Four days of fun celebrates talent from near and far
By Michelle Farnham
Oct. 31, 2023
ALYS BEACH – This weekend the idyllic waterfront community of Alys Beach opened its streets to a celebration of purveyors of craft. From restaurateurs to mixologists, artists to musicians, guests were able to experience a showcase of the talent that enriches the 30A experience, each artisan with their own story to tell.
Tracing its roots to 2019, Alys Beach Crafted has evolved into a four-day extravaganza, starting with Emerald Coast Storytellers at Firepit Park, moving to wine and spirits seminars, the Makers Market and demonstrations around the amphitheater, live music, the festive Firkin Fete, and the elegant Spirited Soiree, all held from Oct. 25 to 28.
Friday’s featured ticketed event Firkin Fête filled Central Park under the soft glow of twinkling strings of lights. The crowd was energized by the sounds of New Orleans-based soul band J & The Causeways.
The Alys Beach culinary team, under the direction of Chef Drew Dzejak, rolled out a literal smorgasbord of delights. Guests plated up an assortment of kielbasa and sausages, suckling pig, and spaetzle and pierogi, just to name a few.
30A’s newest barbecue joint, 3 Sons Bar-B-Q, was on hand offering mini versions of their brisket Slab Wraps and Chachos, a take on nachos featuring house-made chicharrones and pulled pork.
“This is our barbecue interpretation of a gyro wrap. I’ve got naan, brisket, cucumber, tomato and onion and our white barbecue sauce I call ‘Slabziki,’” said pitmaster/owner Chris Vaughn of the Slab Wraps. “This event is fantastic! It’s a big crowd and we’ve gotten a lot of good feedback.”
On the beverage side, Idyll Hounds Brewing Company tapped its Divide and Conch’r double IPA, Birmingham’s Ghost Train Brewing Co. offered a robust latte stout, Grayton Beer Company poured the Ocean Billy Brown Ale and White Dunes Belgian White, heavy on the orange peel. Hailing from Freeport, Odd Pelican Beer Co. kept things festive with the Go Big or Gourd Home, a pumpkin brown ale with cinnamon and brown sugar.
Palm Folly Hard Seltzer was a change of pace with its firkin of 6% ABV Hatton’s Folly, a pineapple-coconut hard seltzer infused with Campesino Rum wood chips. Also on tap was their Lucky Catch: pineapple, mango, 8% ABV; and Sailor Finn, 4.7% lemon hard seltzer.
“Originally we were just going to pour seltzers tonight but we wondered, ‘Can we make a seltzer firkin?’ and we did!” said owner Meaghan Easterhaus. “We’re a hybrid, almost like a beer-seltzer. We brew on traditional beer-brewing equipment, we just use fruit purees instead of a grain. That makes this super low-calorie, low-sugar, low-carb, but with a beer quality, and it’s gluten-free.”
For a little variety, guest could also enjoy “wine in a stein” and spirits from tables throughout the space.
Saturday’s Spirited Soiree graced the Alys Beach North Sea Garden Pedestrian Path.
Shaking up their specialty cocktail “Sippin In Paradise,” Stephanie Saputo and Keyatta Mincey Parker made the drive from Atlanta to represent A Sip of Paradise Garden, sharing stories of their nonprofit bartenders’ community garden.
“We were inspired by how pretty it is here,” explained Saputo, as she worked on their drink featuring Rhum Volcanique, JM Orange Liqueur, spiced hibiscus cordial and freshly grated nutmeg. “We wanted to create a drink you could crush on the beach!”
For a bite of brine, Serenoa Shellfish was in from Sopchoppy, Fla., fresh-shucking Skipper Sweets oysters.
“These are harvested from Skipper Bay near Panacea, Fla.,” said owner John Harley as he offered up his cucumber mignonette. “These are known for being salt-forward and sweetness on the end, hence the name. A lot of times a sweet oyster doesn’t have the salt, but we don’t do not-salty oysters!”
30Avenue newcomer Idyll Hound Proper impressed with a duo of bites: bao buns with pork belly and pickled cucumber on a steam bun; and poké wontons with edamame ginger hummus. Blue Mountain Bakery provided a sweet ending to the stroll with an assortment of bourbon cinnamon rolls, gluten-free pumpkin spice cake, and cookies.
The Alys Beach culinary team served both crispy rice salad with pork belly, and Tom Yum Goong with shrimp and rice noodles. Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood plated sous vide prime New York Strip with winter truffle bordelaise, while The Citizen mixed up “The Cure,” a mix of 818 Blanco Tequila, Heirloom Pineapple Amaro and ginger syrup.
Making its Crafted debut, Seaside’s The Daytrader Tiki Bar poured a new seasonal cocktail, Campe See No Evil, from the mind of cocktail consultant Bootleg Greg. Starting with Campesino Aged Rum, Greg incorporated cold brew coffee, pumpkin puree and cream, spices and a syringe of rum coffee. The glass was rimmed with a granola-pumpkin seed-macadamia nut mix.
“We’re slinging our best! The rim reminds me of Cinnamon Toast Crunch!” admitted Daytrader chef/owner Nikil Abuvala. “This drink is just for the holidays, part of our fall series of cocktails as we go into the Christmas holidays.”
Diana Lane, director of public relations for Alys Beach, was pleased with the soiree’s flow, noting the hard work behind the scenes that makes everything appear so seamless.
“Our events team is just incredible. They do an amazing job working with the mixologists to pair the drinks to the food really well,” Lane explained.
Alys Beach Crafted serves as a community fundraiser, with proceeds from the 2023 installment going to the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County. The 2024 celebration is slated for Oct. 23 to 26.
Photos by Michelle Farnham