I’m starting to believe that the secret to success is to take your craft seriously, but not much else. Case in point: Ponysaurus, a brewery and taproom that has built its brand on the comical combination of a horse and dinosaur and lighthearted nature, like making suggestions of tossing beer coasters in a ninja star-fashion at unsuspecting patrons to encourage friendships to blossom. Its whole premise exudes cleverness and whimsy, and also class, without being pretentious about it.
What began as a nanobrewery in 2013, producing limited amounts of beer at The Cookery in a space that required the use of a lift to reach, today is serving a rotation of styles out of a 6,000-square-foot warehouse in east Durham. And – fewer than six months in – is doubling its capacity, mostly through canning, according to brewmaster Keil Jansen. “Our cans in general will be – outside of the Triangle – how most people interact with us,” he says. “We wanted to make sure that the cans we put out represent the variety we cover and show off what we think is special about us. The Biere de Garde hits all that … it’s one we kind of invented ourselves. Not the style, but our particular interpretation of it.”
On this particular day, Keil is brewing the 51st batch of Biere de Garde, a beer that he created even before Ponysaurus, and which became the brewery’s first foray into canning (the Scottish Ale and Rye Pale Ale are next in the can series). Initially, he was intrigued by the style of farmhouse ales – beers not meant for industrial-level production. “In that tradition there were smaller beers,” he says, “but then there was the Biere de Garde, the ‘beer for keeping,’ which was viewed much more as a specialty. That idea, I just found very romantic.”
A farmhouse brewer would utilize whatever ingredients he could find around him, Keil says, and so he’s mimicked that scenario, incorporating rye, wheat, oats and three types of barley. And in doing so, an historic style derived from singularity has found a sizable captivated audience in Durham. “We respond to, ‘I don’t know much about beer and I’m scared,’ with giving them this beer,” he says. “It just works.”