We love craft beer, I mean, we really LOVE it, but it’s not the only crafty beverage brewing here in Bull City. There’s a whole slew of local beverage companies are doing their part to make sure we have options and we’ve got 8 right here for you.
1. Bull City Ciderworks: 305 S. Roxboro Street
I remember touring the original location and can’t believe how quickly Bull City Ciderworks has grown. Every time I visit, there’s a large crowd and lots of pups to boot! Hard cider is an obvious alternative to beer and Bull City Ciderworks has “core,” seasonal, and limited selections to please a wide crowd and keep it interesting. My favorites are Rhize Up with fresh ginger and Jack and Oak that is reminiscent of pumpkin pie yet not too sweet. I love how dog-friendly the place is and how congenial the staff are. Always a pleasant experience. Looking for another cider-centric bar in Durham? Check out Black Twig Cider House on Erwin Rd.
2. Durham Distillery: 711 Washington Street
Durham Distillery produces gin, vodka, and liqueurs that you can find in ABC stores around the Triangle and are widely used in mixed drinks at many area bars. The biggest complaint with gin is that it often tastes like pine trees. Conniption American Dry downplays the juniper in favor of cucumber and botanicals. That is a good choice for those less-inclined to the prominent juniper flavor of many gins. Now, if you like or don’t mind juniper, then go for the Conniption Navy Strength.
Durham Distillery’s liqueur line is called “Damn Fine” and damn fine it is. Mix it with other liquors for a rich cocktail or have it with some ice. I prefer the latter. Whether you are drinking the chocolate, mocha, or coffee liqueur, you can definitely taste the quality of the ingredients. The chocolate liqueur is my favorite because of the cap of Videri chocolate at the top of the bottle. What a treat!
3. Mystic Farm and Distilling: 1212 N. Mineral Springs Road
I love my whisky. After living in Scotland for a few years, I came to love the brown liquid and the traditions surrounding it. Naturally, my ears perked up at Mystic Farm’s whisky liqueur, which is adapted from a Scottish recipe. The Mystic Bourbon Liqueur blends wheat bourbon with honey and various botanicals to produce a rich liqueur that is not heavy. If you’re into your Scotch whiskies, it has a flavor profile similar to many Speyside single malts with their vanilla and caramel characteristic (think Aberlour). I like it straight up but it is excellent in cocktails. Mystic also offers their whiskey base (Heart of Mystic), the whiskey spirit (Soul of Mystic), and a gin that is light on the juniper.
Sometimes, you can find Murphy Boys Farm selling their meat at the distillery. The farm is just down the road. They raise heritage hogs and feed Mystic’s spent mash. Nothing goes to waste! The farm is open for visitors for tours, classes, and venue rentals.
4. Honeygirl Meadery: 105 Hood Street, Suite 6
When I first moved to Durham, Honeygirl was one of the first places on my list that I wanted to check out. Meaderies aren’t exactly on every corner so to have one in Durham is pretty special. Meads are great aperitifs that you can drink in any season, neat, iced, in a mixed drink, etc. Honeygirl has both staple meads and seasonal flavors. Strawberry season is just starting so they will be rolling out their Strawberry Mead in a few weeks!
Not into alcohol? Durham still has a selection of craft beverages for you. If you’re a fan of kombucha, you have likely heard of Homebucha already, especially if you have been to the Durham Farmers’ Market or have looked at the refrigerated drinks section in local grocery stores. Bluebird and Just Ginger are the main flavors but my favorite is the Spicy Triple Pepper Lime (spice is life!). Owner Grant Ruhlman occasionally leads Kombucha 101 workshops for budding kombucha makers so be on the lookout for that if you are interested!
6. Brood Sodas
Another option for non-alcoholic beverage drinkers is Brood Sodas, found in a shop near you. With flavors running the gamut of sweet, smoky, spicy and sour in addition to those inspired by your favorite local university teams, Brood uses high quality ingredients to take sodas up a notch.
7. Brothers Vilgalys: 803D Ramseur Street
I first visited Brothers Vilgalys back in 2015 when I toured their space and saw Krupnikas being made. Since then, they added four other spirits: Zaphod (guava, starfuit, sage, lemongrass, peppercorn), Beebop (rhubarb, hibiscus, rosemary, allspice, coriander), Beatnik (beets, thyme, sage, fennel seed, orange zest) and Jabberwock (chipotle, Manzano peppers, coffee beans, eucalyptus, lemongrass, chicory). I currently have on my bedside table Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy so I appreciate these references to literature. Nevertheless, Krupnikas is still their flagship liqueur. Their website offers a number of cocktail recipes but I also love adding Krupnikas to baked goods and to stewed apples for a honeyed, spicy kick.
8. Barrel Culture Brewing and Blending: 4913 S. Alston Avenue
Ok, bear with me. This might be a controversial move since fruit beer is still, well, beer. However, the lineup at Barrel Culture Brewing and Blending on S. Alston Avenue will appeal to those who may not like beer. They produce fruit beers to offer consumers something different in a saturated Triangle and state market. Their beers have lower ABVs (~3.5% usually) and feature inventive flavor combinations. When I visited, I tasted Tropical Remix, Dragon Fruit Popsicle, Pineapple Beets, Melon Ball, and Citra and Simcoe. Tropical fruits are my favorite since I am from a tropical country so all of these beers were right up my alley. Citra and Simcoe was the most sour in the lineup that night (20 IBU). I am not the biggest fan of sour beers but this one impressed me. I have spent some time in Belgium so I’ve had my fair share of them; this is the only one I can say I like because its tartness and sweetness were balanced.
The production process for fruit beers begins like any other beer. The big difference is the second natural fermentation process. After the fruit (real, no artificial flavorings) is added, the beer then sits in open barrels to allow natural yeasts in the environment to work their magic. Afterwards, Barrel Culture ages the beer for 2-3 months in wine barrels. I was initially worried that the beers would be too sweet or too tart but they had body and depth of flavor.
Barrel Culture is only open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and have different flavors on tap everyday. They produce 40-100 bottles of each flavor and they sell out of them quickly. There can be a 1.5 hour long line BEFORE OPENING on bottle release days. I went on a Saturday evening and there were only two flavors left with a handful of bottles available (of course I brought some home). I wouldn’t be surprised if they sold out by the time they closed that night.
Notes: flights are not available; there will be outside seating soon so you can bring your pooch!