Durham is home to four (soon to be six) distinct breweries, each with its own personality and signature brews. From Ponysaurus' outdoor beer garden to Fullsteam's plow-to-pint Sweet Potato Lager, each Durham brewery has something unique to offer beer fans.
Who better than long-time Durhamite and beer connoisseur Greg Barbera* to give us the lowdown on Durham's brewery scene, complete with highlights for what to drink when you're there.
This is a rambunctious restaurant that brings the vibe of an outdoor beer garden inside. Crowds gather amongst a bevvy of picnic tables or saddle up on bar stools to sample the food that is all made in-house (well, except the ketchup).
Sample the Bully's English Style IPA along with a basket of pickled goods. English IPAs tend to be more malty with a hint of caramel, unlike American-style IPAs, which tend to favor citrusy hops and an intense bitterness. You can take home your favorite draft in a crowler (the can version of a growler) or maybe even some of their barbecue sauce or mustard.
Can't get enough? Get a Bull City Burger and Brewery tattoo and get 26 percent off for life, or find the Golden Bull and get free fries, burgers, and drinks for a year. Enjoy exotic meats like buffalo or squirrel during the month of March, or buy your dog a biscuit with barley left over from the brewing process.
This up-and-coming nanobrewery is squeezed into an intimate space on the concourse at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park on Blackwell Street in Downtown Durham. Featuring four taps - wheat, amber, white IPA, and the popular Kölsch - Bull Durham Beer Co. hopes to break out of the ballpark and have a year-round tasting room of their own in 2016. They also plan on canning their flagship Kölsch in 16-ounce tall boys this year as well.
The beer is a clean, crisp drinkable brew made with Perle and Saaz hops that pairs well with peanuts, popcorn, and crackerjacks.
Fullsteam is one of the anchor enterprises that make the corner of Rigsbee and Geer streets widely popular, especially in warm weather. Its backwards ‘F' has become as much an icon of Downtown Durham as the water tower and Lucky Strike smokestack.
The brewery features a climate-controlled taproom offering a smorgasbord of draft selections, not only of their brews but also selections from other North Carolina breweries. Some of Fullsteam's beer is also available in bottles (Carver Sweet Potato Lager and Rocket Science IPA) or cans (their popular Cack-a-lacky Ginger Pale Ale) at the brewery, as well as in local bottle shops.
With a plow-to-pint ethos, Fullsteam is a brewery for the people, by the people, functioning not only as a popular event space but also as community center. Look no further than Wednesday night run club gatherings.
Hatched in 2013, Ponysaurus Brewing started out as a nanobrewery nestled in a crow's nest of a space accessible only by forklift inside the Durham co-op commissary The Cookery. Today the brewery sits at the corner of Ramseur and Fayetteville, where its 6,000-square-foot space allows for the production of 1,900 barrels of beer each year. The atmosphere is spartan with little in the way of art or any decorations: they keep it simple to keep it about the beer.
Ponysaurus' flagship brew is the French-inspired Biere de Garde, which is available around town in 16-ounce cans. But if you don't fancy that flavor, they do offer a go-to IPA, as well as various seasonals and guest beer on draft in their taproom. The brewery is not only a beer garden and gathering space, but dog friendly and popular with local food trucks.
Coming soon: Four breweries will become six in summer 2016. Durty Bull Brewing Company will soon open a 15-barrel craft brewery and tasting room in the Central Park district. Hope Valley Brewing Company, a brew pub that's already open, will start producing its own beer later this summer.
*Greg Barbera is a freelance writer and bartender in Durham. He's a former managing editor at All About Beer Magazine and contributor to Indy Week, MadeMan, and Chapelboro.com.
From bottle shops to beer-centric nightlife, find out why Durham is the place to go for a craft beer experience. read more