February 4, 2016, Post 1012 Traveling in Europe includes many joys: great food, fantastic beer, and, for us, riding the rails instead of driving a car. We take it for granted we’ll rail Europe, but sometimes we remember we can have those joys of Europe in our own back yard.
Durham has enough beer for a great weekend of exploring and tasting and you can get to it pretty easily from the big cities of the Mid Atlantic. Hop on the Carolinian in Washington at 10:53 AM and you’ll arrive in Durham in plenty of time to start your beer hunting weekend.
The Triangle Area of North Carolina is home to more than two dozen of the state’s 139 breweries and there are probably a few nanos that our count has missed. We’re focusing on Durham because of ease of rail travel and we’ll include one side trip because of its tie to the Old Country.
Durham sports five breweries, although you’ll have to wait for the Durham Bulls season to open in April to visit one of them. The other four keep good hours and are easy to get to by taxi. We’ve learned that it pays to keep your cabbie’s card and call back, especially in small towns. If you’re on a crawl you’ll be more likely to get prompt service and direct routes. We’ve also liked the illusion of having our own chauffeur. Nicky was part cab driver and part soccer mom while we were there, but took excellent care of us.
An easy start is Bull City Burger and Brewery (107 East Parrish St.); ending with it isn’t really an option with an 11PM close even on weekends. Nothing fancy here. A sign on the front window saying “Please do not tap on glass. Our brewers are easily startled” sets the tongue-in-cheek tone pretty quickly. Plan on burgers, though there are veggie burgers and some dogs. But it’s “farm to fork” with local beef ground daily making those burgers something of a destination. About eight beers on tap are quite good, with the stouts, both sessions and knee knockers, well above craft average.
It’s not a far walk to Triangle’s Plate and Pour Taproom (918 Pearl St.). It’s a members only club, but sign the book at the door and you’re a member. The beer, perhaps, was not at its best the night we were there, but the place was nice: long, high, woody place, the usual big TV, another but larger storefront, with a great front porch for standing and leaning on the wide, elbow-high railing. You can visit the brewery, but it’s not nearly as walkable as the downtown taproom.
You’ll need your cabbie to get to Fullsteam (726 Rigsbee Ave), a warehouse-y cavernous place a ways north of the downtown area. While Bull City had hit a few of their beers out of the park, Fullsteam managed some singles and stolen bases, but it was still a good evening. A dozen different beers kept us happily busy until it was time to ramble back to our motel.
We missed the chance to visit Ponysaurus Brewing at 1101 West Chapel Hill Street. We believe their taproom hours have expanded since our visit and they’re now open 7 days a week. Their website http://ponysaurusbrewing.com/ is good for more information and a chuckle or two.
We had to rent a car to get to Fortnight Brewery in Cary (1006 SW Maynard Rd.) which is more of a suburb (or exurb) of Raleigh than Durham. It was well in keeping with our Europe-in-the-US weekend though: the lineup of gold, mild, bitter, ESB and porter among its seven taps was pretty much exactly what you’d expect to find in a pub in Little Piddleton on the Wye. (We like places like that.) The most interesting beer, however, was an off the reservation Coffee Amber. The British biscuity malt was still perceptible, but a nicely chewy finish let to a graceful bitterness at the end.
If you want to push farther to Charlotte there’s plenty waiting there for you too. If you take a route that roughly follows the railroad tracks you can roll past eight breweries in nine miles. Perhaps this spring we’ll see you there.