On the Road: Bull City Burger and Brewery

phirx On the Road: Durham, North Carolina

This brewery restaurant in downtown Durham describes themselves as “farm-to-fork” and “like fine dining in a burger joint”. Clearly inspired by the local food movement, BCBB grinds North Carolina pasture-raised beef in-house for their burgers, bakes their own buns, makes their own pickles, condiments, etc. and…brews their own beer.

The brewery shines through windows from an enclosed room on the right of the front door as you enter the restaurant. There is a large indoor dining room as well as a spacious, mostly shaded patio in the back. This is very much a family restaurant: this is the first brewpub I’ve visited that can boast a dedicated children’s play area!

The beer menu is full of local color; all but one of their current offerings are named for Durham worthies or landmarks, which are detailed to some extent more than the beers themselves. In typical phirx fashion, I had a full flight of all eight ales on tap.


Bryant Bridge Gateway Golden Ale (6)
27701 Durham Mild Ale (Session Ale) 3.5 ABV (7)
Parrish Street Pale Ale (6)
W.E.B. Du Bois Saison (7)
“Stonewall” Jackson Brown (7)
Pro Bono Publico Porter (8)
Single Hop IPA: Galaxy Hops (SHIPA #4) 6.2 ABV 80 IBU (7)
Pigmeat Markham Smoked Rye (8)

(phirx ratings) are on a scale of 1-10.

The Golden Ale is light and slightly creamy, with almost no finish beyond the mouthfeel – this one is brewed for the new-to-craft-beer clientele. Immortalizing Durham’s zip code, BCBB’s low-alcohol session ale is styled after a British Mild. This soft brown ale has a unique flavor from the addition of mustard powder to the boil. The Pale Ale is a medium-bodied beer brewed with English hops: Northern Brewer, Goldings, and Fuggles. It is milder than an American-style pale ale, with a slightly piney finish.

The Saison is brewed with an unidentified French yeast strain and is pleasant and summery, with more hop bitterness than is common with this style balanced by citrus and sweet fruit. The Brown Ale has chocolate malt notes, and is less sweet than is common for the style, but rather acidic and slightly bitter. Pro Bono Publico (latin: “for the public good”) is ironically named for “the Duke family’s first tobacco cigarette” according to the BCBB menu. What was inside their first (presumably not tobacco) cigarette? This porter was my favorite of the flight: rich and creamy with strong coffee notes, yet very easy to drink.

Brewed with Australian Galaxy hops, the single varietal IPA is fourth in a series. I found the hop bitterness stronger than the the finishing hop flavors in this beer, probably due to Galaxy’s high alpha acid rating (over 12%). The most unique beer on the menu – at least sample this beer if you visit – Pigmeat Markham is a rye ale that includes malt smoked in-house over applewood as part of the grain. This beer tastes like a single malt Scotch!

left: W.E.B. Du Bois Saison; right: Pro Publico Porter

Everyone enjoyed their burgers around the table on the Saturday afternoon we visited. The restaurant was bustling but it was a comfortable atmosphere and we were content to wait until lines went down to go to the bar for beers and to the kitchen line to order food. Although it was not quiet, we didn’t need to shout to be heard. BCBB also appears to have developed a robust merchandizing plan to support the business. This is the first place I’ve encountered the offer for a discount to customers who tattoo the restaurant’s logo on their bodies:

seen on the wall in the men’s restroom

…unfortunately, the tattoo discount is only on food items and does not extend to alcoholic beverages due to North Carolina state law!

~ phirx

2 thoughts on “On the Road: Bull City Burger and Brewery”

  1. Hmm. Interesting proposition. All you have to do to get 26% off meals for life is tattoo your body with one of their logos (also for life). I think I’ll pass.

    Now if it were discounts on beers, that might be a different story. 😉 But as you point out, that’s illegal.

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