This year the Brewers Association held the Savor Craft Beer festival in NYC. They bill it as a “An American Craft Beer & Food Experience” and in that regards it did not disappoint. I was fortunate enough to attend the Saturday evening session and it was a truly an experience. One of the greatest things that sets this event apart from many other beer festivals is the brewers themselves are there pouring their beers, leading salon sessions and just mingling with the crowd
Well let’s get to the details and my thoughts.
First the good:
- Very classy event, compared to other festivals. No pretzel necklaces here.
- Having the brewers and brewery owners pouring beer and mingling around instead of just local beer reps and volunteers was great. Allowed one to get some great insight into their processes and passion.
- The beer and food pairings were out of this world. The pairings all worked extremely well and were quite tasty.
- Not overcrowded! This is a big one for me, most festivals of any type are so crowded you feel like cattle being herded. However, at Savor there was plenty of room for everyone.
- Very short to almost no lines. I attribute this to being a classier festival. The attendees were true beer lovers, there for the appreciation of the craft and food. No one (at least that I saw) was power drinking running around to drink as much as possible. Usually at festivals people get a beer then go straight to the next line for more.
However, with the good of any event comes the bad and the areas that could use improvement. These items are not meant to mock the organizer as events of this size are never an easy undertaking and take a lot of hard work and dedication so my kudos go out to the staff at the Brewers Association.
With that said here is the list of areas where there is room for improvement, in my opinion.
- This was a very pricey event at $170 for a General Admission ticket. This was high and the event should have been in my opinion $70-$80. However, I feel this is a sticky situation because the high price ensures that level of clientele which they are aiming for.
- First, the guide lists brewers by table group however no clear signs in venue to table groups. Numbered signs that were high up and visible would have been nice when trying to navigate the venue.
- Second, the tables had signs listing the beers and the food items. These could have been improved in a couple ways. For starters make them bigger and include information on the beer itself on them too and increase the font size. Instead of stands on the table raising them up a little so people could see them a litte more easily would have been.
- Program Guide:
- Would have been nice if it included beer descriptions. The information in the guide matched the signs, beer name and then pairing notes.
- Attendee guide online said there was an area for taking tasting notes, I envisioned a different layout with a place right next to the beer/food notes in the guide to add my own notes.
- Would be nice to get into the 21st century and have a smartphone app.
- The social media campaign was weak. The were has no clear hashtag for the event that was promoted. It turned out the hashtag was #SAVOR but a more specific one would have been more beneficial, something like #SAVOR2013 or #SAVORCB2013 to avoid confusion with other events using the Savor name.
- An untappd badge would have been a nice marketing touch. Untappd marketing and promotion has proven very successful on spreading the word due to the number of beer lovers using it to keep track of the beers they drink.
- Cell Service
- This one is not the organizers fault at all. Sadly cell service in the venue was spotty. Wi-Fi would have been nice as attendees like to check in beers on Untappd, instagram, tweet, etc.
- Location and Sessions:
- The event is set to move back to Washington DC where its been since it started next year. I think this event should be taken on the road and move around the country. By doing this it will truly help promote beer by showing how versatile a drink it is and how well it pairs with food to a wider variety of people.
- Saturday afternoon session, this would be a smaller invite only session geared towards chefs and restaurant owners to help show them how versatile is for beer pairing. Figuring out who to invite would be tricky but this would be amazing.
These suggestions and critiques come from my experience having attended many food and drink type events and from my own professional meetings that I work on. I always critique my own meetings for learnings and look at ways to improve and feel that sometimes those outside of the process can provide the most information.
Well, after all this was a beer event so I am going to give you my five favorite beer and food pairings from the event, in no particular order.
- Oakshire Brewing from Eugene, OR with Frederic C. Noir which was a Saison with Green Oolong Tea aged in Pinot Noir Barrels with Brett paired with Green Tea Panna Cotta with with an Almond Cranberry Sable.
- Crux Fermentation Project from Bend, OR with their Tough Imperial Stout paired with a Black and Tan Brownie with Butterscotch and Pretzel Bite
- Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project from Denver, CO with Surette paired with a Goat Cheese Cheesecake with Crunchy Carmel Corn.
- Full Sail Brewing Company from Hood River, OR with their LTD 03 Bohemian Pilsner paired with a micro arugula salad and pickled strawberry vinaigrette Strawberry gelee with prosciutto.
- New Belgium Brewing Company from Fort Collins, CO with their Paardebloem paired with Roasted Peach on Brioche with Fried Pancetta and Dandelion Greens.
However, all the pairings I had were excellent. For a full list of the beers and the pairings offered you may visit the Savor website. Also, as a disclaimer I stayed away from breweries and beers I have had before. I wanted to try stuff I don’t usually get to have here in NYC and I certainly didn’t get to try all the stuff I wanted.
All in all it was a great event, tons of fun and I highly recommend the event. I wouldn’t say to make it a yearly tradition due to the price but its something you should at least experience once if you are a true beer and food lover.
And that’s … From My Mellin!