Aviator Brewing Company's dedicated brew architects collaborate with a premium selection of seasonal ingredients to craft 16 varieties of pint fillers. Since taking root in 2008 with two 300-gallon tanks in a decommissioned airplane hangar, the suds factory has grown to include four tanks, each of which contains 3,100 gallons of award-winning libations. Inside the tanks, frothy brews such as the Devils Tramping Ground Tripel—a golden Belgian ale with a fruity, spicy, sweet flavor—wait for year-round sampling. They also concoct seasonal brews for Oktoberfest, spring, and winter, as well as rotating beers such as McGritty's Scotch Ale, which they brew from Maris Otter barley malt and crisp malt imported from the United Kingdom in an oversize kilt.
Nearby, on Broad Street, Aviator also operates a tap house, which serves up their draft brews at a temperature of 47 degrees Fahrenheit thanks to a micromatic dispensing system with glycol cooling. Down the street, they also operate a smokehouse that serves up smokehouse ribs, North Carolina chopped-barbecue sandwiches, and pulled pork that has been featured on RaleighLifestyle.tv's Dining Destinations.
Deep in the Umstead Industrial Park, something stirs. Amid the clank of modern machinery, a group of workers busy themselves with one of the world's oldest crafts: brewing. At Gizmo Brew Works, this meeting of contemporary technology and ancient know-how produces a tempting slate of small-batch beers. Inside tanks that hold the equivalent of 1,000 pints each, brewers prep favorites including the smooth and sweet Black Stiletto Stout and the complex Palisade Wasp India Pale Ale with the same care that has earned many of their past beers medals at the Carolina Championship of Beer. They also save room for seasonals, carefully adding a sweet caramel flavor and spicy Noble hops to their altbier, which they serve in a traditional stange glass or a large mug in celebration of Oktoberfest. These beers and more make frequent appearances in the brewery's taproom, gracing pint glasses for impromptu toasts or filling up growlers for at-home sips. Never ones to shy away from curious guests, brewers also open up their facility for Saturday tours, walking groups through the beer-making process during 30-minute explorations.
zpizza— voted best pizza in Raleigh by CitySearch and Best Pizza in Cary by WakeCary Magazine —is known for its inventive, California-style pizzas: think zesty Thai-style chicken pizza with peanut sauce and cilantro, or Mexican-style pizza loaded with taco fixings. But even a simple cheese or pepperoni pizza from zpizza is sure to be memorable. That's because the restaurant's cooks use only top-shelf ingredients in their brick-oven-baked pies, from the Montana winter wheat that goes into their hand-thrown crusts to the organic tomato sauce and Wisconsin skim mozzarella layered on top. Diners can customize pizzas with other toppings, including locally sourced meats, fresh produce, and gourmet ingredients such as truffle oil.
The building has been there for generations, beneath a neon "Restaurant" sign that used to serve as a beacon of sustenance for WWII-era soldiers stationed nearby. Decades later, under that same sign, people still show up in search of food, and more importantly, in search of drink. This historic spot is now the home of Brewmasters Bar & Grill, a taproom that celebrates North Carolina brewers with its selection of nearly 100 craft brews. "Beer geeks," as Brewmasters likes to call them, can discover local suds from Big Boss and Crank Arm mixed in with nationally renowned beers such as Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro.
Of course, beer is also integral to the food menu. On it, guests will find pork belly braised in brown ale and beer-battered onion rings. The kitchen makes many of their ingredients in-house, including spinach dip forged from a family recipe and Brewmasters' signature candied bacon with jalapeño-apple jelly. As guests tackle their meals, they can study a state map that pinpoints North Carolina's best-loved breweries and least-invisible rivers.
Talented local artists teach students of all levels to let right brains roam free across canvases as they complete the painting lesson's work of art. During two-hour lessons, guests sip home-brought wine, soda, or bathtub lemonade while tracing shapes onto canvases with paintbrushes that drip with brightly colored acrylics. Friendships erupt like Mount Vesuvius filled with rainbows as aspiring artists work toward the completion of still-life compositions, landscapes, or portraits. All supplies are included, and at the lesson's end, painting protégés will have a completed masterpiece to take home. Wine and Design suggests wearing comfortable clothing that guests will not mind getting paint on, such as an old T-shirt or a wedding dress designed by Jackson Pollock.
The staff at American Brewmaster uses their expertise to help turn connoisseurs into experts. They provide in-depth instruction for brewing beer, kegging homebrews, and making wine and cheese. Along with kits for accomplishing this mastery, they offer ingredients, supplies, labels, sanitizers, and books.