This weekend, beer enthusiasts will descend upon the Altman Building for SAVOR, a craft beer and food pairing event traditionally held in Washington, D.C., that’s coming to New York City just this once. “It’s been a really neat adventure for us to jump to New York for this year,” says Julia Herz, the craft beer program director of the Brewers Association, which puts on the event. “We’re returning to D.C. next year, but New York City is a great market and a great beer-loving town.” Which is why, she says, this is a not-to-be missed opportunity.
The impetus for SAVOR, explains Herz, was a desire to showcase small craft brewers and their role in moving the beer industry forward. “We have two sides of the rainbow in the beer industry right now,” she says. “On one side, we have the localization of beer, a movement happening in the States. The other side of the rainbow is globalization. The 76 brewers that will be at SAVOR are only small brewers. There will be no imports or big commercial operations. We want to highlight the advancement of craft beer and the role of the small brewers in that process.”
It’s also a way to show just how much beer is out there: “We document 140 beer styles,” she says. “There’s so much diversity. No longer does light American lager satisfy every beer-drinker in every occasion. SAVOR shows how far it’s gone and where it is.”
Herz emphasizes, though, that this is not so much a traditional beer festival as it is an opportunity to see how beer pairs with food. “I always say craft beer picks up where wine leaves off when it comes to pairings,” she explains. “This event has really showcased how well craft beer pairs with food. Ingredients in craft beer lend themselves so much to pairing. You get malty, grilled, roasted, smoked, and baked flavors that harmonize with similarly flavored foods. Bitterness calms down fat, and carbonation scrubs the tongue and gets it ready for the next bite.”
SAVOR enlisted chef Adam Dulye, the chef and co-owner of San Francisco’s Monk’s Kettle and Abbot’s Cellar, to create 46 total dishes to pair with beers on offer, and Dulye sought to showcase diversity: “One pairing might focus on complementary flavors and taste elements; another might highlight what opposite characteristics can do,” says Herz.
Even beer nerds who don’t care about the food will find something to love in the lineup, though. “The brewers and owners–the faces really behind these beers–will be here doing the pouring,” she explains. “All eight regions of the country are represented. And whether you’re a beer beginner or beer geek, you’re going to get beers you can’t get in this region. You’re going to get cult classics and hard-to-come-by beers. You’ll get unique craft beers that aren’t as attainable or widely distributed.”
She cites in particular beers from 3 Floyds in Indiana, Colorado’s Avery Brewing, The Brewer’s Art in Maryland, and Cigar City from Florida, as well as rare beers from more easily found breweries. “Lost Abbey is bringing Deliverance, which is a blend of Angel’s Share [a brandy-aged strong ale] and Serpent Stout [aged in bourbon barrels],” Herz says. “Stone will have Enjoy by Imperial IPA. That one can be hard to find because they put a shelf-life on it and ask distributors to pull it off the shelves when it expires. Bell’s will have a raspberry wild ale aged in oak barrels.”
She also recommends exploring breweries in NYC’s backyard–like Ommegang, Brooklyn, Captain Lawrence, Empire, New Borough, Port Jeff, Saranac, and Bronx–and seeing how they’ve paired their beers to food.
Many of the key players will conduct educational salons, discussing everything from what beers best complement oysters to what goes into making barrel-aged fruit beers. Those sessions, she says, are capped at 50 people, which should give enthusiasts a chance to pick the brains of the brewers.
SAVOR happens tonight and tomorrow from 7:30 to 11 p.m. Tickets are still available, though most of the salons, which cost extra, are sold out.