Unexpected delight found at beer and food festival
by Laura Gaddy
lbgaddy@annistonstar.com
Sep 22, 2013 | 4021 views |  0 comments | 81 81 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Beer patrons line up at the cart at the Suds-Fest held Saturday for the Berman Museum of World History. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
Beer patrons line up at the cart at the Suds-Fest held Saturday for the Berman Museum of World History. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
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Michigan native Katie Sage, 23, stood at the edge of a crowd of about 400 Saturday evening, an orange mug of cold Wells Banana Bread Beer in her hand.

To her right were six makeshift mini-bars each with about a half a dozen offerings of craft beer, many with little-known names and some in unexpected flavors and bright hues. To Sage’s left were dozens of tables where people gathered to taste the ales while a band played popular music on a small stage. Everyone was enjoying the atmosphere at the Autumn Suds-Fest put on annually by the Berman Museum of World History.

“I’ve never been to anything like this,” Sage said, and then described the beer’s flavor. “It tastes just like banana bread at first and then it just tastes like beer.”

On account of rain earlier in the day, the event this year was held in a former gymnasium space at the emerging botanical gardens complex up the hill from the Berman.

The event has served as a fundraiser for the Anniston museum since the first one was held nine years ago. The event has grown steadily, raising roughly $12,000 for the museum last year. It typically attracts between 400 and 500 people each year.

“This particular event really exploded a few years back. It would make some (money) in the early years, but it was not as big as it is now,” said David Ford, business development coordinator at the Berman Museum, in recent interview with The Star.

Each year Alabama-based beer distributors provide the ale and area restaurants provide food, all for a flat rate at the door. This year tickets for the event ranged from $20 to $35.

“It’s a way for them to get out and try some beers and not have to have that six pack at home that they just don’t like,” said Syndee Isbell, a sales representative with International Wines and Craft Beer. “I've done a ton of wine events like this but this is my first beer experience.”

Food vendors and beer distributors said the event gives them the chance to introduce their products to a new audience and to a new market.

Organizers said attendance shot up a few years ago when state law changed to allow high gravity craft beer to be sold in Alabama. Since then the sale of specialty beer has become more common and small breweries have begun cropping up.

“For this event, what I’m seeing, is people are more open to new beer,” said Gina Morey, programs manager for the museum complex. “It’s almost like wine tasting.”

While ticket sales have been increasing regularly in recent years, they dropped this year. Morey said the museum sold about 400 tickets this year, about 50 fewer than were sold last year.

She said organizers can’t say why ticket sales slid.

“We just try to keep it consistent,” Morey said.

Hobson City resident Karren Burks came has been attending the event for about five years. Burks said she learned to appreciate craft beers after being introduced to them at the event a few years ago.

“My taste buds are totally blown away by it,” she said. It has that zest to it.”

Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LGaddy_Star.

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