Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).
This past weekend’s SAVOR craft beer and food experience was just what I needed. As I mentioned last week, I had only attended the first SAVOR event and was hoping to see for myself how far it had come in the past few years. The Saturday night session I attended was rife with great people, great food, and some very cool beers and breweries from all over the country. I think everyone who is into beer should make time every now and then to attend an event such as SAVOR: something with a bit more focus than the standard beer fest, that can introduce you to new beers and breweries that maybe you’d never know about otherwise.
I’m not going to lose my head about how much fun SAVOR was. This week I’m going to run down the five six beers that made the biggest impression on me. The only caveat for this list is that these are all beers from breweries that aren’t available to us… yet:
Cerise Cassee (Cambridge Brewing Company, Cambridge MA): This was the second beer I tried after working my way through the line and into the Building Museum. Cerise Cassee wasn’t even one of the featured beers on the floor at SAVOR — Cambridge had brought it for one of the small-room ‘Sessions’ taking place during the weekend. I just happened to be passing a friend who had just left the session and he had some of the beer in his glass and offered me a sip. Cambridge Brewing broke new ground in America with Cerise Cassee; nearly ten years ago they set up a Solera-style barrel program in their brewery. Most commonly associated with Sherry production, going Solera-style involves keeping a vertical of Cerise Cassee in barrels, with the beer itself being made from a blend from these French Oak barrels. Cerise Cassee, with its intense cherry, nutty aromas and bracing sour feel, was an amazing way to get started.
Windowpane Series Double Wit Blackberry (Mother Earth Brewery, Kinston NC): Buzz online from the Friday night SAVOR session was high for this beer from North Carolina. When I got my chance at it, it did not disappoint. Double Wit delivered such a beautiful balance of rich Belgian-style Wit spice, blackberry, and wine notes from the Pinot Noir barrels it was aged in. Every bit of fruit was in harmony, and while it was full in flavor, it felt smooth and light on the palate. Next time I’m heading to North Carolina, I’m planning on visiting Mother Earth Brewery. You should too.
Kaffir Lime Wheat (Denver Beer Company, Denver CO): Denver Beer’s Graham Cracker Porter brought me to their table, but it was this treat that blew me away. The strong lime note provided such a great twist to the expected notes of a traditional Wheat Ale. Not the biggest beer of the show, nor the most outrageous by any measure, but if I could have a stack of it at the shop tomorrow I’d be happy.
Mélange a Trois (Nebraska Brewing Company, Papillion NE): A few attendees told me I needed to try this beer from the Nebraska Brewing Company. To be honest, I didn’t even know there was a Nebraska Brewing Company though I surely do now. Mélange is a bold Belgian-style Blond Ale aged six months on French Oak Chardonnay barrels (sourced from California, though they wouldn’t tell me from whom — intrigue!). The big Belgian yeast character melds perfectly with the wine notes and even some tannin from the oak, which gives the beer a touch of wine-like dryness. Delightful.
Sexual Chocolate (Foothills Brewing, Winston-Salem NC) & Mayan Mocha Stout (Odd Side Ales, Grand Haven MI): I couldn’t decide what my favorite dark beer was this year at SAVOR, so I’m listing these two together. Sexual Chocolate was a surprise: I’d actually headed over to their table to try their People’s Porter which apparently had run out. The surprise is that Sexual Chocolate is a seasonal beer with a huge reputation; no one expected to see it unannounced like that. The cocoa-infused beast was rich with sweet, dark fruit notes and chocolate but perfectly drinkable. Tiny Odd Side Ales was another attendee recommendation. Their Mayan Mocha Stout was inspired by Mexican coffee and uses chocolate, cinnamon, nutmeg, and habanero peppers to create something really special. For a Stout it was light on its feet, which helps the palate accept the flavors all happening at once, and allows for the heat from the habanero to bloom on its finish. Keep an eye on Odd Side Ales — their beers are smart and creative, and they’re just starting to get some national attention.
Thanks to everyone who stopped to say hello during this year’s SAVOR. Until next time.