Walking into Ponysaurus Brewing Co. in Durham, N.C., is like walking into a backyard party with the best beer kegs on tap.
Not so much in the sense that everyone knows everyone – this isn’t Cheers. But in the sense that kids, parents, singles and seniors intermingle around the sprawling fenced grounds and upstairs patio. Fido is welcome too, and on any given day, a handful of dogs can be seen sitting leashed next to their owners, or enthusiastically greeting one another.
“It’s got a nice crowd, and the funny coasters and signs – heck, even its name, for that matter – attest that it doesn't take itself too seriously,” said Laura Ertel, who said the “Pony” is frequently her 19th hole after a day of golf. “I always have a hard time choosing my favorite beer, so I love their flights.”
Without a doubt, the craft beer scene in and around Durham has exploded over the past few years, but Ponysaurus stands out simply by producing good brews and, as Ertel noted, by not taking itself too seriously.
Fun and, perhaps, quirky are ways to describe the atmosphere throughout Ponysaurus Brewing Co., right down to the decor on the bathroom walls — yes, the bathroom walls. (Photo: Lea Hart)
They’re a little bit quirky. The mascot, if you will, is a real Ponysaurus – part pony, part dinosaur. And the Ponysaurus has a lot to say; just read their beer cans, their website, or their bathroom wall décor – no, really.
And they keep it fun. All the time. Each night features a different local food truck parked outside in the middle of the yard. The offerings range from stuffed pitas of Soom Soom Pita Pockets to creative Asian fare from Chirba Chirba Dumpling.
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If that day’s food truck isn’t your scene, reserve a grill instead (but do it in advance), order up everything from hot dogs to veggie burgers to side items, and they’ll be waiting when you arrive. Sports, such as this Saturday's North Carolina versus Duke hardwood rematch, play out on a variety of big screen televisions, but there is more. Seasonal events like outdoor movies and fire pits with s’mores kits for purchase ensure there’s something a little different every visit.
And none of this even gets to the beer itself. As stated on the website, “It’s a beer surprise party every time.” Frequently rotating taps offer choices like their Don’t Be Mean to People golden rule saison, their rye pale ale, their Scottish ale, and their Reserve Ale, a higher ABV dark, strong ale.
“Who wouldn't love a place that makes a beer called Don't Be Mean to People?” Ertel said.
One might think it would be hard to take themselves too seriously when they got their start in an attic above The Cookery, a local Durham event space, where a teacher, an advertising executive and a licensed contractor – sounds like the start of a bad joke – put their heads together and began brewing beer.
Want to get behind the scenes and see where the action happens now? Take a tour any Saturday beginning at 1:30 p.m. Here again, reserving in advance is recommended, however, they do say, “If you like to fly by the seat of your pants and wait until the last minute, you can show up to the taproom in time for the tour and purchase a ticket (if there are openings available). Please keep your pants on.”
Lea Hart is a freelance writer based in Durham, N.C.