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Sips and nibbles at Brewers Association’s NYC SAVOR event

The crowd at Savor 2013 in New York City

The crowd at Savor 2013 in New York City

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.

Judging by the crowds, SAVOR, the Brewers Association’s craft beer and food-pairing event, held in New York City last week for the first time, was a success.

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.

Bell's Wild OneSchafley ScotchTwo 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?



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Craft brewing industry defender award goes to Empire’s David Katleski

David Katletski at the award presentation.

David Katletski at the award presentation.

David Katleski, owner of Syracuse’s Empire Brewing Co. and the president of the New York State Brewers Association, received the Brewers Association’s F.X. Matt Defender of the Industry award the annual Craft Brewers Conference in Washington, D.C.

The award, presented March 27 by Dick Cantwell, president of Elysian Brewing in Seattle, Wash., is named for the late F.X. Matt of Utica’s F.X. Matt Brewing Co., producer of Saranac beer.

Named in honor of F.X. Matt, the late president and chairman of the Utica-based maker of Saranc beers,  F.X. Matt Brewing Co. – a champion of small brewers until his death in 2001 – the award is given annually by the Brewers Association, a Boulder, Colo.-based industry group, to someone in the beer industry who has championed small brewers.

Katleski founded Empire as a brewpub in Syracuse in 1994 and in 2010 also began producing beer in Brooklyn.

He also founded and is president of the New York State Brewers Association, a trade group representing about 100 craft brewers in the state. Last year, Katleski figure prominently in winning several brewer-friendly New York state laws, including a measure that gives tax breaks to brewers using ingredients grown in the state, another that protects small brewers in their contracts with distributors and a roll-back of some tax increases brought about by a court decision.

Katleski also represented the New York brewing industry at Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Wine, Beer and Spirits Summit in October, where he voiced brewers’ concerns directly to the governor

“This star of brewing shows what it takes to survive and flourish in a crowded field,” Cantwell told the audience of about 6,000 brewers and allied industry people at the presentation. He cited the excellent quality of Empire’s beers, its use of locally produced ingredients in the brewpub’s food and its use of renewable energy.



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Brewers Association Scherer Award Given to New Belgium’s Bouckaert

New Belgian brewmaster Peter Bouckaert wins Scherer Award.

New Belgium’s Peter Bouckaert wins Scherer Award.

The Brewers Association, the trade group representing America’s independent brewers, gave its 2013 Russell Scherer Award for Innovation in Brewing to Peter Bouckaert, brewmaster at New Belgium Brewing Co., Fort Collins, Co.

The award, presented March 27 at the BA’s annual Craft Brewers Conference in Washington, D.C. was first given in 1997 to honor Russell Scherer, who died in 1996 at 38 years old. A creative force in brewing in the nineties, Schehrer was a founding partner and original head brewer at Colorado’s first brewpub, Wynkoop Brewing Co. He was also one of the first brewers to produce mead, doppel alt, cream stout and chili beer.

Dick Cantwell, head brewer and co-owner of Elysian Brewing in Seattle, in presenting the award noted that Bouchaert has been experimenting with fermentation techniques and unusual ingredients, and cited New Belgian’s La Foliie sour beer.

Bouckaert joined New Belgium in 1996 after 10 years at Belgium’s Rodenbach Brewery, known for its sour beers . He studied brewing at Hogeschool Gent.

“Who am I to stand here? I have an amazing bunch of co-workers,” Bouckaert said in accepting the award. Bouckaert, a native of Belgium, said the United States “is the most inventive country in beer.”

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