Brewery honors firefighter who lost life in boating accident

A photo of Chandler Patterson, who tragically died last summer, sat on the bar with the new Dude21 special brew in his honor. Family, friends & fellow firefighters gathered at Stillfire Brewing in Suwanee to honor Patterson with the launch on the new brew. His widow, Alyssa Patterson, reached out to the brewery, which was often she & the Gainesville firefighter's date night place, to see what they could do. She was able to help create the special brew with the brewmaster & friends. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

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A photo of Chandler Patterson, who tragically died last summer, sat on the bar with the new Dude21 special brew in his honor. Family, friends & fellow firefighters gathered at Stillfire Brewing in Suwanee to honor Patterson with the launch on the new brew. His widow, Alyssa Patterson, reached out to the brewery, which was often she & the Gainesville firefighter's date night place, to see what they could do. She was able to help create the special brew with the brewmaster & friends. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Three weeks before he died in June 2021, Chandler Patterson stood at his wedding rehearsal and professed his love for his family and friends. On Friday, hundreds of his loved ones gathered to raise a glass of Dude 21, a beer created in tribute to Chandler by his bride, Alyssa Patterson.

Chandler lived his life for God, country, and family. His parents instilled in him a servant’s heart, a desire to give back to his community, which is what led him to firefighting in the city of Gainesville, a job he loved and, his family says, would have continued through retirement.

When Chandler and Alyssa met in the fall of 2019, they fell quickly. In fact, on their first date, Chandler told Alyssa he was going to marry her one day. Two weeks later they were exchanging “I love yous” and meeting one another’s parents. Chandler proposed 11 months later and they said their vows before an audience of 250 on June 5, 2021.

“It was like a fairytale,” said Alyssa, 24. “He loved me so well and was everything I ever wanted. I’m so thankful he was mine, even if for just a little while. Knowing what I know now, I’d do it all over again.”

The newlyweds enjoyed a weeklong honeymoon in Cancun, then returned to their new home in Braselton, where they were excited to settle into a routine as man and wife. They hosted their families for the first time on Father’s Day, and six days later, while out on Lake Tugaloo with a group of buddies, Chandler was killed in a boating accident.

“I couldn’t move when we got the call. I couldn’t speak,” said Alyssa. “All that was going through my mind was ‘we just got married. How is this happening?’”

On July 2, just shy of their one-month wedding anniversary, Alyssa eulogized her husband before a crowd of 1,000, not counting the thousands who watched the livestream.

In the seven months since losing Chandler, Alyssa, a sales implementation specialist for an insurance company, has relied heavily on her faith to guide her through the onslaught of grief. She attended a retreat in November for young widows, sponsored by Be Still Ministries, and she has been surrounded with support from friends, family, even strangers.

A week before Christmas, Alyssa visited StillFire Brewing in Suwanee with her sister and friends. As she sat on the patio, drinking her favorite sour beer, Gummy Bandit, she thought about Chandler.

She’d brought him to StillFire on one of their first dates.

“StillFire is everything Chan loved,” said Alyssa. “It’s an old firehouse turned brewery that offers live music. It’s the perfect spot.”

Thinking back on their many visits to StillFire, an idea struck Alyssa. Chandler rode on engine 21 and was well-known for calling his friends “dude,” which is why the fire department had patches with “Dude 21″ created in his memory. What if StillFire brewed a beer for in honor of Chandler called Dude 21, she wondered. Could they do that?

“She sent me an e-mail all about Chandler and it tore at my heart,” said Phil Farrell, brew master at StillFire. “I shared it with the partners, and it was decided within five minutes: we would make this happen and fast.”

Alyssa and her family graciously accepted Farrell’s invitation to join him as he created Dude 21, a flavorful IPA that has the number 21 used repeatedly in its formulation. And, of course, they scheduled the beer release for Jan. 21.

“We made six kegs of beer and we’ve already busted through three of those,” said StillFire partner and general manager Aaron Bisges early in the evening at the release. “The good news is, on Monday Phil and the team will be back in the lab to make more. This is one of the biggest responses we’ve ever seen.”

StillFire is also sending a few kegs of Dude 21 to Universal Joint, a bar near Chandler’s hometown in Rabun County.

After the crowd cheered and toasted to Chandler, the family was invited in the back where Farrell gave them a surprise. StillFire dedicated a fermentation tank, complete with American flags and a firefighter hat, to Chandler “Dude 21″ Patterson.

After months of darkness, multiple family members said the night was a welcome opportunity to celebrate. It was filled with things Chandler loved and the people he loved most. Prophetic words from his rehearsal speech echoed among the crowd, words that will long outlive the man.

“If you want to be happy, you have to invest in people,” Chandler said in his speech. “My grandfather always said ‘when you die, what are people going to say about you? Are they gonna say ‘man, that guy drove an awesome truck,’ or ‘that guy had nice clothes.’ No. When you’re gone people don’t remember those things, they don’t care about that. People care about who you are and your heart. Granddaddy always said if you invest in people, you will always be rich. If you have a full heart, you will be rich. I’m not perfect at all, but I do love people. I’ve failed at many things in my life, but I don’t fail at loving people … I love you guys.”

If you would like to order a Dude 21 in honor of Chandler Patterson, visit StillFire Brewing at 343 US-23, Suwanee.