We had both heard a lot of great things about the Fullsteam brewery in Durham, but neither of us had the pleasure to actually sample their wares until a few weeks ago at Flying Saucer in Raleigh. After one sip of the Summer Basil Farmhouse Ale, we knew that we had to take every opportunity to both get our hands on another pint and to support the brewery that made it. Luckily, we were not disappointed as the grand opening of the Fullsteam Tavern was only a week away and we were looking for a cool place for a drink.
Fullsteam is a Durham Brewery where they take a localvorist organic approach to brewing or, as they have named themselves, “Plow to Pint”. They use local ingredients such as kudzu, hickory, scuppernong grapes, and sweet potatoes to brew truly original types of very Southern themed beer. What impresses me most is their very daring , try anything approach to brewing that has helped to create some of the best beer I have ever had. Anyways, enough gushing, I gotta get to the actual bar opening…
The newly christened Fullsteam Tavern is located just down the street from Durham Central Park at 726 Rigsbee Ave in the heart of downtown Durham. The night of the grand opening the place was rather a madhouse with a line snaking around the side of building as people clamored for a sample of Fullsteam’s tasty brews. As I stood in line, I could not help but feel my mouth water as the fumes from Only Burger wafted toward from its strategic position directly in front of Fullsteam’s door. We waited in line for a while longer and listened to the people behind us complain about how much all of the RDU breweries sucked, before we realized that we could’ve been waiting in the bar area all along where they had the speciality beers.
As we shuffled toward beervana, we found ourselves in a larger room that included a stage where a band was setting up, a couple of tables, and a large group of people standing and sipping beers. I liked that it felt less like it was set up just for brewery tours and more as a cool place to hang out and have a drink with friends. I honestly felt a little jealous of those people who lived a bit closer and could regularly hang out at the Tavern.
We then pushed our way into the tavern area where the mass of bodies was overwhelming the servers, as customers made beer order of 5-10 beers at a time. We finally fought our ways the front and managed to snag ourselves a basil farmhouse and a Hogwash hickory smoked porter (unfortunately they had already finished off the sweet potato ale). As mentioned, the Basil Ale was fabulous with an initial nose that was undeniably basil scented. It was a smooth medium bodied wheat beer with a finish that brought on a subtle yet distinctive rush of basil flavors that complimented the wheatiness of the beer perfectly. The Hickory porter was a different animal altogether. As far as I’m concerned, rich full-bodied porters often have a kind of smokey coffee like flavor, and in this case the smokiness was amplified by the hickory. Though a bit darker and heavier than the Basil Ale, the Porter was very smooth and went down surprisingly well on an extremely hot summer day. Both beers were well worth the wait, and I kind of wished I had also ordered 4 or 5 beers at a time.
Fullsteam turned out to be a great place to hang out and taste some beer that is both distinctively southern and an ingenious combination of flavors. We will be going back as soon as we get a chance and we will always be searching for other opportunities to try their beers.