Southern Brewers Festival, 2014

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 - by Fil Manley

The Southern Brewers Festival in Chattanooga isn’t just any festival.  It’s not huge, with attendance just over 15,000, but with a strong focus on microbreweries, it attracts connoisseurs for two days of sampling some of the country's best small batch beers.

This year over 50 microbreweries brought over 100 premium ales and lagers.  

Founded in 1994 and sponsored by Big River Grille and Brewing Works, the Southern Brewers Festival raises money for local charities with this year's proceeds going to Chattanooga Kids on the Block and the Chattanooga Community Kitchen

One of the nice things about this festival is the blend of good beer and good music.
  The lineup this year was well thought out, with a blend of bluegrass and jam music complementing each other nicely.

Attendance seemed strong this year, despite a stifling heat-wave and heat indexes at 100.  Even so, the hula-hoopers were out in force, as were the drinkers and dancers, grooving to bands like Soulive, Moe, Greensky Bluegrass and Gov’t Mule.

Someone came up with the best idea ever, which was to park a 77-foot yacht directly behind the stage.  The Blue Moon (Yacht) normally runs paid cruises and private events on the Tennessee River, but during the festival, it served as green room, watering hole, viewing perch and rest area for artists.  

The upper deck was the perfect place to view the band from (even though it was from behind) and I ran into Jeff Styles there during Gov’t Mule, smiling incessantly with a Go-Pro strapped to his wrist.

If you love festivals like I do, you go to a lot of them, and after 10 or 20 or a hundred, you get used to it.  It’s hard not to get jaded, especially with Riverbend right here in Chattanooga, and Bonnaroo 45 minutes to the west.

This little festival though reeks of Chattanooga in a good way.  I’ve lived in Chattanooga for 20 years, and I’ve seen so many changes.  As I listened to Gov’t Mule play what was a fantastic set from the upper deck of the Blue Moon, I couldn’t help but ponder how lucky (and surreal) I felt to be on a beautiful boat, 10 feet behind a stage, drinking beer for charity and listening to fantastic music.  It somehow seemed like a very Chattanooga thing to do.

On a more somber note, I would like to note the passing of long time Gov’t Mule crew member Brian Farmer.  Farmer was a well-known and loved guitar tech and luthier who started working with Warren Haynes and the Allman Brothers Band in 2001.  A native Tennessean, in his earlier life Farmer attended Luthier school, worked in repair shops and music stores, and got his big break when he was hired as Johnny Cash's guitar man.

Farmer worked hundreds of shows all over the world but had his last gig here in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  He passed away at his home outside of Nashville this past Sunday.

Happy Trails from Chattanooga, Brian.  Say hello to Duane.

~Fil Manley

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