Brewery Reviews, Craft Beer Travel, Travel, United States

Fullsteam Brewery Review in Durham, North Carolina

Fullsteam Brewery – Beer Brewed the Hard Way.

Many a craft beer fan wanted to throw their can, bottle, or pint glass at the TV when they saw Budweiser’s “Brewed the Hard Way” advertisement during the Super Bowl. But then again, none of us wanted to waste good beer in such a frivolous manner. (I guess that’s because we’re all beer dissectors?) Instead, we began an intellectual war through blogs and YouTube. But Budweiser didn’t hear the message. They still run their “Brewed the Hard Way” advertisement and its blasted all over their web site.

For the longest time, I didn’t understand why. Didn’t Budweiser understand the hypocrisy of their marketing? Didn’t they know what brewing the hard way actually means? Then I visited Fullsteam Brewery in Durham, North Carolina, a brewery that truly brews beer the hard way, and I realized that Budweiser has no clue what brewing the hard way means. Here’s a lesson for Budweiser via a real example in Fullsteam.

Brewed the hard Way

Fullsteam Brewery in Durham, NC

What Does It Mean to Brew Beer the Hard Way?

Two words answer that question – Craft Beer. At the heart of the craft beer industry are men and women taking a risk to produce a product they believe in, local entrepreneurs investing their savings and taking out loans to pursue a dream. That dream to many would resemble a nightmare as these brave business owners compete against companies with some of the largest marketing budgets in the world – Big Beer.

And they’re brewing it the hard way.

They’re using quality ingredients instead of bragging about being beechwood aged (which does nothing for the beer other than provide a marketing term nobody understands). They’re touching the grains and smelling the hops to make sure the flavor profiles are right for the beer in mind. They’re not allowing robots to do the job but instead employ real people in the community to assist with each step of the process. They’re not using fillers like rice to cheapen the product and make it more economical to produce when they could truly use the cost savings in their fledgling budgets. And they’re being rewarded by consumers in droves.

Brewed the Hard Way

The Bar at Fullsteam Brewery

How is Fullsteam Brewing Beer the Hard Way?

According to Fullsteam’s web site. “We seek no less than to build a Southern Beer Economy…one pint at a time.” Fullsteam accomplishes this mission by brewing beers that the brewery defines as plow to pint. The brewery works with local farms whenever possible to source ingredients from grains to hops to even more obscure additions like basil, honey, paw-paw fruit, sweet potatoes, and scupperdine grapes. The web site further explains, “We buy local because Southern ingredients give our beer distinct character and the act of local commerce creates jobs and wealth for North Carolina farmers and food producers.”

[box] “The act of local commerce creates jobs and wealth for North Carolina farmers and food producers.”[/box]

Fullsteam is stimulating the economy by buying local. That’s more than Budweiser can claim. For proof, check out Fullsteam’s ingredient list versus Budweiser’s (Budweiser has eliminated their ingredient list since this article original posted) In addition, Fullsteam’s efforts began during the recession when local businesses and employees needed the economic opportunities the most. This is also during the same period when Budweiser sold to InBev, a Belgian conglomerate, transferring wealth overseas. That’s quite a contrast. Fullsteam was stimulating the local economy while big beer was sending profits overseas.

Beyond just the impact on the local agriculture community, Fullsteam has also had a major impact on downtown Durham. I remember my first business trip to downtown Durham in 2008. It was rather frightening. The brewery took a chance on an old 7-Up bottling plant and built what many would call the hub of the revitalized downtown community. Today, downtown Durham is flourishing with life, business, and young neighborhoods.

Brewed the Hard Way

The Gourmands at Fullsteam Brewery

Of Course, It all Comes Down to the Beer.

Even the Olympics tell great stories of athletes that end up being losers. The same goes for beer. No matter how great the story behind the pint, if the brewery can’t brew a unique and delicious beer, then the story doesn’t really matter. Fullsteam brews a beer that is equally as unique and special as the brewery mission.

I started my flight of beers with Carver, a sweet potato lager. What drew me to this beer was that no sweet potato pie spice was added. (It wasn’t a pumpkin peach ale from a craft brewery which Budweiser actually owns.) The beer was crisp, like one would expect from a lager, with a pleasant creamy body. There was an ever so slight hint of sweet potato, just enough to give the beer some chewiness.

Second was Hogwash, a smoked brown porter. Fullsteam smoked six-row barley in house over hickory wood. The description says the beer should have a bacon-like aroma and taste. Given that I’ve been to Bamberg and drank rauchbier from the fountain, I have to disagree. The campfire smokiness had a stronger presence than other “smoke” beers, but I found the fatty bacon notes in rauchbier were missing. With that said, I really enjoyed the beer. The smoke blended well with the strong caramel malts and the hops added just enough crispness to the finish. Unlike a rauchbier, I could drink multiple pints of Hogwash.

Beer Brewed the Hard Way

Fullsteam Brewery Beer Menu

My next beer was Common Good, a Kentucky common. This is truly a local beer as the entire grain bill is from North Carolina. Added to the sour mash are Virginia apples. The result is a beer that delivers huge sour notes that is somehow low on an aggressive tartness. It was almost too balanced to qualify as a sour but delicious nonetheless. Riverbend Rye is a pale ale brewed with rye from North Carolina based Riverbend Malt House. The nose was full of juicy candied citrus but I noticed more dankness on the tongue. After I tasted the beer, I read the description and agreed that it is both “rugged and juicy.”

I saved the best for last – Fearington Winter on nitro. Fullsteam’s take on a winter warmer was a coffee pecan porter brewed with Georgia peaches. It was like drinking art with slight bitterness from the coffee, chocolate from the malt, and a mellowing nuttiness and sweetness that seemed to blend the flavors together. Now add a layer of creaminess to the mouthfeel from the nitro for further definition of the ale.

Sorry, Budweiser, if I over-analyzed these beers too much, but I enjoy beers brewed the hard way.

Beer Brewed the Hard Way

Beer Brewed the Hard Way

There’s No Excuse for Drinking Big Beer.

If Budweiser showed us anything with their “Brewed the Hard Way” ad, it’s that they don’t understand what brewing the hard way means. They don’t understand that it’s craft breweries like Fullsteam who are truly brewing beer the hard way. They as a company are un-American as they slight an industry that is helping to jump-start local economies through neighborhood redevelopment, support of local agriculture, and job creation all while taking pride in a product they believe in.

I’m offended by the conglomerate’s arrogance and you should be, too. I think it’s time to send the brewery a message. Help me teach Budweiser a lesson and show them how asinine their advertisement is. Let’s take to the social media and tell them what brewing the hard way means. Share this post on their Twitter and Facebook with the following messages.

Twitter  – .@Budweiser Since you haven’t learned yet, this is what #BrewedTheHardWay means!  #BrewedTheREALHardWay #craftbeer


Facebook – Hey, Budweiser! Quit insulting the American people. This is what brewing the hard way means!


And then ask your friends to do the same! Let’s make this go viral and force Budweiser to take their insulting ad down!