Despite the bounty of events that this week holds, SAVOR doesn’t start in earnest until Friday night, when the doors of the National Building Museum open on the Brewers Association’s beloved gala. Smart attendees have already done their homework and planned which breweries to hit first, hopefully using our handy dandy brewery profiles and Can’t Miss list (coming soon!). But for readers whose interest in the event skews more intellectual than gustatory, here’s a bit of admittedly slapdash analysis of the beers being poured this year.
First off, an admission: the data used for this exercise were not complete and may contain an error here or there, due to either incorrect pulls from the Internet or, more likely, human error. But it’s a free, jokey piece on a local beer blog, so we suspect you'll deal. Also, before you ask, yes I’d love to take a longitudinal look to figure out trends from year to year, but frankly I didn’t have the time or willpower to do more than one year’s worth of data entry. We can see changes next year, assuming I can find my spreadsheet by then. Or, if you want to provide us with data sets from previous years, you can always reach out via firstname.lastname@example.org
So then, the beers. There will be 152 of them served this weekend, which means you probably shouldn’t drink them all. Assuming a three ounce pour, that would translate to about 38 twelve ounce bottles or 28.5 sixteen ounce pints. With an average ABV of about 7.4%, this theoretical complete game would translate into about 11 bottles of 13% ABV wine. All of which is to say, you’re going to have to be choosy. Here are a few ways folks can whittle the list down.
Maybe you only like certain kinds of beer. Chances are you can spend a happy, full evening drinking only your favorite beer style. Anyone familiar with the distribution of entries at GABF won’t be surprised to learn that the most popular category is IPA, with its 24 representations accounting for 15.8% of all SAVOR beers. If you expand it to other hop-forward styles like imperial IPAs and triple IPAs, that brings you up to 22.4%. Factor in session IPAs and pale ales, and you’re at 27%.
What if you’re not a hophead? Perhaps Belgians are your thing. Clean fermentation Belgians (saisons, tripels, dubbels, quadrupels, etc.) make up 19.7% of SAVOR’s offerings. When you toss in traditionally Belgian-style sours, you’re up to 30.9%. And speaking of sours, there will be 19 total from all different traditions (including American and German), amounting to 12.5% of the night’s beers.
We could go on forever like this: only 4.6% of SAVOR beers are lagers. 23% are obviously dark beers. Suffice it to say, there should be plenty of everything for everyone, unless you really love, like, hefeweizens, in which case, you probably live a life devoid of complete satisfaction or too many choices.
So many of SAVOR’s attendees, whether DC residents or out-of-towners, were born/raised in or affiliate with another part of the country. In a nod to one’s roots, a drinker might choose to prioritize breweries near their hometowns.
Right out of the gate, you should know that many states are not represented at SAVOR. Breweries might not have applied, they might have lost the lotto, who knows. Sorry, folks from: AK, AL, AR, AZ, IA, ID, IL, KS, MS, MT, ND, NE, NH, NM, NV, OK, RI, SC, SD, WV, and WY.
The rest of the states have at least one brewery appearing at SAVOR. CA tops the list with its nine participating breweries, which makes sense, given that its home to nearly double the number of breweries as second place Washington. Brewery-heavy states like NY, CO, WA, OR, and MI are all bringing at least four for the party.
It gets interesting when you consider SAVOR representation as a share of the breweries from a given state. This year, for those states in attendance, we’ll see an average of 5.4% of all the breweries in a given state. Obviously, more brewery-dense states have lower yields; for instance, even with nine breweries in attendance, CA is only sending 2.4% of its breweries to DC. Other busy states have similarly low yields: NY, 4.2%; CO, 3.4%; OR, 2.2%; WA, 2.0%. States that are relatively oversampled include VA (8.2%), FL (6.1%), and MD (8.8%). It gets really screwy with places like KY, with 3 of 15 breweries attending, meaning 20% of their brewing culture will be showcased. But that’s how it goes with small numbers.
It might, therefore, be better to think about regions. The nearby South Atlantic and beer-soaked Pacific have the largest number of breweries coming to SAVOR (17 and 18, respectively). But to get a sense of the SAVOR participation rate, compare the percentage of the nation’s breweries in a region to the percentage of SAVOR’s breweries to which it’s home.
East North Central
West North Central
East South Central
West South Central
Now you can tell who’s oversampled (Mid-Atlantic, South Atlantic, East South Central) and who’s undersampled (New England, East North Central, West North Central, West South Central, Mountain, and Pacific). And then create good-natured rivalries. Go, fightin’ East North Central!
ALCOHOL BY VOLUME
If all you wanted to do this weekend was get drunk, you made a horrible, costly error when you bought SAVOR tickets. But smart drinkers who know their tolerance might want to consider the alcohol they’ll be consuming before digging in. Ranging from 3.5% to 14.2%, the beers you drink will have a major impact on the night you’ll have. And it should go without saying: be safe, and don’t drink and drive.
Hopefully, attendees know their styles well enough to be able to anticipate the approximate ABV of a beer without looking. It’s a dangerous thing to drink a few stouts that you think are 5% and that end up being 9%. A few notes on styles with decent representation at SAVOR:
-Most of the beers in a given style are right on par with the guidelines. IPAs, for instance, average 7.0% ABV, within the BJCP-allowable 5.5%-7.5%. Same goes for the 8.8% Imperial IPAs, smack in the middle of the 7.5%-10.0% range.
-This year, the 9 porters being poured are, on average, almost equally as strong as stouts (8.2% vs 8.3%). So if somewhere along the line you were told that stouts are stronger porters, be aware.
-Other potential surprises include stronger brown ales (7.5%) and the huge ABV range for SAVOR’s sour/wild ales (3.5%-10.1%).
And finally, for those who need to view everything through the lens of regional rivalries, let it be known that the lowest octane beers are coming from West South Central (5.9%) and that the West North Central is bringing the strongest (8.6%). I blame the weather.
So there you have it, a long-winded analysis of SAVOR beers that’s guaranteed to be of limited use. Again, if it’s helpful resources you’re after, check out our brewery profiles and Can’t Miss list. See you on the other side, readers.