As anyone older than 21 already knows, drinking on an empty stomach is a recipe for disaster, no matter how good the drinks may be. The market for microbrews in Northeast Florida has grown by leaps and bounds in the past decade, and that rapid rise seems unlikely to plateau any time soon. While a number of craft brewers are dispensing their own vittles to customers, and others partner with food trucks and local eateries, there remains a sizeable niche to be filled. Enter BrewBox Foods, a new business constructed by veteran chefs, built for hungry beer-drinkers. They aim to provide small, portable snacks for the brewery customer, who will then drink more beer, but with a lot more safety and comfort.
After months of careful preparation, BrewBox hit the ground running with a series of launch parties at breweries all over Jacksonville. The first event was at Hyperion, followed by happenings at Veterans United, Southern Swells and Posting House in San Marco. This Thursday, they’ll be at Bold City Downtown, helping fans pre-game up for the last pre-season Jaguars football contest with that Atlanta team. BrewBox will be at Tabula Rasa the following evening and Kanine Social on Sept. 6. They’ve cultivated these connections one by one, often over a couple pints of the in-house libations, while building their brand through social media.
The public face of the company is Heather Schatz, who by day labors as the producer for First Coast Connect on WJCT, a position she undertook after stints doing media work in places like Miami and New York City. The married mother of two has devoted much of her spare time helping her friends get this project off the ground, and she has handled most of their public outreach efforts, such as this interview, conducted during their launch party at Veterans United Craft Brewery a couple weeks ago.
“It’s a very collaborative effort,” she told Folio Weekly. The idea came together while the principals were on a brew bus tour, and they got hungry, but there was nothing available nearby. “We wanted something that would be as easy on the brewery as possible. They don’t have to deal with silverware or washing dishes. There’s nothing they have to clean up, except recycling the box.” (The boxes are indeed recyclable and biodegradable, each packed individually at a production facility in Arlington.) “Every box is sealed,” said Schatz. “There’s a lot code, so it’s different from catering, so the brewers can sell our food under their existing license.”
What's in the box? It's fairly simple—cheeses and crackers, nuts, hummus, dried fruits and charcuteries—but everything is fresh and gourmet. The cheeses, in particular, are exceptional. (People are raving about the pimento cheese, but I’m partial to the bleu.) Each box is designed to fill one belly, or for a couple of people to nosh on.
“We work with two chefs, and they have a lot of experience with research and development,” says Schatz. They went so far as to produce an internal document showing which items pair best with various types of beer. These guides, like their menus, are printed on special waterproof paper.
Based on the early word from the launch parties, it seems that this concept certainly has legs, and the forward-thinking folks at BrewBox have already started planning to expand their menu, as well as branch out to be onsite at places like tap houses and distilleries. If you enjoy eating food, you will probably enjoy this cuisine, and if you’ve never eaten food before, BrewBox is an ideal place to start. (Pro tip: Always get the bleu cheese–ALWAYS.) And, best of all, unlike a lot of food you might find at your local watering hole, you don’t actually have to be drunk to eat this stuff, but if you want to get your buzz on, this will help.