Back in Black, Interlude, Corruption, Breakaway, Noble Rot, Kismet Saison, Kalifornia Kolsch, Total Domination, Ugly Pug, Good Samaritan, Raisin Apollo, Grumpy Monk, Velvet Rooster, DumpsterDog, Troegenator, Gilgamesh and Razor Wit. Great names for rock bands? Maybe. But I was not at a rock festival. No, I was at Savor, "an American craft beer and food experience."
It turns out craft beer brewing is on the rise in America. According to the Brewers Association, the industry has grown over the last decade from just a handful of small, locally owned breweries to more than 1,900 in 2011. The concepts related to craft beer and craft brewers are generally small brewers whose hallmark is innovation using historic styles with unique twists and the development of new styles that have no precedent. Interesting and sometimes nontraditional ingredients are often added for distinctiveness. And one of the most important factors is that craft brewers have a distinctive, individualistic approach to connecting with their customers.
Savor was definitely a great way for 75 of those breweries to connect with consumers. Brewery owners, brewers and representatives were on hand to pour beer, meet customers and share their stories.
Here are a just a few of my favorite brews from a long list of great picks. Retail prices are approximate.
The elusive Green Flash is the term that sailors use to describe the split-second appearance of a green glow on the horizon that only occurs at sunset when the weather conditions are absolutely perfect. Legend has it that those who witness the flash are blessed with good luck. I was blessed with great luck to sample the Rayon Vert from Green Flash Brewing Co. ($2.50 per bottle). The Belgian-style pale ale is made with a combination of hops and traditional malts and fermented with fresh ale yeast and Brettanomyces, which give the beer a horse-blanket nose. The light, slightly creamy mouthfeel has a musky body that holds tight to flavors of lemon citrus, pears and cloves. It finishes dry but has a wonderfully sour-in-a-good-way aftertaste.
After looking around D.C. and not finding any true local brews on store shelves or bar taps, residents Brandon Skall and Jeff Hancock decided to combine their talents in brewing and distribution to found the DC Brau Brewing Co. Today, they have a loyal following, and it's easy to see why. Their DC Brau Corruption India Pale Ale ($12 per six-pack) is served in cans and has a distinctive malty character up front but delivers a flavor uppercut of full hoppy goodness on the center of the palate. The dry, slightly bitter finish is classic.
The Allagash Brewing Co. began in 1995 on the outskirts of Portland, Maine, with just one employee, founder Rob Tod. Tod's mission was to bring Belgian-style beers to the attention of the American beer consumer. Today, Allagash has six year-round beers in its portfolio and several one-offs and keg-only releases. My favorite year-round is the Allagash Interlude ($14 per six pack), an "American Wild Ale" fermented first with a Saisson yeast for three days and then a Brettanomyces yeast for four to six months. Some of the beer is aged in French oak barrels and then blended with its stainless steel-aged counterpart to produce a very dry, crisp beer with notes of pear, nectarine and apricot on the front of the palate and a delightfully yeasty touch on the bone-dry finish.
The Boston Beer Co., brewers of the impressive Samuel Adams beer portfolio, may not seem like a craft beer producer, but that is exactly the vision that founder Jim Koch had when he founded the company back in 1985 and the vision he has held steadfast to since then. The Samuel Adams Grumpy Monk IPA (about $2.50 per bottle) is a testament to the craft beer culture. Made in small batches and sold as part of a "Hop-ology" pack, this IPA is a tad on the tamer side with a distinctive-but-not-overwhelming hoppy bitterness on the mid-palate. The citrusy tang and touches of tropical fruit on the finish adds an attention-grabbing dimension for an IPA.