The Supporters Circle, a group of 12 breweries that lent financial and logistical support to SAVOR, was literally and figuratively at the center of the event.
At one table, hooded monks poured Sierra Nevada samples. Next door, Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery was attempting to uncork a bottle of Savor Flowers beer with his teeth. (“Going to a beer festival with Sam Calagione is like going to a rock concert with Mick Jagger,” commented freelance journalist Gregg Wiggins, who captured the uncorking on film.) One more table over, New Belgium Brewing Co. CEO Kim Jordan was assuring fans that the long-anticipated arrival of her beers to the Washington area would take place in late August.
To accompany their beers, SAVOR supporters were allowed to choose special menu items that were prepared on site. Jordan offered a delicacy found nowhere else in the National Building Museum: balsamic roasted beets with hazelnuts and orange, served on an endive leaf. The light acidity of the dish was a nice contrast to the sweetness of Super Cru, a pumped-up version of New Belgium’s Fat Tire brewed with Asian pear juice.
By mid-session on Saturday, the most popular beers began to run out. With two hours to go, I dropped by the station for Funkwerks, Inc. (like New Belgium, based in Fort Collins, Colo.), only to be greeted with an abandoned table and the sign: “Elvis has left the building. Thank you for checking us out.”
A new trend in craft brewing: beers emulating mixed drinks. Schlafly Beer in St. Louis was pouring Hop Toddy, a pleasantly citrusy ale incorporating honey, lemon and unmalted wheat. Suggested pairing: a cherry pepper stuffed with goat cheese. I have a high tolerance for heat, but this pepper seemed to have been grown on the south side of hell, extinguishing any ability to discern subtle flavors for the next 10 minutes.
“Blame Teddy!” laughed Dan Kopman, cofounder of Schlafly. He was referring to Teddy Folkman, executive chef and co-owner of Granville Moore’s on H Street NE, who served as food consultant for the event.
Ian Schwartz, a transplant from Boston who moved to this area about a year ago, was enjoying himself immensely. Gesturing at the crowded hall, where collared shirts and dresses were the norm and not the exception, he asked, “Whatever happened to drinking beer in t-shirts and shorts?”
Deal with it, Ian: It’s a new era in beer.