Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).
After a one-year detour to New York, the Brewer’s Association’s SAVOR craft beer festival is back in the District for 2014. For beer geeks like me and many others planning to attend, waiting for the list of participating breweries is becoming a bit of an occasion.
While “supporting” partners and breweries are mostly known about ahead of time, the reveal of the lottery results determining who will fill out the 76-brewery lineup has become something of a beer holiday. This year’s SAVOR attendees were announced early this week, showcasing a huge amount of change and potentially a coming-out party for several states — including Virginia.
65 percent of attending breweries at this year’s SAVOR are different than those at the 2012 event, when it was last held in DC; compared to last year’s event in New York, that number rises to 70 percent. Atlas Brew Works and Bluejacket will represent DC, while Evolution, Flying Dog, and Heavy Seas fly the banner for Maryland.
Virginia is set to make waves at SAVOR 2014, however: five Virginia breweries will be attending and showing off their beers—Alexandria’s Port City; Richmond’s Strangeways and Hardywood Park Craft Brewery; Lickinghole Creek from Goochland (I swear I’m not making any of that up — have fun, ARLnow commenters); and Devils Backbone of Lexington. The tremendous growth of Virginia breweries could start to make national waves as brewers, buyers, and press from across the country take the opportunity to experience them at SAVOR.
Beyond our local representatives, the list of SAVOR attendees is full of breweries whose wares I’ve wanted to try for a long time. Among them are Funkwerks of Fort Collins, Colo.; Spokane, Wash.’s No-Li Brewhouse; Kuhnhenn Brewing of Warren, Mich.; and Great Raft Brewing from Shreveport, La., co-founded by DC Beer Curmudgeon Emeritus Andrew Nations along with his wife Lindsay (proud of you guys!).
Who else am I’m going to make sure to visit at SAVOR this year? Well, the Bell’s table is always worth waiting for, as is Dogfish Head’s. I’m really excited to see Port Brewing back at SAVOR and I may make a beeline for the Surly table as soon as I get inside — everything I’ve tried of theirs over the past year or two as been great. Are you planning to attend? If so, which breweries are you looking forward to most? Let’s hear about them in the comments. Before that, though….
What I’ve been drinking this week:
SweetWater 420 Extra Pale Ale: I love Extra Pale Ales, and the one from this Atlanta brewery has been a rare treat around these parts for years. That changes this week, with SweetWater beginning to distribute to Virginia. 420 is a textbook example of a simple recipe executed at the highest level — Cascade and Centennial hops contribute floral notes and pinpoint focus in this light, easy-going Extra Pale Ale. It’s been a long wait for SweetWater; enjoy it.
Cigar City Humidor Series Cedar IPA: A gift from a friend. This was a wild ride; the Humidor Series matches a style with a wood with the intension of making the beer a pairing for cigars. This IPA is aged on cedar, and boy, does it come through. I’ve heard a lot of conflicting opinions on this beer, and now I understand—the aroma is almost reminiscent of burnt popcorn, and could be enough to put most people off. If you’re the kind of person who walks into a cigar shop, takes a deep breath, and says “yes – more”, this is the beer for you. The cedar adds a tannic tinge that is distracting, but I liken it to trying a big tannic red wine by itself; you have to imagine it in the setting it was intended for. I wish I had a second bottle to pair with a cigar.
Sly Fox Odyssey Imperial IPA: At 8.4 percent ABV and 90 IBU, this should be a booming, palate-destroying hop monster, but it’s not. The Odyssey is a yearly release where the team at Sly Fox focuses on some of their current favorite hop varietals; I don’t know which ones are in this year’s, but the balance of this beer is wonderful, with a spicy bite that builds through the finish. Available in the area now, and well worth trying out.