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Rejoice: SAVOR, one of DC’s premier beer gatherings, returns on Friday, May 17.

And the twelve-year-old beer (and food, I guess) festival is looking a little different this year! It’s been hitting that keto diet, supplementing interval training with CrossFit workouts, and it’s shrunk its waistline from two nights at the National Building Museum (Friday and Saturday) to just one (Friday). It’s also moved up a little on the calendar to avoid the post-Memorial Day malaise. (Smart move!)

So, here we are: One night of SAVOR in the middle of May. As always, the event draws under one roof over 80 U.S. breweries, many of which don’t otherwise send beer to the area. And if they do typically send beer here, they bring some extra special stuff for SAVOR. Because this is a classy event.

It is also a sold-out event. But if you missed out on tickets this year, there’s still plenty of opportunity to try some #rare beer making its way to the nation’s capital.

Since many SAVOR breweries don’t distribute in DC, 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). They’ll also be in town for the event (and the Brewers Associations annual “hill climb”), so why not send some extra beer for a showcase or two?

It is worth noting, however, that SAVOR week isn’t quite what it once was. Five or six years ago, a typical SAVOR week night was jam-packed with a dozen events. Now, the choices are a little thinner. To wit: The Pint Group, which once held different events at all three of its locations every night of SAVOR week, is literally holding one event at one location over the course of the entire week in 2019. (To be fair, SAVOR week conflicts with Catholic University’s graduation week this year, which essentially takes Brookland Pint off the map. And as for Meridian Pint, well, you know.)

The overall sparsity can be attributed (at least partially) to the fact that DC is flush with so many great breweries (local, regional, and national) that residents have become somewhat numb to the spectacle of out-of-market beer. In other words, we’re spoiled. In reality, an average night in 2019 at ChurchKey or Brookland Pint or Pizzeria Paradiso offers a draft list more impressive than a 2014 SAVOR week event. If people were still showing up in droves for SAVOR week events, beer directors would still be bringing in boatloads of beer for it, but those beer directors have learned their lesson in recent years, so they’re playing things a bit more conservative now.

Anyway, I just blacked out. What were we talking about? Beer. Beer events. Yes, these are still great things.

To guide your SAVOR week adventures, 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.

The Ultimate FiftyFifty Eclipse Blowout at ChurchKey

Neighborhood Restaurant Group loves the adjective “ultimate.” The Ultimate De Struise Tap Takeover. The Ultimate Big Bad Voodoo Party. The Ultimate Citra Lemon Saison Variants Gala.

I’m not knocking the practice. I certainly couldn’t name 436 different events every year. I’m just noting that “ultimate” gets tossed around quite a bit.

All of that being said, when the DC beer overlords decided to call their SAVOR event with California’s FiftyFifty Brewing the Ultimate FiftyFifty Eclipse Blowout, they were not fucking around. There is no hyperbole here. ChurchKey is showcasing FiftyFifty Brewing and its imperial stout Eclipse by pouring 15 barrel-aged variants of the beer.

Fifteen! As in, a one and then a five!

Whiskey barrels! Peach Brandy barrels! Rum barrels! Bourbon barrels! All the barrels!

To cleanse your palate, the Logan Circle bar will also be offering five beer that aren’t BA imperial stouts from FiftyFifty, including a pale ale, a hazy IPA, and a pale lager.

CANarchy vs. Charcuterie at The Partisan

For centuries, CANarchy and charcuterie have been locked in bitter struggle.

On one side is a “collective of like-minded brewers” bound by an affinity for good beer and bad puns.

On the other side is delicious cured meats.

No one is quite sure why they started fighting, but the simmering tension will once again explode at the Partisan on May 15 during the Penn Quarter restaurant’s CANarchy vs. Charcuterie death match.

In CANarchy’s corner will be five beers from each of its three biggest brands: Cigar City, Oskar Blues and Three Weavers. Highlights include Oskar Blues double IPA Steep Coast: Strata, Cigar City’s Kulich (a Brandy barrel-aged imperial stout with raisins, orange peel, pineapple, and spices) and Three Weavers’s lemon gose Sun Trap.

As for the meat, Executive Chef Nate Anda will be preparing Red Apron’s Tete de Pho, Salami Toscana, Greek Fennel-Lemon Verbana, and many more animal products.

There’s no saying if a winner will be declared, but the body count will assuredly be high.

New England Tap Takeover at Roofers Union

Sometimes a good beer event is about strange bedfellows, and here’s a prime example of that.

Since opening in late 2012, Connecticut’s Two Roads Brewing has made its name on a plethora of offerings: IPAs, lagers (big fan of the unfiltered pale lager Miles 2 Go over here), farmhouse ales, fruited kettle sours, Lambics, pumpkin beer (aged in rum barrels, naturally), and so forth. The operation is overseen by Phil Markowski, a widely respected veteran of the game for three decades. (He literally wrote the book on farmhouse ales.) Of his aforementioned beers, two could be classified as New England IPAs: Two Juicy and its little brother Lil’ Juicy.

Lord Hobo, in contrast, makes almost exclusively New England IPAs. Of its 10 most-consumed beers (using highly scientific Untappd data), 7 are New England IPAs. The other three are a West Coast IPA, a triple IPA, and a stout. The Massachusetts brewery loves the haze. And they sell a whole lot of it. Don’t believe me? Well, would you believe Tony Robbins? Unlike most breweries specializing in the style, Lord Hobo always had its eyes on distro.

So, what do these breweries have in common? New England – the geographic region, which I believe was named after New England IPAs.

And on Wednesday, they’ll both send their wares to Roofers Union.

From the Lord Hobo side of the aisle, you can expect six IPAs (duh), including the triple IPA Museum, and an imperial stout. Two Roads will mix it up with Worker’s Comp saison (beer history jokes!), Belgian Cherry Quad, Sauvignon Blanc Gose, Helles Lager, the fruited (and hibiscus’d) ale Peach Jam, and a beer called Synopsis, which I cannot prove exists based on my online research.

Ommegang Savor Preview at Gaslight Tavern

Brewery Ommegang calls Cooperstown, New York home, but on Wednesday the team will set up show at Gaslight Tavern, the U Street area bar where management gradually turns down the lights but acts like you’re crazy if you ask about it.

What’s on tap? No clue! But since the brewery is previewing their SAVOR offerings, you can probably expect Pale Sour, Brut IPA, and Saison Rosé. There will also be “giveaways.” Swag, swag, swag.

From America with Love at The Sovereign

I don’t think I’m breaking news here to say that the Sovereign is one of America’s elite Belgian beer bars. It’s a fact that’s reaffirmed every time a visiting brewer tells me the Georgetown bistro is absolutely number one on their DC to-do list. On a given night, its 55 taps offer a journey through the Western European country’s finest offerings from Fantôme to De La Senne to Blaugies to De Dolle to De Ranke to places that frankly I didn’t know even existed.

Of course, these products of Belgium aren’t alone on the menu. Beer director Greg Engergt also populates it with America’s best saisons, abbey ales, and wild ales. Tired Hands, Oxbow, Pen Druid, and Hill Farmstead are reliably on draft at The Sovereign, which, you know, no big deal.

On Thursday, Engert will make some room for a few more of the country’s best Belgian-leaning producers: from Allagash, Lost Abbey, Perennial, Rare Barrel, Upland, and Wooden Robot.

I have to say, the full list makes my heart go pitter-patter. Hell, it could only be the Allagash and Perennial offerings I’d be happy. The Portland brewery is sending Bon Vieux Temps (a sour blond ale aged in red wine barrels for a year), Cultivé (a witbier aged on Peach), and – because why not – Coolship Resurgam 2016.

Perennial, meanwhile, is sending La Cosecha (an oak barrel-aged saison aged on peaches and brewed with Jolly Pumpkin), Funky Wit Raspberry (I think that name is pretty self-explanatory, but I will note that fruited variants of Funky Wit don’t typically leave St. Louis), and Owen (a Brett saison dry-hopped with Mosaic, and a beer I could drink all damn day).

Of course, Lost abbey, Rare Barrel, Upland, and Wooden Robot are sending equally wonderful stuff. Gaze at the list via the link above.

Fremont Barrel-Aged Rarities at Smoke & Barrel

One SAVOR week tradition to hold strong over the past five years is Fremont Brewing sending a stack of barrel-aged rarities (and some hops) to The Pint Group beer director Jace Gonnerman.

This year is no different. On Thursday, Smoke & Barrel will tap Dark Star (an imperial oatmeal stout), Bourbon Barrel-Aged Dark Star, Bourbon Barrel-Aged Dark Star with Coffee, the “Spice Wars” edition, B-Bomb (bourbon barrel-aged winter ale), Coffee Cinnamon B-Bomb, and Rusty Nail (a bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout with licorice and cinnamon bark).

Perhaps don’t drive to Smoke & Barrel on Thursday.

And in the aforementioned bucket of “some hops,” the Seattle brewery is sending Lush IPA, Sky Kraken Hazy Pale, and my personal favorite Summer Ale, a wonderful pale ale single-hopped with Amarillo and single-malted with 2-row.

Ciguardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 at Jack Rose

Jack Rose has a fancy rooftop terrace, and on Thursday, it’ll put that natural air to good use with a cigar and beer-fueled event.

On tap: Country Boy, Maui Brewing Co., Three Weavers, The Lost Abbey/Port Brewing, and, of course, Cigar City. If you have a SAVOR events involving cigars, you are contractually obligated to include Tampa Bay’s Cigar City. Overall, though, I gotta say, that’s an impressive gathering of brewing operations.

Each brewery will be sending four beers, and each beer will be each paired with a whiskey if you’re trying to get weird. Meanwhile, four cigars “carefully selected from W. Curtis Draper’s Tabacconist will accompany the beers in their flavor category.” I prefer my cigars recklessly selected, but I’ll make an exception this one time.

Joining us on this odyssey of vices will be Maui Brewing co-founder Garrett Marrero, Three Weavers founder Lynne Weaver, and “other special guests.” Mysterious!

Not a mystery: You’re gonna wake up the next morning with a headache and scratchy throat but YOLO.

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: 4 Noses Brewing Company, LIC Beer Project, Night Shift Brewing, Port Brewing Company, and Societe Brewing Company.

According to ChurchKey, highlights include “ultra-rare kegs” of 4 Noses’ Port Barrel-Aged #2 BMF imperial stout, LIC Beer Project’s Both Sides of the Rainbow (a double IPA hopped with Belma, El Dorado, Mosaic) (side note: LIC really makes Belma shine), Night Shift’s Ever Weisse (a mixed-fermentation Berliner Ale with kiwi, strawberry, and hibiscus) (side note: I tried ordering this in Boston last year and it was sold out! Rude!), and Societe’s The Highwayman (Brett pale ale).

Get on this #ultrarare beam.

BrewDog Off-Premise Launch at Craft Beer Cellar

A year after opening its Ohio brewery, Scotland’s pugnacious BrewDog is launching in DC. Times have changed since Punk IPA hit the scene. Has the brewery changed with them?

Big Trouble in Little ChurchKey

Perennial and Fremont are two breweries capable of pulling off both deceptively simple, clean, light-but-flavorful beers and monstrous, rich, high-ABV booze bombs. Most breweries choose a lane. These guys are swerving all over the road, pretty much invariably to great success.

On Friday, ChurchKey will spotlight the heavier end of the spectrum from each operation. From Fremont, you can expect two B-Bombs and four bourbon barrel-aged Dark Star variants. (See the Smoke & Barrel blurb above for the skinny on those beers.)

The star of the show, however, is unquestionably a rare keg of Perennial’s Intentionally Indulgent, a tiramisu-inspired imperial stout “fermented on top of luscious chocolate sauce and steeped on cocoa nibs, vanilla beans, and Sump Colombian coffee beans.” Yes, please.

ChurchKey will also be pouring Prodigal, the closest that Perennial releases to the base beer for its pastry stouts.

Would you like to learn more about Prodigal and Perennial’s industrial pastry stout complex? Well, I wrote a whole article on that subject last March! (Also, for what it’s worth, 2019 Prodigal may be the best Perennial stout I’ve ever had.)

DC Brau & Cape May Pre-Savor Soirée at Free State

Last year, New Jersey’s Cape May Brewing and our very own DC Brau teamed up for a SAVOR pre-party at Bar Deco. At the time, they were set to debut two collaborations: Rosé du Gose (Brau’s first sour ale – a gose brewed with peach and strawberry purée) and the IPA L’attitude.

This year, we get… no new collaborations. Sadness. But let’s face it, we shouldn’t be greedy. There is good news, though: We do get another SAVOR pre-party!

This time, the breweries will move down the street to Free State. Brau will be serving a number of beers including its second sour ale, the as-yet-unreleased (and purple!) Lavender Lemonade Berliner Weisse. Also on tap: the return of Smells Like Freedom IPA, two Jameson barrel-aged stouts, and relatively new flagship IPA Joint Resolution.

Cape May will counter with a cranberry shandy, Mexican lager, and various other crushable things.

Allagash & Bells Tap Takeover at Lost & Found

What is there to say about Allagash and Bell’s? They’re two OGs from cold-weather states that have kept a place in craft beer drinkers’ hearts even as those consumers have turned into “What’s new?” zombies. Wait, do zombies have functioning hearts? I’m concerned about this metaphor. Also, I shouldn’t blurb in real time.

Anyway, Allagash and Bell’s. You love ’em. I love ’em. They have classics, and they’re still producing new ones.

On Friday, they’ll take over 25 taps at Lost & Found. One of those beers on draft is Allagash’s Darling Ruby, a grisette hopped with American varietals and brewed with grapefruit zest and juice.

Why am I singling out Darling Ruby? First of all, because it’s delicious. I’m on my second four-pack, which doesn’t count the two bottles Allagash sent me.

Why did Allagash send me two bottles of Darling Ruby? Because I was writing a six-thousand-word article on the beer and grisettes and the brewery’s pilot program and being treated like a VIP. It’s called Freshly Tapped: Allagash’s Darling Ruby. Give it a read!

LIC + PIG = LUV at the Partisan

If CANarchy hasn’t wiped charcuterie from the face of the earth, The Partisan will pair cured meats with six drafts from NYC’s buzzy LIC Beer Project.

SAVOR Friday Favorites at Jack Rose

Ten breweries: Allagash, Atlas Brew Works, Boulevard, Dogfish Head, New Belgium, Perennial, Port City, Ommegang, Right Proper, and Two Roads.

Two beers from each.

One happy you.

Country Boy Tasting at Craft Beer Cellar

Whenever I see the name Country Boy Brewing, all I hear is Bubba Sparxxx saying, “Though I am country, don’t get the wrong idea.”

That’s probably more an indictment of my character than anything else, but Mr. Sparxxx makes an applicable point: Country Boy may be based in Kentucky, an hour outside of Louisville, and they may make a blonde ale called Cougar Bait, and they may call themselves Country Boy, but don’t get the wrong idea. They also have one of the country’s best sour and wild programs.

That series is called Living Proof, and on Friday afternoon from 3:00 to 4:30, they’ll be pouring four offerings from it at Craft Beer Cellar. The H Street bottle shop will also have seasonal and year-round offerings from the brewery.

SAVOR After-Party at The Berliner

So… The Berliner. Have you been yet? I went a few weeks, and I would like to throw a hearty Draft Picks recommendation its way. Clearly a lot of thought and effort went into designing and building out this space. And on a nice spring day, with the garage windows pulled, it’s magnificent. The beers are a dollar or two a little than I’d like to see, but, hey, Georgetown. At least the draft curation is on point.

Case in point: their SAVOR after-party. For the occasion, the German-inspired bierhall is bringing Societe, The Rare Barrel, and Three Weavers. Three California breweries, and three of the more anticipated breweries to pour at SAVOR.

If you’re feeling left out of SAVOR, head here. According to the Facebook page, DJ Outlaw will be playing traditional German bierhall music, which is of course… um… funk, hip-hop, soul, and reggae.

The 8th Annual Birch & Barley Brewer’s Brunch

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 eighth year: It’s a winning formula.

This year, beer director Greg Engert  (aka Slim Necktie, aka Fermentable Suga Free, aka Thick Ross, aka lactobacill.i.am, aka Young Chug) has rounded up an another all-star line-up: Allagash, Bell’s, Maine Beer Company, Sierra Nevada, The Rare Barrel.

A beer from each of these breweries will be paired with an aperitif, four courses, and a dessert. Check the full line-up, and ogle at the founders, presidents, and brand ambassadors descending upon Logan Circle.

SAVOR Friends at Right Proper Brookland

Everyone loves Right Proper – great beer, great spaces, great people.

I’m not just saying this because I’m getting married at the Right Proper Brewpub in November and I was told they would knock $2 off my tab for every 500 positive words I wrote about them. I’m saying it because it’s true. OK, how many words am I up to right now? Whew, gonna need a lot more…

It also speaks to the quality of your beer and the character of your team when other brewers want to come hang out at your brewery during SAVOR.

Case in point: SAVOR Friends.

On Saturday, Right Proper’s Brookland facility will welcome Boulevard, Maine Beer Company, Allagash, 2nd Shift, and Fremont. These are good SAVOR friends. And like good SAVOR Friends, they’re bringing beer with them.

There are some bangers in the bunch. Boulevard’s Saison Brett! 2nd Shift’s Cat and Mouse, a wild ale with butterfly pea flowers! Maine Beer Company’s pale ale A Tiny Beautiful Something! And in the “um wut” category, Fremont’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Dark Star: Coffee Edition ’17 and Allagash’s Coolship Resurgam!

Allagash is also sending Darling Ruby. Did I mention that I wrote about that beer?

Saturday SAVOR Sendoff at Jack Rose

On Saturday afternoon, Jack Rose welcomes Bell’s, Lickinghole Creek, Maine Beer Company, UNION Craft, and Upland.

Crucial detail: From 2:00 to 5:00, these beers are 5 bucks. Turn up.

9th 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, mussel and clam pots, BLUEBERRY PIZZA, plus some upstart breweries called Allagash and Maine Beer Company. (I hope they make it!)

Everything on an Allagash and Maine Beer Co. event menu is a highlight, but Moselle is what will compel me to attend this brunch. Released in April, Moselle is a blend of lager, saison, and… actually, that’s it. Allagash literally combined a lager and a saison. And you know what? Even if I think I know what it tastes like, I need to know what it tastes like. And this is one of only three kegs to make it from Maine to DC.

In addition to Moselle, Pizza P will also have kegs of Allgash’s Copain (a foudre-aged session sour) and Maine Beer Co.’s unfuckwithable Woods & Waters IPA, amongst other treats from each.


Read Philip Runco’s “serious” beer articles and follow him on the Twitter.