Photo Courtesy of Southern Brewers Festival

Photo Courtesy of Southern Brewers Festival

Per Matt
In less than a week, the Chattanooga Riverfront will overflow with more than 75 craft beers at the Southern Brewers Festival!

From 2 pm to midnight on Saturday, August 22nd, more than 40 craft breweries will be featured at Ross’s Landing in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Live music at the 21st annual beer festival will be performed by Flow Tribe, Hard Working Americans, The Motet, Lotus and Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles. Expect a rocking good time down by the Tennessee River.

Getting ready for the festival, National Programs and Events Manager Katy DeJonge previews the event:

As the National Programs and Events Manager, please describe some of your responsibilities.
– “I work as the National Programs and Events Manager for the CraftWorks Foundation, which is the charitable arm of CraftWorks Restaurants and Breweries. CraftWorks owns and operates close to 200 brewery restaurants across the country, including Big River Grille, which is the presenting restaurant of Southern Brewers Festival. I help our restaurant teams coordinate large-scale charitable and volunteer activities — basically any event that has over 50 volunteers or will raise over $10,000.”

“It’s basically an event planner position, but I help make sure that our communication is clear with the nonprofits and vendors that we are working with through these activities, manage all financial aspects including payments and ticket sales so they don’t need to be run thru the restaurant, and make sure that the event runs smoothly. Our restaurants host all kinds of fun community activities, so I help with end of school year carnivals for low income schools, back to school backpack filling events, fundraising golf tournaments, holiday dinners on Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, Mustache Olympic events for local charities, tapping parties, and — of course — beer fests.”

Please tell me a little about the background of the Southern Brewers Festival. How did it get started?
– “21 years ago, the brewmaster and staff at Big River Grille really felt like there wasn’t much in Chattanooga, regarding hand-crafted beer. They wanted to incite a change, and educate and engage the community in craft beer, which happens to be their specialty. The result was a party in their parking lot, which has grown tremendously in popularity and become over the past 21 years to be known as one of the best beer festivals in the South.”

What would you say this event is best known for?
– “If you ask each attendee who walks through the front gate, you will probably hear one of two things: Great Craft Beer and the Music. We are a different type of beer festival in that we provide a wide variety of beer selection, but also provide really great, nationally known music talent. When I look at attendee surveys post event, the question of ‘Why do you attend Southern Brewers Festival?’ is always split down the middle, very evenly, between the two.”

Photo Courtesey of Katy DeJonge

Photo Courtesey of Katy DeJonge

Is this the oldest beer festival held in Tennessee?
– “I actually don’t know the answer to that one. We have to be close, if we aren’t the oldest. What do you think is the secret for its longevity? Passion and team work. Without a doubt. Those two things have enabled the creation and execution of a top level event that provides experiences and memories for attendees that they want to recreate. To expand, I think that the passion of the people who started this event have relayed that passion onto current committee members. We are lucky enough to have some of the founders of the event still helping, namely Clay Gentry, now a CraftWorks Regional Brewer but was the Big River Brewer at the time the event started, and George Parker, who books the music for the event. They have kept the same passion which drove the initial intent of educating the community about craft beer, but have been able to allow us to change some aspects of the original event that has enabled it to grow and be better executed for larger audiences. I have a great team of CraftWorks employees that help coordinate the event: They bring a wealth of knowledge of how to market to the community, as well as make sure that we are creating and delivering a unique experience that makes people return year after year.”

What’s new for the event in 2015?
– “For many years, people have asked for a larger variety of beers on the VIP pier. We’ve made it happen this year! There will be select breweries, in addition to Big River, on the VIP pier this year. Additionally, we’ve got token packages available online for purchase prior to the event. If you purchase ahead of time, you will scan your ticket at the gate and we will hand you your tokens right there, so you won’t have to wait in another line to get your tokens. You can start sampling the minute you walk thru the gate! We also have one additional presale event at our Old Chicago at Northgate Mall. This is the Wednesday before the event, and gives attendees the ability to buy a discounted ticket and discounted tokens right before the event itself.”

How would you describe the event to someone who hasn’t experienced it before?
– “The energy is unreal! So much fun. I don’t even get to drink at the event, but walking through the crowd, you just have so many happy people who are laughing, enjoying a beverage, and dancing to the music. And the views across the river front are unreal. You really can’t beat it. It’s a blast.”

Forty different breweries will be attending this festival. How were they chosen?
– “Actually, we have 50 as of today. We really focus on hosting breweries that we have relationships with and host in our own restaurants (on the Old Chicago side) as well as local breweries. It’s important to us that people have the ability to try a beer that they can find locally, but may not have tried before. Big River was once a small local restaurant with beers people hadn’t tried before, as well. We want to help others build their audience. The craft-beer community is one where if one succeeds, we all succeed.”

As a two-day festival, what can attendees expect?
– “We are actually back to a one-day festival this year. Last year, we did two days to celebrate our 20th anniversary. So, people need to make sure that they are there on Saturday!”

What’s one aspect of the festival that people may not be aware of?
– “We have great charity partnerships that help execute this event. The local Chattanooga Knights of Columbus chapter coordinates all of the beer pourers for the event. The Chattanooga Community Kitchen and East Tennessee Chapter of Make a Wish are coordinating our other volunteers. We couldn’t do this without the help of their people!”

The proceeds of this event benefit the CraftWorks Foundation’s signature programs. Can you tell me a little about those?
– “As I mentioned above, our restaurants across the country do many things with local charity partnerships. Signature programs really condenses about 20 different events/relationships/local grants that we provide. I’m not sure that you have the time to go into significant detail, but I welcome anyone to visit our website for more details.”

Are tickets still available?
– “Absolutely! And we still have a limited amount of VIP tickets as well. Gate prices are $30 for GA, $125 for VIP access (VIP includes unlimited pours for beers on the pier and complimentary food). Both types of tickets are sold online and also will be available at an even lower price at Old Chicago next Wednesday ($20 GA).”

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
– “Southern Brewers Festival is finally legal! Come help us celebrate our 21st birthday/anniversary!”

For More Information:
Southern Brewers Festival Website
Southern Brewers Festival Facebook
Southern Brewers Festival Twitter