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Road Trip Across NC – Part I – Raleigh

When we started this road trip in Raleigh I had a perfectly laid out schedule.  We were going to see twelve beer related places in two days across my home state from Raleigh to Asheville and as many stops as we could cram into our two days along the way.  It seems the saying “all the best laid plans go awry” is true. We checked out of our hotel, morning bright, and promptly threw the plan aside.  Maybe that is why the trip went so perfectly.  Raleigh Brewing Company was meant to be the first stop but it wouldn’t open for a few hours more.  I scanned through my meticulous list of breweries and brewhouses and their open times and locations.  Aviator Brewing would be opening soon and was just outside of town.  By the time we got there we would be able to get our first pints of the trip.


[ezcol_1third]Aviator Brewing is located just outside of Raleigh in a town called Fuquay-Varina.  The brewery was started in 2008 in an airplane hanger at the nearby Triple W airport by Mark Doble.  Doble, an aviation enthusiast, used the hanger to house his own plane and used the extra space to brew beer. Not unfamiliar with brewing himself, the beer ended up being good and became popular with the locals. As Aviator grew they moved to a larger facility in the same small town.  Now you can find Aviator throughout your favorite crawls and hotspots across North Carolina.  Aviator’s main brewery is in an industrial park not far out of town, but the place to get the brews for us was in the lovely downtown area along the train tracks.

Fermentation tanks at Aviator Brewing’s main facility.

Tree lined and with ample parking it made for the perfect backdrop for our first pints.  There was an Aviator on either side of the street, the Taproom and the Smokehouse.  The Taproom was still closed but luckily the smells that were coming from the Aviator Smokehouse were calling our name. We’d eaten scarcely a half hour ago but that didn’t stop us from thinking about eating again.[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_2third_end]

Shelves of Aviator Brewing cans at Aviator Smokehouse
Shelves of Aviator Brewing cans at Aviator Smokehouse

[ezcol_1half]The Smokehouse was awesome inside with dark colors, bright windows, and a huge bar took center stage. At the forefront of the bar were the colorful taps shaped like airplane props.  Giant chalkboards with the food specials on one side and all the on tap beer choices on the other side of a massive TV.  We found ourselves stumped on what to order. Bartender to the rescue, she helped us decide on the Mad Beach Wheat for my brother and I drank the Hot Rod Red Ale.

The Mad Beach Wheat is an American Pale Wheat ale that shines with a golden color and topped with a bright white head.  The smell was unique, and the beer itself was light like a pilsner. It worked perfectly for my brother, Jon, who wasn’t quite on the good beer bandwagon quite yet.  The beer was smooth and he loved it.  We would win him over. The Hot Rod Red was in the style of an Irish Red weighing in at a 6% ABV with a nice caramel color and a white head.  It had a pleasant malty smell and flavor. [/ezcol_1half][ezcol_1half_end]

Our bartender also explained a bit about the BBQ they offered.  Nearly everything was local, even the pork came from North Carolina. We were told that the BBQ Sampler plate was the thing to get.  It came with pulled pork, chopped pork, and one brisket slider.  She also recommended the smoked wings, but warned that the sauces were not for the feint of heart.  We fought the urge to eat and payed our tab.  Aviator was a great start. Happy and strangely hungry again, we ventured out.  Back to downtown Raleigh we found ourselves next at the Boylan Bridge Brewpub.

The colorful tap handles at the Aviator Smokehouse.
The colorful tap handles at the Aviator Smokehouse.


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