say "thanks", might as well try one of the 30 styles that will be on tap. Start with the Spiced Peach and end with the Maple Pecan Porter to get a real sense for their range.
Thursday, May 8th
Thursday once again finds Churchkey at the center of DC's beer world as it dedicates 13 taps to the highly-regarded Surly Brewing Company of Minnesota. Among the highlights will be sought-after IPAs Furious and Overrated, as well as Darkness, a Russian Imperial Stout that some consider to be the best representation of the style in the US.
Closer to Dupont Circle, drinkers can still get their Surly on, as sister restaurants Scion and Crios stage the Night of Extraordinary Ales, Vol. II. In addition to a handful of selections from Surly — no Darkness, but plenty of Furious should be on hand — the event will showcase 4 other breweries currently unavailable in DC: Deschutes (OR), Revolution (IL), Oakshire (OR) and the aforementioned Sun King. 21st Amendment, Uinta, and Victory breweries will also be featured, with a total of 33 different beers on tap and several more hard-find-bottles from participating breweries available. Additionally, wander around the corner where Bier Baron will be featuring five beers from Colorado's beloved Odell's brewery, including the award-winning 90 Schilling Scotch Ale and Mercenary Double IPA.
Friday, May 9th
Pizzeria Paradiso's Georgetown branch marks the first night of SAVOR with its second night of "Washington vs. Washington", which pits 8 beers from Pacific Northwest breweries against 8 beers from the Nation's Capital. While the draft list hadn't been released at press time, the event is notable for the appearance of both Sound Brewery and Reuben's Brews, two small breweries that can be found only in Washington State. Except, of course, during SAVOR Week.
While the Colorado Brewer's Night at one of the city's best new beer destinations, City Tap House, earns points for featuring one of our favorite beer states, I'll be making a return visit to Churchkey where one of the founders of the Maine Beer Company will be putting five of this terrific brewery's beers on tap, including the extremely hard-to-find cult favorite Lunch IPA.
Saturday, May 10th
One of Eater's favorite breweries anywhere is Great Lakes Brewing out of Cleveland, and when one of their pub-only draft exclusives finds it way to D.C., drinkers should jump at the chance to sample it. Three such rarities will be tapped at high noon at Adams Morgan's Black Squirrel. Particularly exciting is the much-lauded Alberta Clipper Porter, and it's even more exciting to try it alongside Great Lakes head brewer Luke Purcell who'll be in the house for the occasion.
While it always maintains a solid list of drafts, doughnut haven GBD becomes a true beer mecca when it pours selections from San Diego's acclaimed Stone Brewery from every one of its 15 taps. Although Stone beers are seen regularly in D.C., its not every day that brewery co-founder Steve Wagner can be found sitting next to them. If that's not enough, GBD will be feature several Stone brews making their D.C. debut, as well as celebrity-beer crossovers developed in collaboration with the keyboardist from String Cheese Incident, Alice Cooper's guitarist and...wait for it...Gordie LaChance from "Stand by Me" — aka actor, beer zealot and Starfleet cadet Wil Wheaton. Ahh, to be a Southern California brewery...
Sunday, May 11
SAVOR Week wraps up with a number of brunch events designed to say farewell in style, all while nursing what promises to be a serious beer hangover. While many of the day's events should be memorable, the standout has to be the Black Squirrel's "All 'Ale the Ladies Meet and Greet", during which some of the leading women of the local and national craft beer scene gather to discuss their roles and their impact on what is often viewed as a male-dominated industry. No fewer than 20 female brewers, brewery owners and industry executives will be on hand to share their experiences. Although this is the one event on this list that comes at a price ($15, reservations required), with industry leaders like Kim Jordan (Founder of New Belgium brewery) and Julia Herz (Craft Beer Program Director, the Brewer's Association) on hand — on Mother's Day, no less — sounds like a bargain.
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