Advancing the legacy of the Decatur Craft Beer Festival, SUDS prepares for its second year.
In 1998, Decatur’s now renowned Brick Store Pub was in its infancy and much of the beer we today take for granted wasn’t even legal in the state of Georgia.
Founders Dave Blanchard, Mike Gallagher and Tom Moore had a challenge on their hands — broadening the palettes of metro Atlanta beer drinkers (and their elected officials) — and found kindred spirits in the proprietors of Twain’s and Eddie’s Attic.
Though each was unique in their own way — Twain’s a billiards hall and Eddie’s a music venue — the opportunities presented by the public’s emerging interest in craft beer proved fertile common ground among them. Ethan Wurtzel, a co-owner of Twain’s, suggested a beer festival and the idea took hold.
In the quarter century since, the Decatur Craft Beer Festival has grown from its initial home on the Square to a sprawling downtown phenomenon serving thousands of people. And now, since 2022, it has a new name — SUDS (Simply Us Doing our Share) — and a new home at the city’s leafy and picturesque Legacy Park.
Scenes from the original Decatur Craft Beer Festival. PHOTOS: Decatur Craft Beer Festival.
Charitable giving has been a defining element of the festival since the beginning, with proceeds each year going to a variety of not-for-profit organizations and causes. Prior to its rebirth at Legacy Park, the event had raised and donated roughly $1.5 million.
Think of the impact — on both the community and the individuals that define it. For over 20 years, a diverse collection of community-minded organizations have received the kind of financial infusions that are the lifeblood of their work, including: the Decatur MLK Service Project; the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta; the Wylde Center; Poverty is Real; the Decatur Education Foundation; the Decatur Housing Authority; Woodlands Garden; the Decatur Arts Alliance; DeKalb History Center; DeKalb Rape Crisis Center; Literacy Volunteers of Atlanta; and the Decatur Makers.
And that’s just a partial list.
Now, operating as SUDS, they’ve doubled down on the idea of Simply Us Doing our Share by building their organization as its own nonprofit. Not only does this reinforce their commitment, it also allows brewers to supply beer to the festival as a tax-deductible gift rather than a marketing expense. That broadens the potential participation of smaller operations, further contributing to the event’s diversity.
This year’s recipients will be the nonprofits of Legacy Park: Legacy Decatur; the AJC Decatur Book Festival; the Decatur Education Foundation; Georgia Arborist Association; Global Growers; L’Arche Atlanta; Paint Love; the Frank Hamilton School; Wild Nest Bird Rehab; the Refugee Women’s Network; and the Wylde Center.
“The idea,” said Gallagher to Decatur Living magazine, “was ‘how do we create a craft beer experience, couple it with incredible food and the best bands available, bring people together for a good time and make sure all the money goes to nonprofits?’ It’s what we’ve always done.”
SUDS 2022 at Legacy Park. PHOTO: SUDS.
Come Saturday, October 28, they’ll do it all again with over 25 participating breweries, including Sierra Nevada trucking it down from Asheville. Plus, great food and great music to round out the day.
“Having SUDS here at Legacy Park is such a welcomed addition to the community bond we’ve been cultivating,” says Madeleine Henner, executive director of Legacy Decatur. “The beer makes it special, sure. But all they do on behalf of the community makes it extraordinary.”
Blanchard summarized the journey — for both the Brick Store and their evolving beer festival — in 2013, speaking to Beer Connoisseur magazine. “We knew we had a good concept and it’s evolved over the years. What was available in Georgia in 1997 when we opened is a whole lot different than what’s available now. We were lucky enough to be able to expand and evolve and sort of push the envelope and ride the wave to get way ahead in the beer game.”
And ahead they stay, building the next generation of Decatur’s premiere beer festival experience.
Not just drinking well, but doing their share.
SUDS 2022 at Legacy Park. PHOTO: SUDS.
COVER PHOTO CREDIT: Decatur Craft Beer Festival
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