Fans of sour beers face a challenge locally. Few North Carolina breweries beyond Asheville’s Wicked Weed, Saxapahaw’s Haw River and Morganton’s Fonta Flora produce that tart style except for the occasional one-off. But Durty Bull Brewing Co. is closing in on changing that.
Touring Durty Bull’s still-under-renovation location at the corner of Durham’s Broadway and North streets with brewery mastermind Matt Pennisi, you can hear the excitement in his voice as he talks about the brewery and taproom taking shape behind the red brick exterior.
“I love showing it off,” Pennisi says. He spreads the plans for the 6,084 square-foot spot on a stack of wood being reclaimed for the taproom. “This space is where the brew house will be. We’re going to have two 30-barrel foeders here. Our taproom will be in that corner over there. That back area is where we’ll do barrel storage.”
Durty Bull’s barrel storage plan is part of its mission to produce unconventional offerings for local beer lovers. Durty Bull will have several times the number of barrels that most area breweries keep on hand.
“We’ll have wine barrels, whiskey barrels, whatever we can get that we can play with,” Pennisi says. “We’ll put different fruits in them or different bacteria. We’re doing a Baltic porter, so we’ll barrel-age some Baltic porter probably.”
Blending will be a common technique for Durty Bull, too.
“We might take only 10 gallons from this barrel and five gallons from that one to make a unique beer,” he explains. “When we make some of our sour beers, we might take 50 gallons of it and put it in a barrel and throw raspberries in it and put different bacteria in it, and then take 50 gallons and put some other fruit in it. You take parts of each to make the beer you really want to have.”
You may have encountered Durty Bull brews at various tasting events during the past year. “That was all home brewed just under my little carport at my house, using cut-out kegs,” Pennisi says with a chuckle. “This will be a much bigger scale.”
He will be using custom-made equipment from Charlotte’s Deutsche Beverage Technology, items Penisi calls toys. But those toys take about 23 weeks to make. That, plus the final step in the permitting process, has Durty Bull looking at a probable April 2016 opening. When that happens, sour fans should be as excited as Pennisi is now. Even Durty Bull’s Brettanomyces IPA will have a sour connection.
“Brettanomyces is usually associated with sour beers, but it doesn’t necessarily sour the beer,” he says. “It can create these funky barnyard aromas, cherry pie aromas and make a fruity, super dry IPA. As opposed to coming out with your pale ale, a brown or something, we’re coming out with a Brettanomyces IPA, which is very dry and fruity. We’re not building off the base beer. We’re just kind of going big and funky.”
For the IPA, Durty Bull will do whirlpool hops. That means that after the wort is boiled, it’ll go into the custom-made shallow whirlpool to get drenched in hops.
At tastings, people have responded enthusiastically to the IPA, plus a Baltic porter and a peanut butter whiskey barrel Baltic porter. Pennisi says the Baltic porter is 11 percent ABV and the IPA is 9.3 percent.
“We’re going to be doing a taproom-only lager also,” he assures, “just to keep it light for if you’re not walking home.”