My thoughts behind this blog was to let people, mainly Scandinavians know what the beer scenes is like here, in Durham, NC where I live. Looking back on all my posts I realize that a lot of them is not related to Durham and I haven’t really succeeded in showing you the picture of Durham as a beer town and how great a beer town it is. In this my last post from Durham, before heading out to new adventures I will try to make up for that and let you know about the greatness of Durham as a beer town.
First of all, what constitutes a great beer town? The definition of a beer town is of course very individual but I think there are a few things that all of us beer enthusiasts have in common. The President of the Brewers Association Charlie Papazian nominated 8 towns as Beertown USA last year. As the president of the Beer Association he of course built the whole list on the amount of craft breweries each town has based on the population. I don’t think that a good beer town need to have a local crafty brewery but it’s an very important element. This is my list of what constitutes a good beer town in random order:
- Multiple beer retailers (bars and stores) with a good selection of craft beers
- Local brewery
- Beer events
- Beer community
Lets start with the retailers. A beer town must of course have multiple locations where people can buy beer. There need to be enough of them so that there is a healthy competition between them to bring in interesting beers. Durham have
about ten good beer bars in the downtown area and another five or so in suburbia. Tyler’s Taproom and Restaurant is a local chain with locations in Durham, Chapel Hill, Apex and coming soon Raleigh (heard on the rumor mill). Tyler’s always have 20+ beer on tap and they always bring in something new and interesting. There are a few smaller bars like The Federal and Dain’s Place with good craft beers. Dani’s is my neighborhood bar. They have 5 beers on tap, all craft breweries and a great selection of bottled beers. I go to Bull McCabe’s for two reasons, they have Fuller’s London Porter on tap and the best BLT in town. When it comes to retail stores in Durham it’s a little thin. Whole Foods Market and Sam’s Quick Shop are the only two places with a good beer selection. Sam’s is a beer and wine store with many great domestic and international beers. I have to mentions all the other restaurants that are not focused on quality craft beers. A mature beer town not only have some great beer stores and beer bars. All the other restaurants also have good craft beers. Dos Peros is a Mexican restaurant serving good authentic Mexican food and they have a great beer selection. Watts Grocery is another great restaurant focusing on quality local food delivered from local farmers and, of course local craft beers. If you want to open an restaurant in Durham today, no matter what food you plan to serve you need to have craft beers to be considers a serious restaurant.
A local brewery is an important element in a good beer town. It’s just a sign of a mature beer community that value a local brewery and support it. It’s kind of the crown on the king and a final step to be recognized as a good beer town, someone is willing to invest time and money to supply the town with good craft beers. Just until 3 years ago Durham didn’t have it’s own brewery. In 2007 Triangle Brewing Company opened it’s doors and are now distributing beer in much of North Carolina. The beer community have grown so strong in Durham that another brewery is on the way. Fullsteam Brewery will open in August with a very interesting combination of southern cookin’ and southern beer.
A good beer town need a major beer event. It doesn’t have to be a large beer festival. I can be a small event where the community can gather once or twice a year to celebrant beer and beer culture. In Durham it’s World Beer Festival, the
mother of all the World Beer Festivals. It started in 1996 by Daniel Bradford, publisher of All About Beer Magazine. The World Beer Festival is one of the main reasons Durham is a great beer town. There are so many other fantastic small events going on in Durham besides the World Beer Festival. Triangle Brewery now and then have a cask ale release at a local bar, Durham have two cask ale events, Three Boys and Beers and Black Friday. They both have about 200 or so beer loving people attending. And then you have the beer dinners. Many of the restaurants host beer dinners serving interesting food with interesting beer. How many of you have been to a vegetarian beer dinner? Come to Dos Perros July 13th and you will find out what it is. This has to be a sign that Durham is a mature beer town if a restaurant owner think he can host a vegetarian beer dinner. I hope it will be a success!
Beer is community and community is people. The people are the most important in a good beer town. They have to be interested in craft beer, ask questions about what they are drinking and demand good beer from their favorite beer retailer. A mature beer community need to be able to carry their local brewery, bars, retail stores and support the local events. A good beer community could be in many different shapes and forms. It could be a home brew club, beer consumers organizations, on-line beer communities, met-up groups and much more. Durham have much of that. There is at least one homebrew club, the TRiangle’s Unabashed homeBrewers (TRUB) , one online community Beerinator (this is a Triangle community and not specifically related to Durham) and three Met-up groups. There are hundreds of in-formal groups that meet over craft beers and talk beers.
This is why I think Durham is a great beer town. I will be sad to leave it. It’s been a privilege for me to be part of the beer community and to feel the excitement around beer in Durham. I would like to thank you all in Durham for the past three years. It’s been great!
These are for me the most important categories in a great beer town. If you don’t agree just send me a comment an let me know what you think makes a great beer town.