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SAVOR Behind the Scenes: How the Brewery Selection Process Works

On Friday, May 9th and Saturday, May 10th, Washington, DC will once again host SAVOR. Seventy-six breweries will participate in the event. Here is how they got here.

Sixteen breweries are “Supporters,” meaning that by virtue of paying $15,000 as a “Supporting Partner,” or $5,000 as a “Supporting Brewer,” they bypass the lottery system that the Brewers Association (BA) has set up to choose the other sixty breweries. A list of these breweries is available on the SAVOR site, as are a list of the other benefits given to supporters, according to this PDF.

In 2014, 151 breweries entered the lottery for 60 spots. All breweries that enter the lottery must be members of the Brewers Association. Breweries that win the lottery are charged a fee to pour beer at SAVOR based on the amount of beer they brewed the previous year, ranging from $1,000 to $2,250. Entering the lottery is free. More details are available on the SAVOR site.

The lottery winners must be able to bring two beers to the event, along with a brewery representative. To ensure that no geographic area(s) is over-represented at SAVOR, the lottery is divided into eight regions:

Central

MN, ND, SD, NE, KS, MO, IA, WV, KY, TN

Great Lakes

WI, IL, IN, MI, OH

Mid-Atlantic

VA, MD, DE, DC, PA, NJ

Mountain

MT, ID, WY, UT, CO, AZ, NM, NV

Northeast

NY, CT, MA, VT, NH, ME, RI

Pacific

CA, HI

Pacific Northwest

OR, WA, AK

South

TX, OK, AR, LA, MS, AL, GA, FL, SC, NC

Note that the Central region looks like the Big East conference circa 2010, covering a large swath of the country, and the number of breweries on the west coast leads to fewer states needed to create a brewery balance in the Pacific and Pacific Northwest regions.

According to Barbara Fusco, Sales and Marketing Director at the Brewers Association, breweries are encouraged to bring specialty beers as opposed to flagships, but they can choose to bring any two beers they’d like to pour. However, if there’s a critical mass of a style, the BA may step in and ask breweries to choose a different beer to ensure a wider representation. If a brewery is chosen, but cannot attend, a new lottery is held without regard for region to fill that spot. This year, Choc Brewing was selected, but could not attend. Lagunitas took their spot in a special lottery.

Fusco writes, via email,

Once the beers are known, participating breweries send samples of their selected beers to the Brewers Association (BA), where a sizeable tasting panel encompassing chefs, Cicerones[®] [including Julia Herz] and BA staff provide input about candidate food pairings to the BA’s culinary consultants, Chef Adam Dulye, chef/owner of The Monk’s Kettle and The Abbott’s Cellar in San Francisco, and Chef Kyle Mendenhall, executive chef at The Kitchen in Boulder and Denver. Each chef also participates in the tasting panel, marrying their impressions with feedback from the panel to devise the food pairing menus. No food item is paired with more than six beers at SAVOR.

Societe Brewing, for example, is bringing “beers that are also generally representative of the beers that we like to brew and drink here in San Diego,” according to Mike Sardina, Ruler of the Underworld (Assistant Exec. Officer) at the brewery. Really. We asked him for his thoughts on the SAVOR process.

Suggestions or guidance as far as what beers to bring is not given. However, we have a working relationship with Chef Adam, and we essentially told him what we were thinking about bringing and asked for his feedback. So for us, we knew we wanted to bring The Harlot, and Adam was absolutely on board with that beer -- it is so versatile and easy to pair, but it is an extremely interesting and a rather unique beer (a pilsner-lager recipe with an ale yeast fermentation). Then, we were originally thinking of bringing The Pugilist, our dry stout. Adam said ‘sure, you could… but, when I think Societe, I think IPA. Bring one of your IPAs and it will be unlike any other IPA or any other beer at the event. It will get people talking.’ So, it was ultimately an easy decision for us to bring The Apprentice.

The above process is the how and why of the breweries and beers are chosen for SAVOR. Cheers, and welcome to DC.

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