Young and Hungry

Straight Dope on SAVOR Part 3: How Breweries Are Selected


Last week we wrote a series of posts about SAVOR, the craft beer and food pairing event planned for this June at the National Building Museum. After tickets sold out on Wednesday in just ten minutes, we decided to contact the Brewers Association for a response. Tammy spoke with Craft Beer Program Director Julia Herz about the record sell-out and the BA's vision for the event and Events Director Nancy Johnson about how ticket sales were handled.

Following on our recent online discussion about how breweries are selected, Tammy also asked Johnson about the lottery process. Here are the goods on why a handful of regional breweries, including Flying Dog, Starr Hill, and Hook & Ladder, are not on the list this year.

The facts:

  • For the purposes of SAVOR, the U.S. is divided into eight regions. Of all the breweries that apply to participate, eight are selected by lottery from each region. This is done to ensure the event has a national character.
  • The Mid-Atlantic region includes DC, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York.
  • This year the Pacific (including California and Hawaii) and Mid-Atlantic regions had the largest number of applicants. There were 22 Mid-Atlantic breweries who applied for eight spots, giving each a 27.5% chance of getting in through the lottery.
  • The following Mid-Atlantic breweries got in to SAVOR: Clipper City (Baltimore, MD), Old Line Brewers/The Brewer's Art (Baltimore, MD), Evolution (Delmar, DE), Stoudt's (Adamstown, PA), Troegs (Harrisburg, PA), Weyerbacher (Easton, PA), Flying Fish (Cherry Hill, NJ), Blue Point (Patchogue, NY), and Brown's (Troy, NY). No, you haven't miscounted–there are more than eight, due to an additional "wild card" participant, drawn to fill a spot when another region has less than eight breweries interested in participating.
  • Out of the 22 breweries that did not get one of the 64 spots at SAVOR this year (by lottery or wild card), 12 were from the Mid-Atlantic region.
  • The Brewers Association reserves 10 additional spaces (and special promotional privileges) for "Supporting Breweries" who get to bypass the lottery if they decide to fork over the extra fees. As of last Thursday, there are two Supporting Brewery spots still available for this year's event.

Even though it is obvious that more breweries will be interested in an event that is occurring nearby, over 50% of rejected breweries coming from the same region still seems disproportionate. When asked if the Brewers Association had plans to modify any of the region's definitions based on demand and how many breweries are in each state, Johnson responded, "We are always open to a better way, but we spend a lot of time on this and it works well. It's a fair model."

As Tom Cizauskas (Yours for Good Fermentables) and J.T. Smith of Flying Dog Brewery discussed in our aforementioned online discussion about brewery selection, we asked Johnson about the possibility of granting Brewery of the Year winners automatic bids for events like SAVOR. She answered, "It's the first I've heard of it and I wouldn't commit, but it's certainly something to consider. Right now I probably wouldn't look to tie the two together, but we are always open to considering new things."

Photo by craigemorsels used under a Creative Commons license

  • MTD

    Um, Troy, NY, is Mid-Atlantic? Live and learn . . . yes, I know they've DEFINED it into the Mid-Atlantic, but when I eyeballed the list, it never occurred to me that Brown's was "charged" to the Mid-Atlantic group.

    While it DOES seem like a lot of locals got turned down, you'd have to expect that more locals would APPLY, because attending would be more cost-effective for them than for some size-equivalent brewery in Oregon or California.

    But from the "don't cost nothin'" category, a couple of extra spots for the locals wouldn't kill anybody. Take the group of rejected locals, and randomly pick two more from the group.

  • Drew

    Nice follow-up piece. While it would be great to have more local brewers represented at Savor, it's good to know how the attending brewers were selected. And at the end of the day, Savor will be a great event. I gotta say, though, I always figured Dogfish Head was on the outskits of what would be considered "local" to the D.C. area, so being grouped together with New Jersey and New York is a surprise. Hopefully, Dogfish Head will consider picking up one of the remaining slots for "Supporting Breweries." If they don't, we'll have to see what they have in store for DC Beer Week.

  • Rich

    Drew, Dogfish Head has been on the Supporting Breweries since the beginning.

  • Drew

    I meant Flying Dog. My bad.

  • Ben

    I for one would rather see breweries come to SAVOR that are not distributed to the DC area. If you let in more Mid-Atlantic breweries than other regions, then it just turns into a fancy regional beer fest like many countless others (NoVa Brewfest, World Beer Fest, etc). I want to try beers that I can't get around here! Not that there aren't great beer to be had in this market, but it's nice to try something new.

  • Brad

    I didn't even realize until this piece that Flying Dog is being held out of SAVOR.... even though they're local AND the country's Best Mid-Sized Brewery (they won the gold medal in that category at GABF last year). Yikes.

  • MTD

    Come on, be fair -- they're not being held out. They didn't get a spot in the lottery for the region. I don't know how big a check they'd have to write to be in the inner circle/supporting breweries/circle of trust, but I suspect -- as a business matter -- it may not make sense for them. That's THEIR call.

    75% of the attendees are from DC/VA/MD. Does Flying Dog REALLY have to promote themselves to that group?

    I speak as a beerhead who think that FD's Raging Bitch is one of the best beers I had the last year, easily. But I've HAD most of their beers.