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What the Hell is Going On in DC's Beer Scene This Week? SAVOR and SAVOR Week, Explained

A spirited conversation with a beer director this weekend raised an important, and unfortunate, question for me: what if the DC beer scene, for all its beer availability, beer bars, events, breweries, etc. is growing smaller, not larger; more insulated, not less? DCBeer has been spending a lot of time covering SAVOR the past month or so, but it occurs to me that maybe not everyone knows why we’ve been doing that or even what SAVOR is. That theory is something that we’ll have to dig into as a site soon, but for now, in the spirit of getting more people interested in our beer scene, here’s a look at SAVOR, SAVOR Week, and a bunch of related questions.

Are you into the DC beer scene? Do you have friends who you wish were more into beer but aren’t? Maybe share this with them and get them onboard to take advantage of big beer opportunities between now and Sunday.

What is SAVOR?

SAVOR is a two night “American craft beer and food experience” put on by the Brewers Association, the trade group representing small, independent, and traditional brewers. It takes place at the National Building Museum on June 3 and 4. SAVOR pulls together 70 some odd breweries from all across the country, which each bring two beers apiece. Each beer is paired with one of about 60 small plate dishes, and the pairings are intended to be complementary. Many head brewers and brewery owners are on hand to pour their beers and chat about them, and this is a good chance to meet folks like Kim Jordan (New Belgium), Sam Calagione (Dogfish Head), and Rob Tod (Allagash). In addition to walking the main floor and trying the 140+ food and beer pairings (plus oysters, cheese, and charcuterie), there are also salons throughout the course of the night that focus on specific topics (but that also cost $35-40 on top of the $135 SAVOR ticket).

What is SAVOR Week?

SAVOR Week runs from May 30 (today!) through June 5. It’s the week that precedes, and includes, the SAVOR main event. Basically, SAVOR Week is just a jam-packed slate of beer events, many of which feature beers you can’t normally get the rest of the year. Because there are so many brewers and brewery staff (and owners) coming in from out-of-town, DC’s major craft beer bars tend to plan full line-ups of events to both show off what our scene can do and to be good hosts to all of these out of town guests. Said out-of-town guests also are happy to send their beers to DC for the week because 1. they can show off their own brews, 2. justify coming out earlier in the week and hanging in DC, 3. (for some) scout out the DC market and see if this is somewhere they’d like to distribute someday.

Why are area beer nerds talking about SAVOR and SAVOR Week?

This is something a lot of DC beer nerds have on their calendar every year. Lots of folks coming into town, bars pulling out all the stops, tons of events to go to, tons of rare or out-of-market (or both) beers. It’s a bit of a beer bacchanalia and arguably one of the two biggest weeks of the year for our beer scene.

Is this the same as DC Beer Week?

Good (and common) question! No. DC Beer Week is a separate beer week from SAVOR Beer Week. This year it runs from September 24-October 1, but usually it’s in mid-to-late August. DC Beer Week is much more a celebration of the local beer scene and emphasizes local breweries. This is one of the reasons you won’t see a ton of local breweries having events this week; they’re keeping their powder dry for DC Beer Week or any other week where they don’t have to compete against out-of-town breweries that have a bit of an advantage because of novelty/scarcity/curiosity.

As an aside, this is also different than American Craft Beer Week, which is also run by the Brewers Association, and is a national week celebrating, and advocating for, you guessed it, American craft beers.

Why not just have DC Beer Week and SAVOR Beer Week together and not have this confusion?

Another common question that we don’t have time to get into fully, but suffice it to say the weeks have differing focuses so cramming them together is kind of like putting a dog and a Stegosaurus in a sack and shaking it up.

Where can I find a list of SAVOR Week events?

Not to toot our own horn, but we have the most comprehensive SAVOR Week coverage out there, bar none. You can find all of our coverage here. The calendar is here. Feel free to add our Google Calendar to your own via this link. As you can see, next week is nuts. I wasn’t kidding.

What can I expect at these events?

By and large, SAVOR Week features tap takeovers. Sometimes it’s 4-6 beers from 4-6 breweries. Sometimes it’s 20-25 beers from 1-2 breweries. But in general that’s the format these events take. There aren’t a lot of beer dinners this week, though there are a ton of brunches on Saturday and Sunday. Some events have some food specials (two different Taco Tuesdays, for example, at Jack Rose and Smoke and Barrel). Others have different hooks (e.g., cigar pairings, also at Jack Rose for the Stone event on Thursday). But this isn’t the most creative week of the year for beer events, generally speaking. It’s long lists of beers from breweries you can’t normally get.

I haven’t heard of a lot of these breweries. Who the hell are these people, and where are my local breweries?

ICYMI the first time, these are out-of-town breweries who will be pouring at SAVOR. They’re bringing their beers in via DC’s gray laws. Your local breweries will be out and about drinking with these people too. Although look out for new collaboration releases from 3 Stars and Port City.

Do I have to pay to go to these events?

By and large, no, you don’t. The vast majority of events are free admission and pay as you go. There are a few ticketed events (Birch & Barley’s annual Brewer’s Brunch, for example) if you’re looking for a special occasion though.

Are tickets to SAVOR still available?

They are for Friday night general admission (and most salons) and Saturday night, if you want to purchase a ticket that includes the "Developing the SAVOR Menu" or "Craft Beer and Girl Scout Cookies" salons, but general admission isn't available. but not for Saturday night. This is kind of amazing. SAVOR used to sell out in about an hour, both nights, all salons. There was a healthy secondary market for tickets. The fact that we’re less than a week out and there are still tickets available would’ve been laughed at as unheard of as recently as three years ago. Tickets are $135, exclusive of any salons.

Why are tickets to SAVOR still available?

There are a lot of theories about this. We touched on our theories in this edition of The Beerbag, but for now The Washington Post’s Fritz Hahn has a pretty good take here on it if you’re interested.

Which breweries are going to be at SAVOR and how can I find out more about them?

Here’s the list of SAVOR breweries, the beers they’re bringing, and the food pairings. You can find out more about all of these by checking out our SAVOR profiles. That’s right, we profile every single brewery, beer, and pairing that will be there. Yes, it’s a lot of work. Yes, we’d like you to read them.

I don’t like (or, alternatively, I fucking love) the breweries that are at SAVOR, how were they selected?

Here’s our very own Jake Berg, in a piece from two years ago, answering just that question. As far as we know, the process hasn’t changed much.

Should I go to SAVOR?

That’s the $64,000 (or $135 question). It depends on how flush with cash you are and how much you love beer and food pairings. Personally I think I’d take that $135 and hit a bunch of events during the week rather than putting it all on one night, but I do think SAVOR is worth going to at least once for most beer nerds. For casual beer fans, nah, probably not. It’s hard to get $135 in value out of the event if you’re not interested in chatting with brewers or meeting your beer idols. I’ve had a good time at SAVOR in the past, but, full disclosure, I’ve never gone without a media pass and I’m not sure I’d shell out $135 for any beer event at this point.

I’m not going to the big show; what are some SAVOR Week highlights?

Be sure to check our Twitter feed (and the #dcbrews hash tag) throughout the week. We’ll also post here to do some nightly previews with big events. Thursday is definitely the big night of the week, with the most events and some of the biggest and most notable. Those events will also draw some of the biggest crowds.

In general, check out these spots’ lineups, this is where the bulk of the action is:

But I’m not a beer nerd. This all sounds like it’s for beer nerds.

We all start somewhere. If you’re into checking out the DC beer scene, this will showcase a lot of the best it has to offer in terms of beer lineups, opportunities to meet brewers and professionals, etc. It will also offer some big crowds, which is a double-edged sword. It can make for a fun atmosphere, but also no one really likes drinking in a crowd. Check out the calendar for the nights you’re free and see if anything piques your interest. Take a flyer on a lineup that looks interesting and give it a go. It’s great to grow the scene, and we’d love to have you (or your friends, so share this post widely)!

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