726 Rigsbee Ave.
Durham, North Carolina
Visited on September 3, 2011
Revisited on January 31, 2014
Fullsteam got themselves a new head brewer early in 2015. How much would that change things? Within the first two months, they had produced two of the best beers I’ve had in a long time – a strong kumquat IPA and a cold brew coffee stout. I couldn’t stop going back for more.
So I decided to give the rest of their menu another try, to which I still give it a gigantic “meh.” I think they’re all brewed well, but I don’t care for the recipes still. I don’t like sweet potato and basil in my beer. But whenever they come out with a new beer, I’m eager to try it. Every now and then they have a home run.
Now living in the Triangle and working in Durham, it didn’t take long for me to give Fullsteam another visit. It was crowded and cold, but the eclectic vibe and cheerful patrons give this place a very welcoming atmosphere. They had a ton of taps this time around instead of just four, and some of them were actually pretty alright.
I went through two sampler platters and tasted them all. For some reason, this lighter ginger beer called Cackalacky is all the rage at the moment, but I don’t care for it. Of their beers, their flagship Fullsteam lager and their IPA are most worth drinking. Some of the others tasted a bit off to me. I still don’t like the sweet potato lager.
Fullsteam is a pretty cool place. It has a wide-open floor layout filled with games like ping-pong, arcade games, pin ball, etc. There are typically pretty decent food trucks lining the street outside. It’s a relaxed place to enjoy a few pints with some friends. I don’t really care for their beer all that much, but you can tell that they put a lot of care into the process. Everything is done well and there aren’t any off flavors, except that is for the ones that are supposed to be there. Beers featuring basil or sweet potato just don’t strike my fancy. I appreciate the creativity, but a couple of straight-foreword options wouldn’t be a bad idea to complement their “southern style” brews.
Located in Durham in a revitalized area that was too dangerous to walk around at night in just a few years ago, Fullsteam gives the impression of being awesome. A giant room full of ping-pong, foosball, pool, darts, and video games makes a promising start. A short bar with friendly but slow bartenders makes you feel right at home. I liked it from the start.
But I didn’t like it by the end quite as much. A few snacks are available ranging from a cheese plate to tamales, but no food really to speak of. There are usually food trucks lined up outside, and I would have gotten a slice of pizza if it hadn’t closed right when we got there at 11:00 p.m. on a Saturday night after a Duke football game.
The beer was interesting but entirely unremarkable. They’re seeking to create a “southern” style of beer by incorporating southern ingredients into their beer. I’m of the opinion that beer should have water, yeast, barley, and hops, with perhaps a few adjuncts thrown in like smoke, a hint of fruit, spices, or perhaps another form of grain. But sweet potatoes and basil?
The sweet potato lager was okay. It was crisp and refreshing but I didn’t pick up much sweet potato flavor. The basil beer was just weird and I didn’t like drinking the flavor. The blonde was entirely tasteless and the IPA was sort of decent, but well short of many of its brethren. All in all, you could tell that they put a lot of effort into creating the beer with quality ingredients. They were all very well made. The recipes just need work.
Service, as mentioned, was slow but friendly. I liked the vibe they gave off, though, and the fact that they seemed to know a lot of the patrons.