A Moment to Savor

By Kellen McClure

Talk to most people who live in D.C. these days, and they’ll describe the collective anxiety that has crept into everyday life here since the election.  It doesn’t matter if your candidate had a little “D” or “R” next to their name; it’s the constant partisan tension, the heated rhetoric, and the general animosity toward one’s fellow citizen that seems to have enveloped the country, and been distilled to its purest form in the capital city. 

It’s for all these reasons that this year’s Savor was so needed by denizens of the District., and why this past weekend, lines wrapped around the historic Building Museum near downtown D.C., full of people eager to escape and drink some of the best craft beer in the country while nibbling on the finest fare the region has to offer.  Savor proved it’s hard to argue politics with so many delicious beers to sip.

This year marked the tenth anniversary of Savor. 86 small and independent breweries from across the country filled out the Museum’s first floor, pouring more than 170 beers.  To the delight of the teams of beltway beer drinkers, nearly half of the breweries were not typically available in the D.C. area, making the $135 ticket well worth the investment.

It is certainly easy to get overwhelmed by the menu at Savor, but a couple beers did stand out.  Wisconsin’s Stevens Point Brewery, which is one of the nation’s oldest, delivered a very drinkable beer with its Point SPA – a nice respite from some of the hoppy and sour beers dominating the room.  Eugene Oregon’s Ninkasi Brewing Co. paired its Hop Cooler with a delicious duck breast with candied orange and farro, resulting in some nice bipartisan cooperation between the hops and the richness of the duck.  Perhaps one of the best pairings of the night was from Louisiana’s Crying Eagle Brewing Co. – celebrating its one year anniversary Friday – which offered the Calcasieu Common with a delicious malted chocolate mousse. 

While the menu at Savor offered a diversity of beers and beer styles, the conclusion at the end of the night seemed to be that while big hop still remains king, it is losing ground to fruit and funk.  Based on an unscientific survey of the beers on tap, there were approximately 40 IPA’s offered, all with varying degrees of “big.”  While still an impressive share of the menu, this appeared to be less than the total combined numbers of belgians, sours, and saisons.  Even more interesting was the fact that around 40 of the beers offered had some type of fruit featured, ranging from the old stable of blood orange (Dogfish Head’s Flesh and Blood IPA) to the more exotic mango (Arcadia Brewing’s Mango Surprise) and breadfruit (Maui Brewing’s Liquid Breadfruit). 

There are people much smarter than me that can explain the prominence of these styles, and what it means for craft beer.  It could be a further maturing of the American palate, which has conquered hops and is looking to explore funkier lands.  Regardless of the reasons, as I walked around Savor on Friday night, I found it comforting, particularly in these uncertain times.  It represents that American craft beer will continue to embrace the best of our foreign counterparts, even if some in Washington won’t.  It also demonstrates that American craft beer will continue to innovate, and experiment and, if necessary, “get a little weird with it.”

Chris McClellan