Beer Run: Fullsteam Brewery

The Hub and I carry the GPS every time we venture into Durham, N.C. In the 20-some years we’ve lived in Raleigh, N.C., we get lost most times that we hit the city limits. Maybe it’s the UNC bumper sticker that makes the car want to veer away in terror from the Land of the Evil Empire. But Garmina did her job well in locating Fullsteam, which is in a brick warehouse down a side street in downtown.

Fullsteam has an interesting concept: Its beers aren’t just locally produced, but use as must locally produced ingredients as brewers can get their hands on. North Carolina-grown sweet potatoes, local grits and chocolate nibs from Escazu Chocolates in Raleigh find their way into beers. Brewers send out calls for such things as pears and persimmons for the Forager series and use whatever shows up.

The Hub and I sampled four beers: Carver, the sweet potato beer; El Toro Cream Ale, brewed using grits; Fullsteam Southern Lager; and Summer Basil Farmhouse Ale, brewed with six pounds of fresh basil in each batch.

Neither of us expected to like Summer Basil. The idea sounded too much like sticking a lime wedge in a bottle of Corona, which ruins the flavor of the lime. Surprisingly, it was our favorite of the four. The beer was light and refreshing, with a mild, but definite, basil flavor and aroma. Our environment may have contributed to our preference. It was 97 degrees the day we visited, and only the small bar area is air conditioned. It was packed for obvious reasons. We had to sit in the large warehouse area, with fans pushing the overheated air that came through open doors. No AC. Be warned. We also had to drink fast before our beers vaporized.

Carver was our second favorite. It does not taste like Grandma’s Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole –  the beer isn’t spiced. The beer has a rich red color and an earthy note to the flavor, both from the potatoes. I have had this beer before and didn’t like it at that time because it seemed bitter. I wonder if the beer had been mishandled in that location, because I didn’t detect that bitterness in the beer I sampled at the brewery. That’s the thing about craft beers – handling can make a difference. So, if you want to really know what a particular beer tastes like, sample it where it’s made.

We had split opinions on the other two. The El Toro had more sweetness, so The Hub liked it more than I did. I thought the Southern Lager had a good balance of bitter and sweet, but wasn’t as interesting to me as the Summer Basil and Carver.



Food news roundup

You’d expect a certain level of elegance at picnics held before North Carolina Symphony outdoor concerts. Food matched to concert themes, shrimp with horseradish, silver candelabras. Read about it in The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) here. If the concertgoers tried a little harder, they might reach the level of an Ole Miss football tailgate.

Corn strippers. No, not entertainers who peel off their husks. They’re essential for serious corn-from-the-cob removers. Read more in the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer here.

You’ve heard of eat local, now you can sauce local. The Independent Weekly has a colorful collection of local barbecue sauce makers. The pineapple and garlic in The Shizzle Jerk Marinade is quite intriguing. Read more here.

OK, I want to know why, in every grilling article, the main subject is a guy grinning in a baseball cap. Like the photo with the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal article here. Women grill, too, y’all. We do not wear baseball caps because they spoil our coiffures. I do happen to own two grills (one charcoal, one portable gas) and a turkey fryer. I’d like to have a Big Green Egg, like the baseball-cap guy, but have not yet put my pennies together for one. As that founding griller Abigail Adams admonished, “remember the ladies.”

Vegan food in a slow-cooker? How crazy is that? Well, not very if you read HealthySlowCooking. Since I’m scanning the skies for dairy-free desserts for The Hub, who is allergic to dairy, this is a good find.

Ever wonder what happens to coupons after they accomplish their mission to save you money? The Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.) has the interesting answer here.

Boil before grilling? If you’re thinking about brats, the answer is yes, according to Bill Daley in the Chicago Tribune. Read the reasoning here.

Until someone manages to produce a bacon plant, we’ll have to make do with NCTomatoandGardenBlog by tomatomaniac Craig LeHoullier. Read through the list of plantings and drool.