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.