Wild Durham: A Local Beer Collaboration

Featured image is an original photo by 8-bit Photography as part of the Wild Durham collaboration.

Presenting Wild Durham, a local beer collaboration with Fullsteam Brewery. Building on their existing partnership through hosting The Beat Market, Durham Beat’s monthly local art market, Durham Beat and Fullsteam Brewery worked together over the course of several months to create a very special Durham-inspired beer. Between crafting a recipe, foraging for ingredients, brewing the beer, and making a video, this collaboration spanned the creative spectrum. The result? An Urban Forage Modern IPA called Wild Durham.

Brewed with local grain, locally foraged ingredients like persimmon, rosemary, redbud, and henbit, Wild Durham is a beer quite literally made with the wild growth in and around this city. Juicy, herbal, and aromatic, Wild Durham is a beer like no other. Throughout our collaboration, we documented our creative process through photography and video. We are proud to present the fruits our labor to you with this original short documentary created by Raven Media House, in partnership with Durham Beat, 8-bit Photography, Raund Haus, OG SENPAiii, and of course, our brew master friends at Fullsteam.

VIDEO: Wild Durham, filmed and edited by Raven Media House

PHOTO SERIES: Foraging for ingredients (Original Photography by 8-bit Photography)

PHOTO SERIES: Brewing Day (Original Photography by 8-bit Photography)

PHOTO SERIES: Canning the beer & interviews (Original Photography by 8-bit Photography)

Bands & Cans

Words by Stephen Mullaney
Photos by Christine Fantini

Durham is a city that has produced amazing art, theater, and music. The people who make your coffee, fix your computer, serve your beer, and believe it or not, teach your kids are producing some of the best music in the country.

Music has been fueling Durham since forever. Its makers are as diverse as the sounds they create and are a major part of what makes Durham a haven for creators.

There are so many bands in Durham you haven’t heard of, while there are others who have been adopted as hometown heroes only after they have exploded beyond the Bull City.

In the not too distant past, Durham was producer of tobacco products and carcinogens that were inhaled internationally. While for some this may not necessarily be something to be proud of, the tobacco industry did construct many buildings in Durham while employing countless people and keeping those families in homes and eating.

Nowadays it is livers everywhere that we are sending products to… beer, cider, and distilled products are now a major industry and export of our Durham city and North Carolina home. As so many of you are aware, alcohol and music can sometimes make for a beautiful match that will lead you into the deepest corners of hell or the farthest reaches of heaven.

As summer weather pushed us into Fall, and now Fall into Winter, I chose IPA’s to ease the pain. In the spirit of pairing alcohol and beer, here is a look at three bands and three cans that go well together.

Let’s go take a ride! Strap on a helmet, hold on tight and enjoy!

The Band

The Muslims
Whatever you choose to drink while listening to The Muslims, here is what I suggest: Honor the music. Pull out the first can or bottle and spill or smash it on the ground. Maybe knock a lamp over. If this is going to be an outdoor experience, then go sit on the tracks or perhaps gather a few friends and pull down a monument to racism and intolerance!

This band’s talent runs deep… The music, the lyrics, the delivery… So Fucking Good!

The Muslims hit hard, channeling the energies reminiscent of late 80’s punk. Take it to the edge of falling apart only to tighten up and hit again. Pixies? No punches pulled, in your face. The Stooges? You tell me.

A David Barrett-like production is spot on, bringing out the talent without taking away from the live energy.

My plan: stick a can in the water bottle holder of my bike, make my way to a rooftop and celebrate the music.

The Can

“Something so Sincere” by Casita Cerveceria. Double IPA, not a sneak up and get you IPA. You know your shit is getting shook when you crack the can. Amazing flavor, brewed in Farmville by the same people who bring you Duck Rabbit beers. Load up the van with The Muslims, a trunk full of “Something so Sincere”, and storm the white house.

The Band

Cosmic Punk
Happy, bike riding, lay in the grass on a warm Fall day. Take a walk or go for a ride while listening to Cosmic Punk. No matter what is going on in the world, you feel it will all be all right. At times, the music feels like rollercoaster ride, up and down, and then slides seamlessly back to dreamy pop.

I found a live performance of Cosmic Punk that altered my bleary-eyed Sunday.

The Can

Burial “Surf Wax” IPA. The can reads “the human spirit is still alive” and that spirit is what binds the beer and the band. That and the surfy/pop/summer vibe. Burial says each cans label art is a story of the beer.


The Band

The Tan and Sober Gentlemen
It would be easy to dismiss the songs of Tan and Sober Gentlemen as Pogues or Dropkick Murphys-like music. The ability to play this style, “backcountry Celtic”, with a high level of expertise and emotion is hard as hell.

Fast, free, NC Celtic that would be right at home in the streets of Boston. We need a band like this in our state. The music can deliver fun and send a message. Working class music is still alive and well even if many forget the working class is what keeps our everyday running smoothly.

The Can

“Trophy Wife” by Trophy Brewing. This is a crisp, clean, fast drinking IPA that can be enjoyed by the can or by the dozen. I want to see The Tan and Sober Gentlemen share the stage with a mariachi band on the streets of Durham during the Pride Parade. Then I will feel like, for a blink of an eye, all is well in the world.

Local Beer: Whip-Poor-Will Wit, Fonta Flora Brewery

Beer: Whip-Poor-Will (Witbier, brewed with organic oranges, coriander and Earl Gray tea)
Brewery: Fonta Flora (Morganton, NC)
ABV: 4.5%

I often avoid witbier. Actually, that’s dishonest. More accurately, I struggle with the question, will wit wit again?

Before Whip-Poor-Will, Witbier and I had a thing–long and full of love and heartbreak. Our love sprouted in the Allagash White days of summer visits to Brooklyn, then blossomed into Blanche de Bruxelles days where I had found something that made even my most macro-loving friends appreciate how craft was worth the additional two smacks over a Blue Moon. It grew from affection to infatuation when Wittekerke Wit showed up in packaging that could join me by the pool. This chapter would come to an abrupt close when a tattooed dive bar barman physically yanked a bottle of Hoegaarden from my hands and unceremoniously dumped the entire thing into a non-hexagonal glass that I was (and still am) unsure of whether it was frozen or actually just cold and fucking filthy. You’re damned right I’m still pissed about the whole thing. There is, in fact, a diagram on the label that explains HOW to pour this beer. Yet he managed to fuck it up WHILE mansplaining. I digress…

I guess if you’ve read this far, you see that Wit and I have a history. It is lengthy and joyful, while also full of longing and well-intentioned mistakes. As North Carolina craft beer makers open more taprooms in places as metropolitan and sofauxticated as Charlotte, and as humble and far flung as Ocracoke, brewers and beertenders are asked mind-numbingly often, “What do you have like a Blue Moon?”

Any business that gives 3.14 fucks will attempt to give the people what they want. Increasingly, bigger malt bills, more adjuncts, and more fruit got into wits. When Imperial Wit made its appearance, face planted into a barrel, rolled around in kumquats, then soured, I bid the style a wistful “Boy, bye.”

But DAMN, do I LOVE tea. I suffer from caffeine sensitivity, so I avoid coffee like anyone with any sense would avoid a racing heartbeat and the other side effects of a natural laxative. But a perfectly steeped Earl Grey, a first flush darjeeling, or pretty much any oolong and I’m here for it. So when I saw Fonta Flora drop a tea witbier, I HAD to put it in my mouth.

The big perfume on the nose made me nervous to start. Beers as floral as this one bring back memories of my grandmother’s garden, full of forced labor and brambles in your unmentionables with just the reward of a few wet, crumpled ones and an even wetter, but still somehow sticky, kiss. The first sip of Whip-Poor-Will, however, told me THIS beer would be like the fun kind of day where you chase a few butterflies, get cookies, and maybe even find a new kitten.

Despite adding Earl Grey, Fonta Flora stays true to witbier. Fonta Flora excels at keeping the tea in check so that it doesn’t overwhelm the peppery esters of the yeast and leaves room for the orange and coriander to sit comfortably on both the nose and palate. The hazy straw color is spot on for the style while the lacy head threatens to boop your nose as the aroma pulls it into the glass. Organic orange gives this beer an up front sweetness which then yields to the spiced earthiness of bergamot. Great for tee time or tea time, in Whip-Poor-Will Fonta Flora makes the most of uncommon ingredients to deliver an artful take on a classic style. Lovers of classic styles or the more wild stuff can trust this brewery to always deliver something interesting and well crafted.

Whether you’re just putting your toe into craft, completely over wits that can’t stand up without leaning heavily on a cloying fruit, or a bit under stimulated by your standby Belgian, this interesting blend should hit you in the appropriate feels.

Featured image courtesy of Beer Advocate.

Local Beer: Birdsong Brewing, Jalapeno Pale Ale

Beer: Jalapeno Pale Ale 
Brewery: Birdsong Brewing Company (Charlotte, NC)
ABV: 5.5%

I will readily admit that I’m a punk about spice. I like my wings on mild and my curry on one. Just the other day, a candied jalapeno pepper made me cry in front of my employer, coworkers, server, and my girl–full on tears. I’m a P-U-N-K. So, if you’re wary of spice like myself, then you’re safe with this little glass of hop-forward deliciousness.

Hopped with Columbus, Galena, Williamette and Fuggle varieties, the Jalapeno Pale Ale from Birdsong Brewing Company, jalapeno notwithstanding, would be a solid example of an American Pale Ale. Pepperless, this beer goes by the name Free Will, however, I’d use my powers of choice to go for the pepper version.

What makes this beer particularly unique is that Birdsong puts in the extra effort to pick out the jalapeno seeds and, more importantly, the membrane, and the pesky capsaicin (the natural compound that makes peppers hot) that they bring with them. So, no, this beer won’t cure your aches and pains, but it also won’t make smoke come out of your ears like a Looney Toon. I am not sure HOW they do it exactly, but I hope it includes teeny tiny birds pecking them out with teeny tiny beaks rather than they new guy drawing the short straw. Anyways, without the capsaicin, you get the nimble grassiness of the jalapeno pepper without the tears, poops of fire, and corresponding embarrassment. It’s a great find when you want a simple, clean beer with a touch of excitement.

The consistent, clean production of this beer is yet another reason that Jalapeno Pale Ale stands out of the flock. I strongly recommend Birdsong Jalapeno Pale Ale, but please do NOT confuse this ringing endorsement as an endorsement of all pepper/gourd beers (here’s looking at you pumpkin beers). This style is particularly prone to off flavors, in particular, DMS, which is everything unpleasant about any vegetable ever sloughed onto a melamine cafeteria tray. I don’t eat creamed corn or spinach or creamed anything for a reason, so I certainly see no reason to drink it.

Flutter on little songbirds, flutter on.


Featured image is an original photo by The Editor.

Local Beer: Southern Range Brewing, Now That’s What I Call Juice

Beer: Now That’s What I Call Juice (New England Juicy IPA with Guava Added)
Brewery: Southern Range Brewing Company (Monroe, NC)
ABV: 6.9%

The purple can with hot pink lettering was an instant eye-catcher. The mail order compact disc homage of the name and design made this can an easy, “Why the hell not?” The courteous new staffers at the Quik Shop popped the pull tap, handed me a glass and I shot back outside, taking no care at all to reduce the risk of skunking. It was Sunday Funday and I was off to see the drizzard. You’ll learn the lingo later, just go with me for now.

If you’re a craft beer veteran, then you’ll be an old friend of the luscious pine and citrus rind bitterness of the amber-hued and crystal clear American IPA, a subcategory that came to define the IPA. Like many a-friend, IPA went through a rough patch, where our palates were wrecked and hops tore down whole city blocks during epic battles with fictional komodo dragons. Only the most waxed of our beards stayed. Only the most flannel clad survived.

If you haven’t heard already, the New England Style IPA is none of that stuff. Despite a megadose of hops, these beers don’t fit the casual descriptor “hoppy”. Throw your lumberjack porn IPA away and enter the JUICE BOMB. The style is a great gateway for the craft novice because of the refreshing and juicelike quality, but also because of the lesson it teaches about craft beer: give it a chance. Sometimes styles change meanings in a span of just a few years. The Brits like to blame it on those experimental Americans. Everything comes full circle and craft beer is both a steadfast friend and fickle lover.

The New England Style IPA can sometimes feel soft on the tongue due to the generous dosing of hops, the clumping together of yeast at the bottom of a bottle (known as flocculation), and, in some cases, the addition of oats. Be prepared. The NE IPAs are NOT going to stroke your “crisp” spot. Brewers are going for adjectives like “fluffy”, “soft” and “juicy”.  As for Southern Range’s Now That’s What I Call Juice in particular, it hits the spot for a hot day, where you want a glass of the tropics and a buzz. The guava notes are more of a hint than a driver of the beer, which, I think, makes it more refreshing. Guava tends to the thick cloying side of fruits and can sometimes overpower a mimosa, a cocktail or an OJ. Southern Range did a great job with nuance and sleight of hand to allow guava to play, but not bully. It had a bright fruity aroma and the price was more than approachable in a market where some 16oz cans are upward of $5.99, or $15.99 for a four pack. Even better, I got it pretty darned fresh. I will warn: be wary of this style in low volume shops as they don’t hold up well. I would avoid any New England style IPA after eight weeks of packaging unless you get a great deal.

All in all, if this is what Southern Range has to offer, then Monroe, NC should be very proud.

Budget Beer: Genesee Cream Ale

Brewery: Genesee Brewing Company
Beer: Genesee Cream Ale
ABV: 5.1%

I stopped by Sam’s Quik Shop to wish a happy birthday to a good friend. He was running late and I was running early, so I grabbed a 24oz can of Genny Cream and sat down to crank out some writing while I waited. I put on my headphones and entered into my infamous “reclusive in public” mode.

Genesee Cream Ale is an all-around light beer. As you can see by the featured picture for this story, it is so light that you can see the people sitting across from me through the beer. Genny Cream has no discernible smell–at least not while it’s cold and fresh. It is a bit more malty (and sweeter) than a lot of budget beers, excluding, of course, malt liquor. Genny pours out nicely, always with a foamy head and a crisp first sip, owing to its particularly high carbonation.

At 5.1% ABV, it is very easy to toss a few of these back on a hot day. The budget quality of this beer is better than that of some budget beer staples like PBR (4.74% ABV), National Bohemian (4.52%), and Miller High Life (4.6%). At Sam’s Quik Shop–my go-to Durham beer hangout–Genny cream goes for $1.18 for a 24oz can. After tax, that’s $1.28. That’s roughly 5.3 cents per ounce. Not bad, eh?

On the can itself, the ABV isn’t listed, however. In North Carolina, beers under 6% ABV are not required to indicate the ABV. I must admit though, I was a bit surprised to learn Genny was above 5% (barely). Taking into account the ABV and the $1.28 price (including tax), Genesee Cream Ale makes for a top notch budget buy.

If you’re just looking for a cold one and want to save yourself the trouble of navigating a craft beer menu, then drop less that $1.50 and give old Genny a try.

Local Beer: Green Man Brewery, ESB

Brewery: Green Man Brewery
Beer: ESB
ABV: 5.5%

I sat down at my kitchen table on Easter Sunday listening to Odetta on vinyl. I had just finished eating a homemade eggs benedict (shout out to Hollandaise sauces everywhere), and decided to migrate over to beer. I wasn’t looking for any particular flavor on this Sunday, as I had just inhaled a plateful of deliciousness, so I reached for a beer that fits the “just because I want a beer” category.

The ESB from Asheville’s Green Man Brewery is a very accessible beer. It’s an amber ale, which is generally a malt-driven style intended to be broadly appealing. The ESB is a successful example of this catch-call intent. It’s straightforward, balanced, and easy to drink.

I poured the very dark colored amber into my usual glass. There was no discernible smell beyond that of just plain old beer. The darkness of the ESB is a bit misleading, however. When I think of darker beers, generally I think heavy. This beer is anything but heavy. Light, crisp, malty, and best enjoyed cold, the ESB is a beer made for people who might not be beer nerds, who might not like hops, who might just want a beer. At 5.5% ABV, a person could easily kick back a couple of these at a cookout with friends. The ESB is delightfully simple. It’s the perfect afternoon beer on a warm day; it’s the cold one after work, the easy choice on an indecisive evening, a gift for a friend who hates IPAs.

The Green Man Brewery offers an array of tasty beverages that span the palate. I happened upon them on a Friday in January when they were participating in one of the free Friday tastings at Sam’s Quik Shop. As usual, I made my way through the suite of offerings. Across the board, I was wholly impressed with this brewery. I am making a point to visit Green Man when I head out to Asheville this summer for some of that fresh mountain air.

Just because, here’s the Benedict that preceded this beer:

All original photos by Matia Guardabascio (The Editor).

Saxapahaw Synergy: A Beer & Cheese Pairing

Brewery: Haw River Farmhouse Ales
Beer: Mille Fleur Rustic Saison
ABV: 5.8%

Farm: Prodigal Farm
Cheese: Saxapahaw Blues
Style: milled blue; cow

On a sunny and cool afternoon in March I popped open the Mille Fleur Rustic Saison from Saxapahaw’s Haw River Farmhouse Ales. From the old-timey stubby-style brown bottle came the familiar yeasty aroma of a saison. The smell tapered off as I poured the light golden amber brew into a glass. Unsurprisingly the first sip had significant yeast and fruit notes, but neither was overpowering. In fact, as I made my way through the 16.9 fl oz pour, the beer proved to be noticeably balancedmild, not overly funky.

Yeast is the backbone of a quality saison. At Haw River Farmhouse Ales, they take their yeast seriously. In fact, they harvest their own wild yeast from their “very own backyard” in Saxapahaw. The folks at Haw River are also big proponents of supporting local, proudly incorporating ingredients from “farms and gardens within a hundred miles” of their brewery. The results of their homegrown brewing strategy are finely crafted beers, some with complex flavor profiles, others delightfully simple and accessible, like my beer of choice on that March day. [1]

Saisons are among my favorite styles of beer. I trend toward saisons generally because I love Belgian-style beer, and particularly yeast- and malt-driven flavors. While I often seek out funkier flavors in my beers, I was very pleased with the Mille Fleur. It’s easy to drink, balanced, and relaxing. And I chose the perfect day to try it…

On this particular afternoon in March, I had, earlier in the day, visited the Wine Authorities over on University Avenue for one of their frequently-offered free wine tastings. While I had originally gone to the store to restock my sake stash, I found myself, as usual, lurking over by the cheese section. My eyes were drawn to a local cheese called, “Saxapahaw Blues” from Prodigal Farm in Rougemont. As I was heading home to drink and review a Saxapahaw-produced beer, I figured I’d ride the wave of Saxapahaw inspiration and pair the beer with this very unique blue cheese. Man oh man, was that a good choice.

The “Saxapahaw Blues” is not your typical blue cheese. It had all the funk and stink of a creamy, delicious blue, but instead of the soft consistency and texture of a typical blue, like a Stilton, this cheese had a similar consistency and flavor base to what I would expect from a mild cheddar. Upon further investigation (I contacted Prodigal Farm for more information), I was informed that this cheese is in fact a “milled blue” meaning it is made in much the same way as cheddar, thus creating the similar texture and flavor base.

I was about halfway through the Mille Fleur when I decided to introduce the Saxapahaw Blues to my funk-wanting palate. While the beer had originally maintained an easy, balanced, low funk flavor, as soon as I ate a little piece of the Saxapahaw Blues, my next sip of beer was a completely different experience. All of a sudden it was all funk all the time, like the yeast in my saison had been abruptly woken from a slumber and made to run a marathon inside my mouth.

By the time I finished my beer, I had eaten a little more cheese than I should have, but it was well worth it. My spontaneous choice to spend an afternoon exploring Saxapahaw synergy turned out to be spot on. And while the Mille Fleur runs at $6.99/bottle at my favorite beer corner, Sam’s Quik Shop, it is a 16.9 fl oz (or 500ml) serving, and one that could (should) be shared with a friend on a slow Spring afternoon out in the sun.

Photo by Matia Guardabascio (The Editor).

Local Beer: Southern Pines Brewing Company, Grapefruit Hefe

Brewery: Southern Pines Brewing Company
Beer: Grapefruit Hefe Hefeweizen
ABV: 4.8%

Brewed and canned about an hour’s drive south of the Triangle, the Grapefruit Hefe from Southern Pines Brewing Company promised to be “refreshing, smooth, and citrusy.” A Hefeweizen is a german-style beer, traditionally very crisp and fruity, although typically known for its banana or clove aroma. Southern Pines chose to use grapefruit, a powerhouse of citrus flavor, as the fruit-base for this particular beer. As one who is usually drawn to tart beers, especially sours, as well as beers which tend to be less hoppy, I had high hopes for the Grapefruit Hefe from the beginning.

As I poured the much anticipated brew into a glass, I could immediately smell citrus. The color was a medium amber, almost like an apple cider, but cloudy. At first taste, I was surprised that I didn’t taste citrus at the forefront. I tasted wheat, with a lingering bitterness at the back of my mouth that I imagine could have been grapefruit.

While still enjoyable, I think my disconnect with this hefeweizen was that I was expecting a lighter beer. For my taste, I didn’t find it to be particularly crisp, as I had expected from this style of beer. Perhaps it should be consumed in warmer weather, instead of on a cold, rainy night in the middle of March. Ultimately I didn’t find it to be as refreshing as it was cracked up to be. That said, come summertime, I’ll give it another chance and see if it might be the crisp and refreshing brew choice of a summer night.