WASHINGTON — If you’ve tried to make plans with a beer-lover this week and received nothing but the cold shoulder, don’t expect this weekend to be any better. Chances are, they’re all booked solid with activities celebrating SAVOR and American Craft Beer Week.
In its seventh year, SAVOR brings craft beer and food pairings from 76 brewers to the nation’s capital Friday and Saturday at the National Building Museum. And while the brewers are in town, local restaurants are opening their doors and inviting them in for tap takeovers, pairing dinners and the happiest of happy hours.
Julia Herz, publisher of craftbeer.com and craft beer program director at the Brewers Association, says SAVOR celebrates the evolution of craft beer in the U.S.
“We were headed in a direction of mostly globalization of our beer brands, and locally-producing breweries were not having a lot of traction and success,” Herz says.
In 1978 there 42 brewing companies; now, there are more than 2,800. But over the years, craft beer has grown in other ways. It’s become more sophisticated, and these days, more people are thinking outside the bottle and placing their beer next to their plates.
“What we’ve got today is beer-lovers that are thirsty for not just going down the street to try out what’s at their local brewery and touring the brewpubs and the like, but we also, as beer-lovers, want pairings with food,” Herz says.
That demand is what SAVOR satisfies. Brewers will pour bourbon barrel-aged brews alongside small plates of charred masala cauliflower and dates; imperial stouts will be served with foie gras and lingonberry; and dark beers will wash down sticky toffee pudding — just to give you a taste.
“Craft beer has helped beer reclaim its place at the dinner table,” Herz says. “What craft beer brings to the table, that wine does not, is a harmony of flavors that is just unique to what malted barley can do. You’ve just got an incredible array of potential for harmonies and matching of intensities.”
You don’t have to join the 2,000-plus attendees at SAVOR to experience craft beer’s growing popularity on the local culinary scene. SAVOR offers the recipes — and pairing suggestions — for its small plates from previous years.
Herz says the continued expansion of craft beer means good things for the economy — especially in the D.C. area, which has seen a recent beer boom. As local beer’s success is reflected on the shelves of retailers, she says, the area can expect to see an increase in jobs and tax dollars.