THIS FALL, Skidaway Island State Park is offering the community a chance to experience the perfect trifecta: local craft beer, a menu of appetizers curated to pair deliciously with that beer, and all served in a gorgeous outdoor setting.
Many people may already be familiar with some of the more family-centric events typically hosted by Skidaway Island State park, geared to get children and their parents excited about conservation and preservation.
But this year, the park's Marketing Director Laura Seifer was looking to create a different dynamic for their fall event series.
With her "Brews & Bites" concept, she wanted to create the atmosphere of a cool, neighborhood picnic where adults could gather to celebrate local food and drink with a bit of environmental education thrown in for good measure.
The fundraiser's format was crystallized into a three-night series, each night featuring beer from one of Savannah's breweries and food prepared by a chef that creates innovative dishes with locally harvested ingredients.
Coastal Empire Beer Co. co-founder Chris Haborak was quick to say yes when asked to participate in the first night, which will be held on October 10 and features food pairings from Thrive Cafe.
"My son is in Boy Scouts and we've gone there many times and seen the beauty of the park. It's truly unique," Haborak remarked. "Lowcountry living — that's what we love. What Georgia has done to preserve the coastal area is remarkable."
Coastal Empire has three beers in its line, all with a local focus: Savannah Brown Ale, Tybee Island Blonde and their latest release, Coastal Empire Pale Ale.
Savannah Brown Ale exudes a roasted nut flavor, complemented by chocolate and citrus. Resinous hops blend into the rich malty base and fade nicely into the palate. It was that combination of flavors that got Katherine Hankey, catering coordinator at Thrive, excited about crafting a menu.
Thrive's fresh, inspired take on hors d'oeuvres are small plates that allow attendees to easily mix and mingle. For Brews & Bites, that will start with a biscuit bar, which Hankey calls the "next big thing" in food stations. The bar features Southern staples like ham and gravy along with local honey and jams.
Hankey was particularly interested in tapping into seasonal transition. "We really want to use the fall flavors, thinking of cooler weather." Thrive plans to serve loaded sweet potato skins and traditional fruit pies that definitely fall into that mindset.
Thrive is Savannah's first green-certified restaurant, which impressed Seifert and made Thrive an ideal partner for the event. "They have great food and a civic mission behind their philosophy," said Seifert.
The admiration was mutual, with Hankey praising Skidaway Island State Park's landscape. "It's a beautiful low country backdrop that's often overlooked. There are not a lot of venues that give you the feeling of being out in nature with a distinctly low country feel."
That beautiful, distinctive setting made choosing the location for the event an easy decision. Skidaway Island State Park is a local treasure, with lush, southern marsh scenery, native wildlife and accessible facilities.
By attending the event there, participants will see first-hand how their donations will be put to use. One of the most immediate needs is trail maintenance.
"Erosion can be a big project here and a lot of stabilization work is needed," says Seifert.
Longer term projects like revitalizing the interpretive center will be next to tackle on their list.
In addition to savoring local food and drink, attendees will also be able to learn about Savannah's unique environmental concerns from scientist presentations, tours of the educational exhibits at the park and meeting with sponsors.
Ticket prices are $30 and are discounted to $25 for Friends of Georgia State Parks members. Sponsorships are also available for companies and organizations with ecological or educational components and include tickets as well as exhibition space during the event.