Brew at the Zoo patrons raise funds, glasses for worthy cause

By Terry Massey ˙ November 4, 2019

Patrons patiently wait for samples of beer from more than 30 breweries at the Nov. 2 Brew at the Zoo.

What could possibly go wrong when you mix hundreds of humans, dozens of wild animals and a seemingly endless flow of beer? For the ninth consecutive year at Brookgreen Gardens’ Brew at the Zoo event, absolutely nothing.

In fact, everything feels right about the annual fundraiser for the Lowcountry Zoo, which houses native species that would not survive on their own and rehabilitates them in hopes of returning them to the wild someday.

And because many of the animals found their way to the facility as a result of direct or indirect interaction with humans, it only seems natural that people should step up to the beer counter in order to help the cause.

“I’ve been to parties in some crazy places, but this is my first time at a zoo,” said Meghan Keller, who was visiting friends from Charleston. “I didn’t even know it was here. I want to come back to see all the animals.”

What started as a small gathering of The Friends of Brookgreen Gardens to raise money to cover the extensive costs of housing, feeding, treating and training the creatures has become one of Brookgreen’s hottest tickets.

“I remember the first year my dad cooked chicken bog and we made some chili in the galley,” said Jay Rowe, vice president of public operations at Brookgreen Gardens, who spearheads Brew at the Zoo and other functions.

“We had about 250 people. Not that there was anything wrong with it. Everybody had a great time and we knew it was something we wanted to continue. We intentionally keep the numbers about the same size, but it’s one of our best fundraisers.”

New South Brewing continues its perfect Brew at the Zoo attendance record.

More than 30 local, regional and national craft breweries and vineyards participated in the event, serving their unique brands of beer and wine to patrons thirsty for a good time under the live oaks and a crescent moon.

“We do a lot of festivals and this is one of our favorites,” said New South Brewing owner David Epstein of Pawleys Island. “[New South] has been here every year, and (wife) Madeline and I only missed last year because it was rescheduled for the storm.”

Hurricane Florence and the resulting flooding caused the traditional September shindig to be postponed until November. The minor inconvenience actually created an opportunity to hold the event in a milder fall climate.

“The hurricane forced us to push it back to the first weekend in November and we were like, ‘Wow, this is so cool,’ ” Rowe recalled. “It’s so nice not to have to worry about the heat, and we save a lot of money on ice.”

The crisp autumn night only enhanced the festive spirit and taste buds of the patrons, who dined on street-style tacos, wood-fired pizza, grilled shrimp, chili dogs, pimento cheese burger sliders and other savory beer pairings.

They washed it down with a wide variety of microbrews, like Palmetto’s Lowcountry Pils, Wicked Weed’s Watermelon Dragon Fruit, Stone’s Arrogant Bastard, Sugar Creek’s Raspberry White and Holy City’s Pluff Mud Porter.

Brookgreen Gardens mascot Angus greets guests at Brew at the Zoo.

Visitors also checked out sponsor and vendor booths, including arts and crafts vendors and other environmental support groups, while sipping samples of creative craft beers. The tasting glasses were sponsored by Myrtle Beach Harley-Davidson, which displayed several top-of-the-line hogs.

Those weren’t the only beasts out and about on Saturday evening. Brookgreen Gardens’ official mascot, Angus the Scottish Deerhound, greeted guests on the festival grounds, and the resident Red Devon Cattle, American Mule and Marsh Tacky Horse were finishing their suppers nearby at the Plantation Farm.

With most of the wild animals down for the night and far removed from the scene and sound of patrons dancing to tunes by the Paul Grimshaw Band, a few of the more domesticated creatures made brief appearances at the Campbell Center Program Shed to show off some of the zoo’s success stories in progress.

“Think of it as physical therapy for animals,” zookeeper Jared Wagner said. “We take in animals that are too sick or injured to survive in the wild. We try to help them get healthy and give them a second chance at life.”

Party animals won’t get a second chance to experience Brew at the Zoo until next year, but the Lowcountry Zoo is open daily and free with regular admission to Brookgreen Gardens. Visit for more info.

A Marsh Tacky Horse is one of many animals at Brookgreen Gardens.