Rejoice: SAVOR, one of the nation’s premier beer gatherings, arrives next week. And it’s time to formulate your plan of attack.
As far as the formal event goes, the eleven-year-old festival draws over 80 breweries under the roof of the National Building Museum on Friday and Saturday night. Each brewery will pour two beers, and since SAVOR is a BFD, they’re bringing their best stuff. You can check the full list here. (Personally, I’m gunning for the Cloudburst and Blackberry Farm.)
But even outside the confines of SAVOR proper, there is a lot of beer to enjoy in DC between May 29 and June 3. Every night, there are a handful of events across town – the majority of which are free to attend. (The beer, sadly, is not free, though.)
Many of the breweries at SAVOR don’t distribute in DC, so this is their chance to show the city what they’ve been brewing up (and to scope out the city’s beer scene for possible expansion in the future). And it’s your chance to see what’s the big deal with, say, Central Waters or Fremont or Arizona WIlderness. And then there are the breweries you’ve never even heard of. This is your chance to be adventurous.
To guide that adventure, we’ve rounded up the week’s best events – and we’ll update this list as I continue to get frantic e-mails from breweries and bars just announcing their events.
Virginia Breweries & Brewpubs at Smoke & Barrel
Jace Gonnerman’s annual Virginia showcase isn’t the oldest SAVOR tradition (that distinction goes to a handful of brewers’ brunches, because brunch is a cockroach that can not be eradicated) (just kidding, please click on all BYT brunch #content!), but it’s quickly become one of the best. There’s not much of a gimmick here: Every year, the Meridian Pint beer director rounds up the Commonwealth’s crème de la crème, and since Virginia beer is getting better all the time like Dan Boeckner’s domestic bliss, each draft list has been successively better than the previous.
The 2018 edition is no exception, drawing primarily from the hotbeds of NoVA (Aslin, Ocelot, Solace, Crooked Run) and Richmond (Final Gravity, Triple Crossing, The Answer). Rounding out the line-up is Staunton’s Redbeard and Williamsburg’s Virginia Beer Company. Highlights include Ocelot’s Here Kitty, Kitty (a decadent but still quaffable bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout collab with J. Wakefield), The Answer’s triple dry-hopped Grand Larceny Double IPA, and Crooked Run’s Sticky Rice Berliner Weiss, a tart wheat ale brewed with mango, coconut, and rice milk. Also, word on the street is that there’s a chance Smoke & Barrel will be debuting Ocelot’s wildly anticipated all-Citra double IPA Lucky You. [Update: The Lucky You keg has arrived safely. This is not a drill.]
California Big Shots at Roofers Union
Last year, Roofers Union beer director Dave Delaplaine lined up a SAVOR extravaganza with Wicked Weed… and then the North Carolina brewery immediately got purchased by InBev. So, craft beer market analysts are on high alert for any sudden soul-selling activity in California as the Adams Morgan establishment prepares to welcome two of the state’s giants: Sierra Nevada and The Bruery.
What’s on tap? 16 specialty drafts, and bottles on bottles on bottles. (Tuesdays are “Geek Night” at Roofers Union, which means half off the bottle list, even during SAVOR week. You crazy for this one, Dave!) If you feel like dancing with the devil in the pale moon light, the bar will be pouring six years of Bigfoot vintages. The Bruery founder Patrick Rue will be in the house as well, explaining to patrons that his brewery’s name is not a typo and shooting swag from a t-shirt cannon at an uncomfortably close range. My beer picks: The Bruery’s Frucht: Guava (a Berliner weisse with guava) and a pair of experimental Sierra Nevada IPAs.
A Taste of Michigan at Brookland Pint
Never been to the Great Lake State? Well, head to Brookland Pint on Tuesday and feel transported to a magical kingdom where the squirrels are the size of gophers and everyone is hammered because the bourbon barrel-aged stout flows like water. (Or at least that’s how I imagine it.) (True story on the squirrels, though.) The main attractions of this Midwest do-si-do are Bell’s Black Note (a blend of bourbon barrel-aged Expedition and Double Cream Stout) and Founders’ Canadian Breakfast Stout (an 11.7% Imperial Stout brewed with coffee and chocolate, then aged in maple syrup bourbon barrels, which are a thing), but there will also be 16 more options from these venerable Michigan institutions, including foeder-aged sour farmhouse ale Le Pianiste and popular sugary concoction Lizard of Koz. Go reconnect with your Midwest roots.
Nashville Skyline & Favorite Things Release Party at ChurchKey
Last month, I wrote about Mixed Up / Torn Down, a Bluejacket and Ocelot collab IPA double dry-hopped with Citra, Vic Secret, and Galaxy, then finished with apricot and peaches. Now, it appears that Bluejacket overlord Greg Engert and his Director of Brewing Operations Ro Guenzel are back to their fruity, hoppy, music-referencing collab ways with a new beer called Nashville Skyline. An “absolute juice bomb,” this double IPA was double dry-hopped with Vic Secret and Citra, then finished with pineapple, pink guava, mango, apricot, tangerine, and blood orange. I’m pretty sure that’s five weeks of vitamin C intake.
The beer sprang a DMV collab à trois with Maryland’s RAR and Richmond’s Hardywood. But these breweries didn’t stop there. Fuck no. They doubled down. They brewed another boozy collab called Favorite Things, an imperial stout brewed with the blood of Julie Andrews. Correction: an imperial stout brewed with lactose, cinnamon, vanilla, and maple syrup. Both of these beers will be unveiled at ChurchKey on Wednesday, where they will be joined by a selection of other offerings from Hardywood, RAR, and Bluejacket.
Central Waters Tap Takeover at Meridian Pint
Are you familiar with the Wisconsin brewery Central Waters? It’s cool, neither was I. Sometimes part of SAVOR week is recognizing that you are a n00b and trusting the taste of beer directors who drink and know things. So, when Jace Gonnerman tells me that Central Waters barrel-aged imperial stouts are on par with, say, Fremont’s, that’s when I stand up, make an exaggerated face of excitement, and rip off my sunglasses like Lakers Bro. On Wednesday, his bar will tap a bevy of such decadent offerings including Black Gold (a exceedingly rare imperial stout aged three years in oak bourbon barrels), XX (a blend of seven barrel-aged imperial stouts aged a minimum of two years to a constant soundtrack of London indie trio the xx), and Cassian Sunset (a barrel-aged imperial stout with coffee, vanilla, and cinnamon).
- Speaking of decadent stouts, Brookland Pint taps Firestone Walker’s (rightfully) vaunted bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout Parabola, along with three rare-AF variants.
- Smoke & Barrel pours five offerings from Country Boy’s “Living Proof” wild and sour series, as well as clean offerings from the Kentucky brewery, like Chocolate Milk Stout (a 10% Imperial Stout brewed with lactose sugar and cocoa nibs) and Infinite Sadness (10% imperial black IPA aged in bourbon barrels and dry-hopped three separate times). I’m here for barrel-aged imperial black IPAs.
- Roofers Union hosts an elimiDATE (well, officially dubbed a Trifecta of Fun) with Fort Worth’s Collective Brewing Company and our very own Denizens and 3 Stars. Show up for the the rarities (like Denizens’ Backyard Boogie and entries from 3 Stars’ ’90s hip-hop car series), stick around to see who the Texas brewery sends home!
- Jack Rose assembles the Brewvengers (aka, 11 random breweries like Three Weavers, Daredevil, Upland, and Track 7), and offers a whiskey pairing for each beer on the menu. On this night, the real heroes are our Lyft drivers.
- Like beer and banjos? Sierra Nevada is putting on a bluegrass concert at Hill Country.
- Like beer outside? The Bruery takes over the taps at Dacha.
- Like being able to sample beers and then purchase bottles for home consumption? Craft Beer Cellar hosts Upland for happy hour.
First off, 95% of beer event names are uninspired or corny, but this right here chef kissy fingers. For those that need me to Vox this for you: Maui Brewing is located in Hawaii, a state our current administration Punk’d into thinking was under a nuclear attack in January. The icing on the cake is that Maui Brewing founder Garrett W. Marrero and Jack Rose beer director Nahem Simon were both in Hawaii during the scare.
Equally impressive: the actual event! It’s nice when these things align. The Thursday evening shindig will feature 20 drafts from the venerated Pacific brewery, and all 20 beers will receive their own craft beer cocktail, whiskey, and cigar pairings. That’s a lot of work! But wait, there’s more! The evening will also feature a rooftop pig roast, which will double as the launch of the bar’s popular “Tiki Thursdays” happy hour.
Fremont and Perennial Unicorn Tears at Meridian Pint
Bourbon, chocolate, cherries… extreme Prince voice: Is this what it tastes like when unicorns cry? I don’t know, but I’ll take Fremont and Perennial’s word for it, because I will believe anything they want to tell. And I will drink anything they want to brew me. On Thursday, specifically, I will be drinking a 12.9% bourbon barrel-aged imperial cherry oatmeal stout that these two titans of tasteful beer released together last June. Thankfully, they held onto a few kegs, and even more thankfully, they’re sending one to Meridian Pint for Thursday. (This isn’t massively surprising: The Seattle brewery usually sends goodies to the Columbia Heights beer bar, regardless of whether they’re pouring at SAVOR.)
As you might expect, there will be more than Unicorn Tears. Meridian Pint will have on tap a handful of Fremont IPAs, which tend to be clean and crisp, but it will also be pouring one notable exception: Head Full of Dynamite, a rotating-hop hazy IPA unveiled earlier this year. Of course, the Seattle brewery will also be sending more hard-to-find barrel-aged imperial stouts like Dark Star and Rusty Nail. As for Perennial, well, they’re no slouches when it comes to imperial stouts – a subject I explored in March’s Freshly Tapped: Prodigal – and they’ll be sending the vanilla bean-spiked variant of Abraxas. I will be ordering up a few of the more sessionable Perennial Brett beers, my favorite offerings from the St. Louis brewery: Distant Lands (a saison conditioned with Brett and dry-hopped with Mosaic), Citri Paradisi (a Brett saison conditioned with grapefruit oil, and dry-hopped with Citra, Simcoe, and Mosaic), and Ship of the Sun (a mixed-fermentation saison hopped with Styrian Goldings and East Kent Goldings). Honestly, just go to this one.
Seattle Night at Roofers Union
Fremont, you two-timing SOB! Double Thursday events?!?
OK, well, if everyone out there doesn’t drink a glass of Fremont IPA or barrel-aged stout on Thursday night, you’re fucking up.
This particular ThursdayFremont event pairs the brewery with its Seattle brethren Reuben’s Brews. (In fact, back in Washington, less than two miles separates the two breweries.) Here’s my #take on Rueben’s, based on my visits to Seattle, last year’s Roofers Union event, and rigorous consumption: very delicious beer, very nice people, nothing crazy. And this is your one chance to get the full Reuben’s experience during SAVOR Week. In addition to its flagship IPA, gose, pilsner, and robust porter, beer director – and Seattle enthusiast – Dave Dllaplaine has lined up Triumvirate (which won gold in the IPA category at GABF last year – NO BIG DEAL), two iterations of its rotating-hop NE-IPA Crush series, and the newish Haze in the Hood DIPA.
Ommegang, Duvel, & Boulevard Tap Takeover at City Tap House
Few brands are as tightly quality controlled as the Duvel family of U.S. breweries: Ommegang, Boulevard, and Firestone Walker. These breweries don’t make bad beer. They don’t tweet dumb shit. They don’t botch roll outs. On Thursday, those first two breweries – along with their parent company, Duvel – take over all 40 taps at City Tap House. The event doubles as the debut of Ommegang’s new Blenderie Ommegang series, a project “focused entirely on very small-batch blended beers.” More specifically, the Dupont bar will use the event to unveil Faith & Fortitude, “an elegant combination of aged sour ales and farmhouse saisons.” The rest of the menu looks like a doozy, too.
Rare & Obscure at ChurchKey
“Rare and Obscure” could be the name for every ChurchKey event, so you know they gotta mean it when they whip that title out. On this particular night, the Logan Circle bar showcases the #rare and #obscure from five SAVOR breweries: Arizona Wilderness Lawson’s Finest Liquids, The Lost Abbey, Night Shift, and Rhinegeist. Highlights include Lawson’s Finest’s No Collusion Hopscotch (a bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout with maple), Arizona Wilderness’s Dirty Hop Water: Thirsty & Miserable (a “zero-IBU” IPA dry-hopped with Citra, Ekuanot, and Bru-1), Night Shift’s Ever Weisse (a mixed fermentation ale with kiwi, strawberries, and hibiscus), and Rhinegeist’s Being: V0.5 (a Brett Grisette). Get on this #ultrarare beam.
- Brookland Pint showcases the “wild, tart, and funky” of Upland Brewing, and very few U.S. breweries do those three things as well as the Indiana operation. Drafts include Iridescent (a barrel-aged blonde sour with apricot and ginger), Revive (a barrel-aged blonde sour with pineapple and chamomile), and Boysenberry (a barrel-aged blonde sour loaded with… wait for it… boysenberries).
- Brasserie Beck welcomes the brew team of Blackberry Farm and taps four of their finest saisons for happy hour. Please fast forward to the Blackberry Farm blurb below for my feelings on the Tennessee brewery, and best believe I will be here immediately after work.
- The Partisan welcomes Michigan’s Shorts Brewing and pours 13 of its beers, most notably Bourbon Cherry Smash (a bourbon barrel-aged imperial porter with cherries); PB&J (um… a blend of peanut butter stout and a fruit rye beer); 13irteen (a dry-hopped sour red ale finished with black currants), and the MadTree collab IPA Treefer Madness.
- The Brettanomyces wizards at Colorado’s Crooked Stave showcases a slew of funky and/or sour brews at The Sovereign.
- Craft Beer Cellar hosts Maine Beer Company, and then Fort Worth’s Collective Brewing Company. Go load up on Post Ride Snack and Woods & Water. Also, fun fact: I lived in Fort Worth for five years growing up.
The Beers of Blackberry Farm at The Sovereign
You may look at the beer list for The Sovereign’s Friday event with Blackberry Farm Brewery and see a bunch of saisons and pale ales. I see something so beautiful I want to cry. For my money (and let’s be real: Blackberry Farm beers aren’t cheap), no one in the U.S. makes better farmhouse ales than the Tennessee brewery. The fermentation character, the depth of flavor pulled from floor-malted grains, the subtle integration of new school hops – so many of their classic, dry-hopped, and mixed-fermentation saisons are close to perfect. When I get rich off this beer writing thing, I’m going to have a fridge dedicated solely to Blackberry Farm saisons. Anyway, what was I saying? That’s right: Blackberry Farm at the Sovereign. Of the 10 beers they’ll be sending, only four are saisons, but I am here for them: Boundary Tree (a hop-forward saison with Hallertau Blanc and Citra), Pleiades (a mixed-fermentation collab with NOLA Brewing, Creature Comforts, and Jester King), Imperial Saison (hopped with Motueka & Hallertau Blanc), and the brewery’s Classic Saison. Other offerings include a Dunkelbock , a smoked imperial stout collab with Evil Twin, and a Belgian table beer collab with Rhinegeist .
An Evening with Night Shift & RAR at Paradiso Game Room
Damn, “An Evening with Nigh Shift & RAR” sounds so fancy! I might need to get my tuxedo dry-cleaned for this. And then I will spill extravagantly hopped IPA all over it. Because that is what these two breweries do. That, and generate an obscene amount of buzz. As for attendees of the classy evening of IPA and skee-ball, they can get buzzed (sorry) (not sorry) on four beers from each brewery. RAR’s sending Slip-Ons, Pencil Fight, Hyde, and a player to be named later. You may be less familiar with Nigh Shift, the Boston hype beast that isn’t Trillium. Paradiso will be tapping Nite Lite (the latest in a series of craft light lagers across the country to take aim at Bud Light), the New England-style pale ale Whirlpool, and the flagship IPA Santilli.
DC Brau & Cape May Double Collaboration Release at Bar Deco
DC Brau is the only DC brewery pouring at SAVOR, and the local operation is balling out to mark the occasion with not one but two collaborations with New Jersey brewery (and fellow SAVOR pourers) Cape May. One is a rose-inspired gose – and Brau’s first sour ale!– called Rosé du Gose, which was brewed with 1,300 pounds of peach and strawberry purée. The other is an IPA dubbed L’attitude, which was brewed at Cape May with two experimental hops varietals: #09326 from Hopsteiner and HBC 342 from YCH. I don’t know anything about these hops, but according to a press release, L’Attitude “has notes of tropical fruits, berries, orange citrus, all in a dry ale with a unique yeast ester profile of apricots and a touch of spice.” It also features slick can art from Mike Van Hall. The sad news: You can not buy said cans in D.C. The good news: You can crush them (and Rosé du Gose, which will hit local distro) at Bar Deco on Friday night.
- ChurchKey turns 24 taps over to a group it’s calling the Fantastic 4: Bond Brothers, Fremont, Three Weavers and Track 7. Downstairs, Birch & Barley will feature a six-course tasting menu paired exclusively with beers from these four breweries.
- Meridian Pint invites you to pre-game for SAVOR with Vermont’s Lawson’s Finest Liquids. The main attraction: Triple Sunshine, the 10.5% triple IPA version of the brewery’s cult classic Sip of Sunshine. They’ll also have Jade IPA (a 7% beer “packed with its namesake Southern Hemisphere hop”) and Super Session #8 (hopped with Mosaic).
- The Partisan is hosting The Ultimate Upland Experience, so screw every other Upland event. Since the Penn Quarter bar (and low key the NRG spot I frequent most) specializes in sour and tart ales, this fête logically focuses on the Indiana brewery’s wine-barrel-aged sour ales. But for those looking to cleanse the palate, the Partisan will have a few out-of-market hoppy offerings, most notably Coastbuster (a double IPA hopped with Cascade, Simcoe, Amarillo, and Citra) and Squeeze & Thank You (an IPA with Simcoe, Lemondrop, and Cascade hops).
- Jack Rose hosts a hodgepodge of respected breweries: Allagash, Boulevard, Dogfish Head, New Belgium , Ommegang and Stone.
- Founders and breakfast will be served at a late night City Tap House brunch.
- Craft Beer Cellar won’t stop bringing in great out-of-town beer. First up today is Country Boy Brewing, followed by Reuben’s Brews (and their Haze in the Hood DIPA!).
The 7th Annual Brewer’s Brunch at Birch & Barley
Like beer? Like brunch? Like drinking #rare beer at brunch in the company of the brewers who made that #rare beer? Hell yeah, you do. That’s why Birch & Barley’s Brewer’s Brunch is back for the seventh year: It’s a winning formula. This year, DC Beer Czar Greg Engert has rounded up an another all-star line-up: Allagash, Bell’s, Maine Beer Company, Perennial, Sierra Nevada, and Stone. A beer from each of these breweries will be paired with an aperitif, four courses, and desert. Check the full line-up, and ogle at the founders, presidents, and brand ambassadors descending up on Logan Circle.
Typecast Release at Paradiso Game Room
Two powerhouses of New England brewing, Connecticut’s Two Roads and Vermont’s Lawson’s Finest Liquids, have united to make a hoppy farmhouse ale with white cedar and balsam fir tips. It’s called Typecast. What else do you need to know? You want this beer. You need this beer. The Paradiso Game Room in Georgetown has this beer, and on Saturday it will share it with you, along with a few other selections from each brewery. If you insist on more information, check out my January story Long Live Paradiso Game Room.
East to West at City Tap House
Tired of the rivalry between the East Coast and West Coast? Wish we could all just get along? Well, you may be the next beverage director for City Tap House. Or, at the least, you and current beverage director Curtis Gray would get along. He’s organized a trio of Saturday events under the umbrella of coastal unity. At City Tap Penn Quarter, all 40 draft lines will pour East Coast drafts – including brews from luminaries like Dogfish Head Maine Beer Company, and The Brooklyn Brewery – and the kitchen will serve mini lobster rolls. Meanwhile, City Tap Dupont will showcase 40 West Coast draft options – including #rarities from Anderson Valley, Stone, and Ballast Point – and fish tacos from the kitchen. Lastly, Pennsylvania 6 DC will pair oysters from both coasts with Allagash. Here’s the kicker: The restaurant group will be providing a complimentary trolley between the three venues. That’s thoughtful! And not cheap!
Ciguardians of the Galaxy: Rarities Matinee at Jack Rose
Jack Rose has a fancy rooftop terrace, and on Saturday, it’ll put it do good use, opening early for a cigar and rare beer-fueled send-off “matinee.” Here’s the deal: six breweries (Allagash, Boulevard, Dogfish Head, New Belgium , Ommegang and Stone), six rare beers. Here’s the main attraction: Allagash Coolship Red, Framboise Lambic-inspired ale fermented in the Allagash coolship, then aged for over two years in French oak wine barrels, then conditioned on Maine-grown raspberries for an additional four to five months. This is just one of three kegs to hit the D.C. area this year.
The Monks of Spencer Brewery at The Sovereign
Spencer Brewery is America’s first and only certified Trappist brewery. You can read its story here, or on Saturday you can head to The Sovereign, when the Georgetown bar hosts a live panel with Father Keeley to discuss the history of St. Joseph’s Abbey in Massachusetts. Since history lessons are better with beer, the Sovereign will be pouring “eight different Spencer beers on draft.” That’s right: None of those shenanigans where a bar gives the same beer four different names. These eight beers are all different. To mark the occasion, the Sovereign’s kitchen will be preparing a special menu made with fruit preserves from St. Joseph’s Abbey and chocolate from their sister monastery, Mount Saint Mary’s Abbey.
- Bier Baron hosts its DC Summer Casks Festival.
- City Tap House organizes an “East Coast West Coast Tap Takeover and Trolley ‘Crawl.'”
- Craft Beer Cellar is hanging out with Fremont and then Crooked Stave… and so can you!!!
Post-SAVOR Pizza Party with Crux & Port City at All Purpose
Port City and Crux are the two breweries responsible for this year’s SAVOR beer. What did they make? Great question! DC Beer’s Jacob Berg’s excellent February article has you covered. (Spoiler: It’s an imperial witbier aged in red wine barrels with Brett and Oregon Pinot Noir grapes.) On Sunday, they get the gang back together at All Purpose in Shaw for a pizza and beer pairing. From what I’ve seen, the special menu is bonkers (and a la carte, so indulge at your own speed). Also, before the Sunday event, All Purpose will be showcasing beers from both breweries all weekend.
8th Annual Post-SAVOR Brunch at Pizzeria Paradiso
Pizzeria Paradiso beer director Drew McCormick is a product of Maine. On Sunday, she brings the best of her home state to Pizzeria Paradiso Dupont: whoopie pies, blueberry scones, and steamer clams with potatoes and lemon, plus some upstart breweries called Allagash and Maine Beer Company. (I hope they make it!) Draft list highlights include Allagash’s Saison Gratis (a saison hopped in Allagash’s coolship, then open-fermented with saison yeast) and Maine Beer Company’s supremely #crushable session IPA Post Ride Snack (which I love despite its lack of hyphen).