At first I thought it was just one more new regional craft brewery, the kind that have been cropping up in every decent sized Southern city these days. There would be nothing wrong with that--those craft breweries are turning out some excellent beer--but Fullsteam takes things up about three more levels with some seriously intense beer alchemy.
Calling themselves a "plow to pint" brewery, Fullsteam is definitely pushing the envelope. In case you doubt me, see how the F in Fullsteam is backwards? That's edgy! But even more edgy are the flavors they are introducing to beer. On tap that night out at the Taylor Grocery were a Sparkling Scuppernong Ale, Carver Sweet Potato Amber, Summer Basil Wheat, and Hogwash Hickory-Smoked Porter.
Fullsteam's "plow-to-pint" aesthetic is self-consciously radical, with small batches of beer purposely brewed with unusual flavors from ingredients that are grown right here in the South. Local, organic, seasonal--a little trendy, perhaps, if you're talking about food, but still pretty novel in the beer world.
The Summer Basil, made with twelve pounds of basil from Coon Rock Farm in Hillsborough, North Carolina, is a remarkable beer, a hearty wheat brew that is absolutely infused with the rich flavor of basil. When the pourman described it to me, I figured it couldn't possibly be any good--basil in beer? But in fact, it was remarkably tasty, like a mouthful of flowers (and, strange as it might sound, I mean that in a good way.)
But, the start of the show for me was the smoked porter. That's right, Hickory-Smoked Porter. It's made from barley that Fullsteam smokes themselves over hickory wood in the classic North Carolina barbecue tradition, and while it's not overpowering you can really taste the smoke flowing through. I can't attest for the beer's pairing with hickory smoked pork, for there was no barbecue in sight that evening. The order of the day was deep-fried catfish, and I can state without a shred of doubt that Hogwash is a brilliant accompaniment for deep fried catfish.
The world of microbeers have progressed so far now that just another brewery introducing another good beer to the market is hardly worth even mentioning. But, highly flavored beer that bring the pure, intense sensibility of the farm to table movement to the craft of beer brewing is certainly worth making note of.
All I can say is, Fullsteam ahead!