In the past, Savor has been held in Washington D.C. This is the first year that the event was held in New York City. My husband and I love Manhattan and try to visit there at least once every year or two. It was about time for our trip, so we planned it around SAVOR.
SAVOR is billed as an event that is memorable for both craft beer lovers and foodies. Since we are both, we were especially excited to attend. Because we had never attended a SAVOR event in the past, we weren’t sure exactly what to expect and therefore bought tickets for both nights. Learning from past events, you can’t/shouldn’t try to drink everything in one night and attending a festival over a 2-day period allows you to sample everything on your list without ruining your evening or the next day.
Ticket prices are extremely expensive. Quoting directly from savorcraftbeer.com:
$170 for Grand Tasting (one evening, Friday or Saturday)
- Craft beer and food (small plate) pairings—a variety of food items and two-ounce tastings of craft beer
- The opportunity to meet and talk with many luminaries and innovators of the craft beer world
- A commemorative tasting glass
- An event program with room for tasting notes
- An exit gift (a bottle of beer, of which there were 3 varieties (Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence, the SAVOR collaboration: New York Limited, and something I can’t remember).
I don’t mind spending a lot of money for an exceptional event. In fact, we spend a ton of money for amazing beer and food all of the time. Our dinner the night before Savor was at Scarpetta, our favorite restaurant in New York City. Owned by Scott Conant, and serving the best classical Italian I have ever eaten in my life, it definitely isn’t light on the wallet.
But, if I am spending $170, it better be worth $170.
The event was held in a gorgeous location. The main room where the majority of the brewers were set up was simply beautiful. The sponsor room was less sophisticated but still . However, the wait staff was exceptional. Food did not run out. Once a tray began to dwindle, the wait staff was literally there immediately to replace with fresh options. And more importantly the staff made corrections on the fly. On Friday night, at the outset of the evening, there were no garbage cans. All garage cans were behind the brewers. So after eating a sample, there was nowhere to put the used plate. Within an hour, there were garbage cans around the perimeter of the room. In addition, on the first night there were no water stations. The only way to hydrate was to use the water on the tables that was for rinsing. On the second night there were multiple water stations around the room.
The chefs attempted to pair beer and food in a unique way. The overall quality of the food was good. In fact, almost everything I tried was delicious. However, there were many multiples of food varieties. Most food options were repeated between 5 - 7 times. The good news was that if you loved the taste of something, such as the grape wrapped in pistachio-covered goat cheese, you could eat it at 5 different stations without looking like a pig. The bad news is that some pairings ended up working better than others. Also, there really wasn’t enough food in my opinion. Even if you ate at each station you visited, and sampled the cheese, chocolate, and oysters, the food consumption didn’t equal a meal. In fact, both nights, we went and ate a snack after SAVOR.
Meet the Brewers
One of the highlights of this event, according to the SAVOR website is the ability to interact with brewers. However, much like any other festival where brewers are present, the ability to speak to a brewer is not the same thing as actually speaking to a brewer. I guess what I am trying to say is that in order to keep from being rude, you can’t stand at a station and have a real conversation with a brewer. There are other people who are waiting to try beer. Please know that people do, but that isn’t my style. In fact, many people would stand at a station and try both beers, both food pairings, and attempt to have a personal conversation with whomever was pouring without a care about the others who also wanted to taste samples. Maybe they are right and I am wrong. But I just can’t be that guy. If you are like me, your conversation goes like this…
Allagash: “I hope you like it.”
The End. Or.
Oakshire: “Try the Frederic Noir.”
Oakshire: “How was it?”
Okay, so I got the opportunity to talk to people who work at those two breweries. But neither was the head brewer. In fact, in looking at all of the staff at both Oakshire and Allagash, I can’t find a picture of either person on their website. So who did I actually speak to? Perhaps if I had purchased a ticket for a Salon, which added an additional $25 I may have gotten the opportunity to chat with a brewer, but I didn’t, so I don’t know. Events that promise the opportunity to speak to a brewer promise just that. An opportunity, as they require the brewer to be in attendance.
On a side note…I also overheard a conversation between 3 suited men. I’m not sure who they were, but they were discussing their responsibility if/when people got too close to Sam Calagione, the brewer at Dogfish Head. The conversation ended with them being prepared to remove people from the event if they were found to be bothering Sam. In fact, the conversation didn’t end there. It ended when they saw me listening. Then they moved away.
And now onto the reason I write this blog. The beer. There were over 70 breweries represented at SAVOR. Each brewery provided 2 beers to sample. The samples were supposed to be 2 oz. but no one really stuck to that. The breweries were evenly spread out between well-known, larger breweries and smaller, less well-known ones. I always find that to be a great idea. That way people are always able to find things that they have never tried before. We started with some oldies but goodies, Lost Abbey, Firestone Walker, Bell’s, and Founders. All were spot on delicious beers. Then we moved to some breweries we had never tried before. Some were exceptional finds, like Oakshire and Crux. Others that we had tried before also stood out. Crooked Stave, Avery, and Cigar City continue to produce great beers. Many of the beers we sampled for the first time though were average. In the first night, we were able to visit and sample from almost every brewery that we wanted to. Mind you, we didn’t hit them all. But if we walked by and said, “Let’s try that,” we did.
The problem arose on Saturday night. By 9:00 (the event began at 7:30), Founders was out of beer. By 9:30, so was Three Floyds. And as the night wore on, more breweries ran out. If we had only purchased tickets for Saturday night, we would have been extremely disappointed. Breweries like Founders and Three Floyds are big enough and have been around long enough to know how to make beer last for a 2-night event. And yet, they didn’t.
So, what’s my overall consensus on SAVOR? I am still a bit up in the air.
The venue was incredible.
The beer was good, bordering on great. Good for both the beginning and expert beer fan due to the large variety of breweries represented. You were bound to find a new beer, a new brewery, or a style you loved. However, some breweries ran out early.
The food was good. What I ate was delicious. I am sure it would have been difficult to create a new pairing for each beer, but that would have made it better. I also understand the need to keep the portions small, but they were miniscule. There wasn’t even enough time with some of them to pair. You would pop the food in your mouth and it was gone.
Connecting with brewers – I suppose it is what you make of it.
Tickets – way overpriced.
Right now, I am mostly of the opinion that the event was good, but overpriced. I can tell you that we won’t be attending SAVOR again. It was a good festival, but there is no need for a repeat. Even if the ticket prices were lower, I’m not sure we would feel the need to attend again.
My suggestion if you are considering going is to only purchase a ticket for one night, and make it the first night. The event is returning to DC next year. Last year, the tickets were not as expensive. The good news is that the breweries and beer styles were posted online prior to the event and I believe prior to ticket sales. If the price goes down, and you see beer or breweries that you are interested in trying, wait for that list and then make your decision.
*Oops. I forgot to take pictures at this event. I apologize.