Two standout beers, Bell’s Raspberry Wild One and Schafly’s Single Malt Scottish Ale, made the event especially memorable along with some unique food pairings. Black dresses, kilts and top hat and tails.
For two nights, adjoining high-ceilinged event spaces in Chelsea, the Metropolitan Pavilion and the Altman Building, once respectively the B. Altman Department Store and the other its carriage house, became an upscale beer festival as thousands of beer aficionados and foodies filled the enormous spaces to sample brews from 76 small and independent American breweries and sample gourmet eats paired to match152 brews.
And what an eclectic crowd! More than a few attendees were dressed for a night on the town in suit and tie or black dresses. Others wore blue jeans. One gent on Saturday night had on a kilt and another a top hat and tails.
Obscure brewers from the East, West and center of the country, as well as craft beer royalty, could be found on the floor pouring their wares. Among the industry leaders I spotted were Larry Bell of Bell’s Brewery, Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head, Dick Cantwell of Elysian Brewing, Steve Hindy and Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery and Kim Jordan of New Belgium. Also there: BA founder Charlie Papazian.
The $175-a-person ticket price, considerably more than an admission to a session of the Great American Beer Festival in which 400 plus breweries participate, may have been a deterrent to larger crowds, I suspect. And salons with guided, small-scale tastings were additional. The price tag was understandable. New York City costs are high.
The edibles by and large, was delectable, though just mouth-sized morsels, some repeated at various tables. Not a surprise since so many of beers represented were similar in style. There were 33 IPAs, 20 Belgian-style ales, 10 Imperial IPAs and 10 saisons. I can’t say I had the time to truly savor many pairings as others behind me waited to get a pour and a nibble of their own.
Two memorable beers stood out from the crowd. The first was Raspberry Wild One from Bell’s Brewing, a complex, flavor-packed Flanders-style red sour. The second, Single Malt Scottish Ale from St. Louis’ Schafly Beer, a 10.2 percent abv wee heavy brewed with Optic malt and aged in used Highland Scotch whisky barrels from the Glen Garioch Distillery. More like a wee dram than a wee heavy with notes of vanilla, smoky peat and caramel and orange peel.
It’s not easy to design a menu around beer. There’s a need for synergy between the food and the beer. And in many cases the matches were terrific.
Among the notable pairings I enjoyed were Cigar City’s Jose Marti stout with glazed short rib of beer with soft polenta and crispy leeks, Elysian’s Avatar Jasmine IPA with celery shortbread cookie, The Lost Abbey’s Deliverance with seaweed nougat with honey and sesame and Bronx Breweery Belgian Pale Ale with goat cheese cheesecake with crunchy caramel corn.
The SAVOR food menu was planned by the BA’s culinary consultant Adam Dulye, a James Beard Award-semifinalist and chef/owner of The Monk’s Kettle and The Abbot’s Cellar in San Francisco, who worked with a group of chefs and Cicerones specializing in beer and food pairings.
“When it comes to pairings, one of the key aspects that sets craft beer apart is the fact that there are multiple beer styles to complement and contrast nearly any food or flavor profile,” Julia Herz, BA craft beer program director, said in a statement. “This is evident both in the broad variety of styles that craft brewers served at SAVOR 2013 and in the palate expanding experience from the pairing menu.”
SAVOR 2013 marked the first time the event has been held outside of Washington, D.C., its home since 2008. It returns to the nation’s capital on May 9 and 10, 2014. Who’s going?