Thursday, June 18, 2009

Savor weekend- Washington D.C./North Carolina

The last few weeks have been kind of crazy so it took me a bit to get this post up. The weekend of May 30th was the greatly anticipated Savor Craft Beer and Food Festival in Washington, D.C., at The National Building Museum. I had purchased tickets to the festival for the best man at my wedding, Alex, as a present for being in the wedding. I didn't want him to have to go by himself so I thought I would be nice and buy myself a ticket as well. After the weekend I had before in New England I wasn't sure I would be able to top it with this but I think it did.


I flew into Charlotte on Thursday afternoon and was greated by this as soon as I walked off the plane-

I knew that this was going to set the tone for the weekend. I was quickly scooped up by Alex and we headed to the warehouse of the beer distributor he works for to pick up some samples for the Belgian beer tasting he was holding that night. While we were there I was also able to get a few North Carolina treat that we don't have available in FL. I was able to pick up some stuff from French Broad, Thirsty Dog, Fort Collins and a ton of other stuff. After that we headed over to Brixx Pizza to have some lunch and enjoy New Belgium's Fat Tire which I haven't had in quite a while. It was nice to see a place like Brixx Pizza have such a great selection of beers.

After enjoying the Fat Tire and getting to have one of my favorite root beers, Thomas Kempner, on tap we went to Alex's house to get ready for the tasting. I grabbed a few beers that I had brought from home out of my bag and Alex grabbed a few beers he had been saving and we headed on over to Vitner Wine Market. Jeremy at Vitner is a homebrewer and is quite knowledgeable about all the beers they carry. At Vitner you can either buy the beer or wine and take it home or for a small corkage fee you can enjoy it at the market. They have a selection of cheese and other accompaniments to enjoy in the market with your drink. About 15 people showed up for the tasting. The tasting included St. Bernardus Blanche, St. Bernardus Abt 12, Abbaye des Rocs Brune, Val Dieu Triple and Bezelbuth. All of these are available in FL and if you haven't had them yet they are some of best beers in the world. After we had finished with the tasting we stuck around and had a few beers that we had brought along. We had a great home brew that Jeremy had made. If you ever make it to Vitner and Jeremy is working ask if he has any homebrews on hand you won't be dissapointed. We followed that up with what ended up being the highlight of the evening if not the whole weeknd, Allagash's Gargamel.

This is a limited release of only 500 bottles. I am lucky enough that my mom works next door to the brewery and was able to get me some. This is an amazingly balanced sour ale. The rasberry is not too sour and the vanilla adds a nice sweetness. The thing that made this for me was the graham cracker finish. If I had any beer to introduce people to sour ales with this would be the one. After we finished up at Vitner we headed over to Brixx Pizza again for some more beers with the highlight being the Alesmith Speedway Stout. This is one of the top stouts in the world and for good reason. Great coffee aroma and nice roasted coffee and dark chocolatey taste. We headed home after that to get a quick night sleep before heading off to D.C. in the morning.


Getting up at 5:30am after the night we had the night before was a bit rough but we did it. We grabbed some Starbucks and hit the road. We got about an hour into the drive when we realized we needed some gas. Unlike South Florida their aren't gas stations off of every exit. We learned that very quickly. As we finally found one off an exit the car finally gave up and ran out of gas right at the entrance to the off ramp. Once we bought a $12 gallon container to get some gas we quickly were back on the road again. We finally rolled into the DC area around 2pm and headed over to the Dogfish Head Alehouse in Fall Church, VA just on the edge of DC. I have always been impressed with Dogfish Head's beer and was greatly looking forward to trying some of the beers that I love on tap finally.

We were waited on by the bartender, Chad, who got us started with our first beer that we had been looking forward to the, 75 Minute IPA. This unfortunately was not the 75 Minute that had been brewed as a special batch but was just a mixture of the 60 Minute IPA and the 90 Minute IPA. It was still really good and even though it wasn't what we really wanted it was still a great beer. Alex and I both order some lunch. I had the Slow Roasted Roast Beef sandwich and Alex had the special Chicken Salad sandwich. Both of our meals were amazing! This was one of the best roast beef sandwiches I've ever had. Once we finished up the meal we decided to split a 120 Minute IPA. This is dangerously good on tap. Very little alcohol taste for a beer that is 18%ABV. We had decided that we were just going to take it easy and finish things off with the 120 Minute but then we started talking with the bartender Chad. Chad asked if their were any other beers that we hadn't had on tap before. He then preceded to bring us over samples of all of them. We were able to try Midas Touch, Black and Blue, Palo Santo and Immort Ale. The only one that I thought was better in the bottle was the Midas Touch but it was still very good. We finally rolled out of the Alehouse and headed toward the hotel. Once at the hotel we decided to take a quick nap and rest up for the nights activities.

My friend John had been taking part in the Beer Advocate pubcrawl for most of the day and they were ending at the sold out Lupulin Reunulin at R.F.D. bar in downtown Washington D.C. Alex and I headed down to meet up with John at R.F.D. and just enjoy the beer selection at the bar. When we got there John hurried us into the the back room to the Lupulin. We were waiting for people to ask us to leave but all that happen was that we were given beers and told to enjoy. This was a great event. Not only did we get to have great beers but they were also presented by the brewers. We got to try the following beers:

Dogfish Head- Hoppy Onion(special experimental beer)
Lost Abbey- Carnevale
Avery- Mahahraja
Allagash- Hugh Malone
Vintage 50- Head Knocker
Port Brewing- 3rd Anniversary Pale
Russian River- Consecration
Dogfish Head- Palo Santo Marron
Avery- Mephistopheles
Vintage 50- Wee Heavy 2002

It was great to hear all these brewers talking about their beers and to see how they all had a great affinity for each other and the beers they create. It was also very cool to see other brewers that were in town for Savor there supporting each other. Greg Koch from Stone, and Ken and Brian Grossman from Sierra Nevada were in attendance and from time to time would get on the mic to give their thoughts on what the other brewers were talking about. One of the highlights was getting to hear Ken Grossman talk about starting Sierra Nevada and the inspiration he got from Anchor Brewing. The event was the perfect place to actually get to talk to the brewers in a relaxed atmosphere. The audience got to ask questions as well which ranged from humorous(Asking about the brewers martial status) to very business(how they plan to keep make their products with great ingredients while keeping the price reasonable). The whole event was very informative and a great time. Once we had finished up the event Alex and I headed out to check out the White House at night. I must tell you this is the way to see Washington. It is nice and cool outside and you don't have to deal with any crowds. After we walked around for a bit we headed back to the hotel for a good night sleep for the main event of Savor the next day.


We started the day off rather late by heading over to Chevy Chase Wine and Spirits. We were told this was the place to check out to pick up some individual bottles of stuff. They had some great finds that I haven't been able to get in Florida. I picked up some stuff from Troeg, Founders, Brew Dog and River Horse.

After Alex and I had finished raiding Chevy Chase we grabbed some lunch before we started our afternoon of checking out our nations capital in the daylight. It has been probably 10 years since the last time I had checked out the sites in D.C. It is still as impressive as the first time I saw it. You forget about all this countries great history until your are actually standing infront of the Declaration Of Independance and the Bill Of Rights. Once we had finished seeing the sites we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the main event of the evening, the Savor Craft Beer and Food festival. We jumped on the metro and headed to the National Building Museum for what was sure to be an eventful night.

After a short wait in line we grabbed our tasting glasses and programs and headed out on to the floor. We headed straight for the Firestone Walker table to checkout their beers. We tried both the Union Jack IPA and the Double Barrel Ale. Both were great and paired well with the Mini Sirloin Sliders. The beer selection on the floor was beyond belief. The food pairings for the most part were great as well. The oyster bar had some of the best oysters I've ever had. Huge, fresh and succulent. Their were a lot of beers that had a ton of buzz around them, that I had been looking forward to having, that didn't quite live up to the hype. I was pleasantly surprise by a bunch of beers that I had never heard much about. The highlights of the evening were:
-Arcadia Cocoa-Loco Triple Chocolate Milk Stout- one of the the best milk stouts I've ever had but unfortunately the brewery has no plans to distribute to Florida
-Blackfoot River Single Malt IPA- This beer has the great smokiness from the single malt with that nice warmth you get from a good single malt scotch. This is different then just being stored in scotch barrels.
-The Bruery's Saison Rue- A great representation of a well rounded saison
-Captain Lawrence Xtra Gold American Triple- One of the smoothest triples I've ever had. The 10% alcohol is untraceable.
-Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale- With all of the extreme beers available at Savor this was a great change. This is a beer I could drink every day... if it was just available in Florida.
-Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold- This was another nice change for the palete. A nice dry crisp lager. Another beer that would be a good session beer.
-The Lost Abbey Cuvee de Tomme- Angel Share was the big hype of Savor but I enjoyed this much more. This was a nice barrel aged sour ale.
-Moon River Rosemary Swamp Fox IPA- This was the biggest surprise of Savor. I never thought a beer made with rosemary would work this well. The rosemary worked well with the hops in the IPA. This would be great paired with a nice roast.

It was great to be able to have the chance to try all of these beers that you have been hearing about for so long. Some held up to the hype and others were slightly disappointing. Over all the people I got to speak with and beer and food were all a great combination. No other beer festival I've ever been to even remotely compares to this. This is a group of people who truely care about the beer and not just getting drunk. I would give Savor two big thumbs up and would recommend it to anyone else that loves good craft beer to take the trek up to Washington D.C. for it.

The whole weekend was a ton of fun. I wanted to thank Alex for making it a great weekend and to John for helping to get us into Lupulin. Nothing better then enjoying good beers with good friends.

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