Not 24 hours after Keil Jansen finished his last day as a special education teacher at Central Park School in Durham, he sat next door at Cocoa Cinnamon with two collaborators in his new venture, Ponysaurus Brewing Co. It sounds like the title of a children's book, but Ponysaurus is a nanobrewery—smaller than a microbrewery—with big plans for the Bull City.
"I was having a hard time deciding whether the totem should be a pony or a dinosaur," Jansen says of the name. "I decided that I didn't need to decide. They're both just beautiful, magical animals."
David Baldwin, of Baldwin& creative agency, characterizes the name another way: "We love the collision of things that don't belong together." Baldwin's company is assisting Ponysaurus with its brand, including a logo that evokes 17th-century wooden pub signs with the addition of what Baldwin calls a "postmodern ... dinosaur/horse."
"Did I just say that?" Baldwin asks Jansen, smiling.
Jansen is well-known in local brewing circles. He has served as president of TRUB (TRiangle Unabashed homeBrewers) and is a longtime organizer for BrewDurham, an event that showcases area homebrews and food. Joining him in Ponysaurus are Baldwin and Jennifer Gardner of prettyfab PR. Nick Hawthorne-Johnson has also been a supporter, helping Ponysaurus set up in his Durham kitchen incubator—The Cookery—using Jansen's German-made nanobrewing equipment.
Out of The Cookery, Jansen plans to brew approximately 300 barrels (600 kegs) annually to sell in bottles, growlers and kegs at restaurants and shops. Jansen names Cocoa Cinnamon as one collaborator that will carry his brews, saying he'll incorporate "some of the chocolate and spices they're so magical with" into a beer.
Jansen hopes to find other ways to distribute Ponysaurus, perhaps creating a delivery system similar to that of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), which offers shares and weekly drop-offs at various locations. "You can't have a name like Ponysaurus and not get creative," Gardner says.
When it officially launches in September (Ponysaurus has already made quiet appearances at BrewDurham and the opening of SPECTRE Arts), it will join a vibrant brewing community in Durham, which is home to Triangle Brewery, Fullsteam and Bull City Burger and Brewery. Ponysaurus will focus on Belgian-style beers in addition to more prevalent American varieties. Initially, Jansen says to expect six options, including Videri Chocolate Stout (a partnership with Videri Chocolate of Raleigh), Biere de Garde, Belgian Dark Strong, a fig saison, an IPA and a Belgian pale ale. But the list will expand. As Jansen puts it, "I wouldn't be surprised if we had 10 to 12 [offerings] in the first year."
"It's an interesting question to ask if the world needs another beer," says Baldwin. "It doesn't. But the world always needs another great beer."
And, as Gardner adds, "The Ponysaurus is out of the barn."
This article appeared in print with the headline "Saddle up."