Beer and Food Review: SAVOR!

On May 30th 2009 in Washington DC from 7:30-11pm in the National Building Museum was one of the most popular events in the city that night.  Some of the best dressed people from the Mid Atlantic and surround states took part in an event that has begun to change how people look at food and drink.  No, this wasn’t a wine event but rather an event dominated by that two thousand year old beverage made from barley and hops…..yup beer.

I entered Savor thinking what kind of attempt was this going to be at elevating beer and food, so I was very interested in the turn out and the atmosphere.  As I looked around the Museum I was very impressed although taken back by the dressy nature of it all.  Most in business casual attire but a lot of attendants in suits and in fact some in formal wear with the occasional jeans and shorts sprinkled in (i.e. me) and as most people who have been to the average beer event know the dress is anything but business casual unless your coming from work.

So after the initial surprise of the dress at the event, I refocused on what I was really there about and that was the beer with the food pairings.  Now most times I head to a beer event there are sections to get food but this event was a showcase about how fine dining and beer should come together.  As I made my way around the event there were so many great beers to be had but how was the food?  I liked the menu for the event it offered enough variety for the different styles of beer and for different peoples palates. 

Some of the highlights from the menu were the Maytag Blue Cheese, Spicy Lamb Burgers, Chicken breast a la Blanche de Chambly, Mini Black forest cake, Hibachi style grilled Salmon Skewers, and the Mini Steakhouse sirloin sliders.  Keeping in mind that a catered event of this nature you typically don’t have the budget to offer more than 20 or so items and Savor did a fantastic job of coming up with a nice variety. 

Most of the night was spent pairing the beers with the food, walking from section to section and table to table each table was set up with 3 or 4 breweries the foods items their beers were to be paired with and a cheat sheet set up for us to view what should be paired with the select beer.  Now most of the pairings suggested were good but there was also the occasional pairing I didn’t like such as the Deschutes Brewery Black Butte Porter with the Maytag Blue Cheese but with that said as you tasted the different food items you began to guide yourself to the correct beers or at least what your palate was telling you would be great with this beer. 

Half way through the event it seemed to be going smooth, people were enjoying themselves Draft Magazine was doing a “Red Carpet” photo shoot which added to the classy ambience.  The place was packed not sure of the numbers but looked to be well over one thousand people in attendance.  It got a bit hot with the crowd but the staff working the event kept the food items stocked and fresh.  Savor in addition to the menu items offered a raw bar for oysters which was a nice touch. 

Savor also offered several breakouts or “salons” that offered a more in depth discussion about a certain topic such as “Craft Beer and Cheese Pairing Taste Off!” or “Ancient Ales in the Modern World” I went to the Craft Beer and Cheese pairing taste off which was absolutely amazing and I will have more on that in a separate installment.

Overall there were some things about Savor that I would change such as I would try and integrate more beer into the menu items, also get the brewers more involved in what I felt was the arbitrary nature of the food and beer pairings as most of the brewers I approached didn’t really know or cared what went with their beer.  Also the crowd size, in the past Savor was broken out in two days, which would be more beneficial with the popularity of the event.  But with that said this event couldn’t shine a better light on the world of food and beer and I feel I would be doing this Savor review an injustice if I failed to mention some of my favorite beers and food pairings from the night and with that said here is my top 3 pairings of the night.

3) Brooklyn Brewery’s Local 2 Abbey Ale paired with Open Faced Tenderloin Panini:  The nutty ripened fruit of the Abbey ale really played nicely with the grilled and spicy flavors of the tenderloin.

2) Flying Dog’s Woody Creek White Belgian Style Wit paired with Chicken Breast a la Blanche de Chambly:  Wow, this almost was my favorite pairing of the night until I had the number one pairing from the night.  The orange, bready, wheat spicy aromatics just complimented the savory and sweetness of the creamy cheesy chicken breast.  This will be a pairing I make in the future.  

1) Flying Fish Brewing Co’s Abbey Dubbel paired with Moroccan Spiced Lamb Burgers:  Finally my favorite pairings from the night.  Flying Fish is fast becoming one of my favorite breweries I can not get here in MA.  They make solid offerings and some of the seasonal and “one off” beers are some of the best and sometimes overlooked beers I’ve come across.  As I let this offering warm up a bit some caramel, toffee, notes became apparent.  Luscious aromas of dried fig and nuts come through with a slight heat from the alcohol.  The Moroccan Lamb had a nice spiciness that really contrasted and did a dance with the maltiness of the beer.  I really like this offering together and maybe one day I can get some Flying Fish in MA but according to rep that night “you’ll be getting our beers in MA when I get some Cambridge Brewing Company beers in NJ” which last I checked CBC’s distribution ranged no more than a few miles from the brewpub, oh well guess I’ll be visiting my in-laws in the NY/NJ area a bit more.


Frank aka Franchise