Fullsteam hires new Director of Food Operations, Kyle Lee McKnight (Highland Avenue, Hickory and Manna, Wilmington)

“Plow-to-pint” brewery to add savory hand pies, Southern bar snacks, and modern meat-and-three to pair with its locally sourced beers

We’re thrilled to officially announce the hiring of Kyle Lee McKnight as our new Director of Food Operations! Kyle brings a wealth of experience in farm-to-table cooking, with experience at Manna in Wilmington and Highland Avenue — named by Southern Living in 2015 as one of the South’s best restaurants. A fellow Good Food Awards winner (it’s actually where we first met in 2013 — him for his charcuterie, us for First Frost), Kyle is passionate about nose-to-tail cooking and fermentation, seasonal Southern vegetables and heirloom grains, and classic French techniques.

It’s perhaps no surprise that his focus on fermentation and seasonal ingredients are a great fit at Fullsteam. We’ve paired our plow-to-pint beer many a time with Chef Kyle — most notably at a dinner at the James Beard House last year, where our Lindera (a brown ale brewed with candy roaster squash, molasses, and foraged spicebush) was the only beer offering at a multi-course, multi-chef evening at the legendary New York City brownstone. That night the Lindera paired beautifully with the chef’s dish, a smoked pork shoulder served on fermented Geechie Boy farro grits.

Though our food concept will emphasize local and seasonal, expect a few crowd-pleasers. We’re a bar, after all. So while you’ll see some fancy “farm’s edge” leaning specials, our menu will emphasize bar snacks, bullies (our savory hand pies), and our take on the classic meat-and-three. Just as we aim to keep Fullsteam comfortable yet innovative, our food will push new boundaries…without venturing too far into preciousness. It’s beer. It’s food. It’s a neighborhood hangout.

In the coming months, as we build out our kitchen, we’ll start out with some simple bar snacks: Working Man’s Crunch (cola-glazed caramel popcorn, peanuts, chocolate). Paycheck mix. Cheese plates, simple bar food — and some sneak peaks at our full menu. By our seventh anniversary (mid-August), we’ll launch the full kitchen and complete menu. Maybe earlier if we’re lucky.

Food trucks
We’re proud to serve as a home for food trucks since we first opened way back in August 2010. In the past six-and-a-half years, we’ve seen over a dozen food concepts transition from hanging out at our brewery to building their own brick-and-mortar location.

It’s time for us to do something similar.

That said, we have a lot to figure out, and as you may know, it’s going to take some time and some money (more on that down the line…which may or may not involve the Wall of Awesome).

So we’re status quo for now, with our regular food truck programming status quo as we build out the kitchen and even as we offer those initial snacks, pre-build-out.

But once the kitchen is open — sometime mid-year — we’re going to work on outdoor seating where the food trucks currently park. It’s at that time that we’ll respectfully ask trucks to relocate. We’ll be working with them in the weeks and months ahead to find a good location in the warehouse district that works for all.

We always intended to have food at the brewery…I’ve been talking about hand pies and beer since before we opened. We’re thrilled to bring Kyle on board to help tell the Fullsteam story and add a major layer of fun and flavor to our Southern-inspired beer. He and I have been friends for years, and we’d been casually talking about working together for some time. Soon, that time will be a reality, and we couldn’t be more honored. 

Sneak Peaks
Not in the Durham area? Come see Kyle (and our beer) at a few upcoming events, including a celebration of Heirloom’s (Charlotte) three-year anniversary tomorrow night! Kyle and Chef Clark Barlowe collaborate and celebrate the legendary TV food personality Betty Freezor, all paired with Fullsteam beers. We’ll also be paired up for a very special beer dinner (finally, right, Billy Mellon!) at Manna in Wilmington on March 2, Craft & Cuisine at Airlie Gardens (Wilmington, April 1), and an April dinner at Circa 81 during the Beaufort Wine and Food Festival.

Read more
Andrea Weigl, food editor of the News & Observer, wrote a wonderful piece on this new development. Check it out.

Please join me in welcoming Kyle Lee McKnight!


Sean Lilly Wilson, Chief Executive Optimist
Fullsteam Brewery