Friday, August 12, 2022

Durham’s Ponysaurus Brewing Co. eyes expansion to downtown Wilmington

Cast Iron Group is in the preliminary stages of planning a second Ponysaurus Brewing Co. in a downtown Wilmington law office. (Port City Daily/Alexandria Williams)

WILMINGTON — A law office in a prominent area of downtown Wilmington could soon become the next home of a popular Durham brewery.

Cast Iron Group is in the preliminary stages of planning a second Ponysaurus Brewing Co. It’s currently undergoing the city process of rezoning a Market Street property, next to Burgwin-Wright House and Gardens.

The restaurant group operates several establishments in Durham, including The Cookery, The Rickhouse and Japanese pub Dashi. All are adaptive reuse spaces.

“We just thought that Wilmington would be a great market,” Sarah Voran, Cast Iron Group’s director of marketing and strategic development, said of their move into the Port City. “The food and drink scene is an amazing space in the region, and we just really love the area and love the downtown scene and really wanted to be part of it.”

Plans for the two-story, 3,100 square-foot building include transforming the space into a pizzeria and brewery and constructing a 2,040-square-foot addition that matches the existing structure. The parking spaces in the rear would be readapted for 4,930 square feet of partially covered outdoor seating, with an exposed terraced courtyard and a double-sided masonry fireplace.

The building itself is not historic but is situated within the historic district. In April 1970, the Historic District Commission approved the construction of the Colonial Revival office building. Prior to that, the lot was used for automobile sales for a couple decades.

This project would be Cast Iron Group’s first expansion outside of Durham. Ponysaurus Brewing Co. is located in downtown east Durham and is home to a brewery, taproom and beer garden. Its beers are sold across North Carolina, as well as in South Carolina and Tennessee.

Brewery co-founder Nick Hawthorne-Johnson is a licensed general contractor specializing in historic preservation and restoration.

“I’m very excited to … bring some of our business to your town, where you have beautiful building stock and help to liven up some beautiful buildings downtown in a way that is additive and positive,” Hawthorne-Johnson told the planning commission Wednesday. During the meeting members recommended approval of rezoning the space.

There will not be any brewing elements at the site and a menu has yet to be narrowed down, but it will incorporate the same pizza concept currently in the Durham location and possibly feature an expanded menu. Voran said it will still stand out from the Bull City site.

“It’ll have its own design and its own kind of look and feel,” she said.

Ponysaurus pours a wide selection of beers, rotating between cask ales and small batches.

“There might be some things that are in Wilmington that aren’t in Durham, or some things in Durham that aren’t in Wilmington,” Voran explained. “It’ll kind of just depend on what our brewers are up to at any given point, but there’ll be a wide variety.”

Ponysaurus’ flagship beer is its farmhouse ale, Biere de Garde, which translates to “beer for keeping.” The brewery recently took home a bronze medal at the U.S. Open Beer Championship for the brew, which features aromas of apple, pear, almond, vanilla and a hint of lemon rind.

It’s also received some recognition for its popular pour, Don’t Be Mean to People, “a golden rule saison” that raises money for LGBTQ charities. The brewery is currently running a campaign, dubbed “The Lieutenant Governor’s Fund for the Fabulous,” to garner proceeds to donate under Mark Robinson’s title.

Robinson recently came under fire for a speech he made in a church, captured on video, in which he referred to “transgenderism” and homosexuality as “filth.”

Ponysaurus’ campaign is benefiting Equality NC and QORDS, a nonprofit helping LGBTQ kids go to summer camp.

Construction timelines are often hard to pinpoint, Voran noted, but she said they hope to begin renovations at 214 Market St. and open before the end of 2022.

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Alexandria Sands
Alexandria Sands is a journalist covering New Hanover County and education. Before Port City Daily, she reported for the award-winning State Port Pilot in Southport. She graduated from UNC Charlotte and wrote for several Charlotte publications while there. When not writing, Williams is most likely in the gym, reading or spending time with her Golden Pyrenees. Reach her at or on Twitter @alexsands_

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