IF YOU GO
What: Beer Over Dirt.
When: 4-9 p.m. Saturday, May 18.
Where: Renaissance Park, River Street.
Admission: Free for music; $30 all-you-can-drink wristband.
Dark Horse Ten: www.DarkHorseTen.com
The Bohannons: www.TheBohannons.org
Strung Like a Horse: www.StrungLikeAHorse.com
Chattanooga Brewing Co.: 423-702-9958, www.ChattaBrew.com
The Terminal Brewhouse: 423-752-8090, www.TerminalBrewhouse.com
Big River Grille & Brewing Works: 423-267-2739, www.BigRiverGrille.com
Moccasin Bend Brewing Co.: 423-821-6392, www.BendBrewingBeer.com
McHale's Brewhouse and Pub: 423-877-2124, www.McHalesBrewhouse.com
For almost two decades, Scenic City vino lovers have looked forward to fall in anticipation of Wine Over Water and an evening of sampling wines from all over the world.
As the name suggests, Beer Over Dirt offers suds aficionados a similar experience, though one that's a little less highbrow and a lot more local.
Beer Over Dirt debuted as a public event last year, attracting about 500 people to North Chattanooga's Renaissance Park. Before that, it was a private party at the Harrison home of then-amateur homebrewer Mark Marcum.
"My yard was half grass, half dirt, and the party was on the deck over the yard," explains Marcum, who co-founded Chattanooga Brewing Co. in 2010. "Someone ... decided to call it Beer Over Dirt. The name stuck, so we started calling it that every year."
Despite remaining primarily underground, Beer Over Dirt has grown steadily ever since. From 2004 until 2011, Marcum moved Beer Over Dirt from his home to nearby Island Cove Marina, where it remained an invitation-only affair. At its height, more than 200 showed up, and any proceeds left after covering the event's costs were donated to the Chattanooga Area Food Bank.
When Beer Over Dirt went public last year, those proceeds shifted to the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy. At this year's festival, which will take place Saturday, May 18, the conservancy has taken over organization of the event in what Marcum describes as a win-win move.
"They're aiming to protect the local watershed, and we saw a common interest with the local breweries since we're using the local water to make our product," he says.
Last year, Marcum reached out to Chattanooga's four other local microbreweries for liquid contributions to the event. He expected some degree of interest, but every brewery donated at least a barrel -- 31 gallons -- to the cause.
Under the stewardship of the conservancy, Beer Over Dirt has grown significantly this year, with 50 percent more all-you-can-drink armbands up for sale and sponsorship from a number of area businesses. Every local brewery once again will have beers on tap, about 12 varieties and 300 gallons in all, Marcum says. In addition, four local rock bands will provide entertainment throughout the day, and local restaurants such as Lupi's Pizza and Good Dog will be selling food.
Thanks to the Southern Brewers Festival and this year's inaugural Chattanooga Craft Beer Festival, local beer lovers have had plenty of opportunities to celebrate, but Beer Over Dirt offers a chance to shine a light exclusively on the city's growing microbrew community, Marcum says.
"It's a trendy thing for people to support local, and we're happy that they do," he says. "Beer Over Dirt gives us a chance to ... show people what's happening on the local beer scene."
Contact staff writer Casey Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...