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.
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.
Creeping across a 5-acre swath of the Haw River Valley, 16 varieties of grapevines sprout from fertile, sandy soil, twisting their leafy arms around trellises and soaking in the lush, grape-growing climate. Benjamin's artisan enophiles hand pluck each of the muscadine, french, and hybrid grapes that blanket this vineyard. The grapes are escorted into the afterlife inside fermenting barrels where they live on as red and white wines for every taste—from dry dinner varietals and sweet country classics to seasonal bouquets. The whole creative process is observed by spectating visitors who wind through the idyllic facilities on self-guided tours—often including picnics on the winery’s covered porch, or perusals of of local art at the gift shop.
As an ecofriendly facility, Benjamin Vineyards & Winery employs sustainable practices, such as composting agricultural products, recycling bottles and other reusables, and growing plants with nightly bedtime reading instead of pesticides.
While in Sonoma on business in 1992, tech entrepreneur Max Lloyd fell in love with the fermented grape. Though his father and grandfather had been in the business of winemaking, it wasn't until his encounter with California-grown, European-style varietals that he resolved to dabble in the family trade himself. Launched as a part-time project in Virginia and transplanted to its current location in 2001, Grove Winery and Vineyards culls its grapes from two estate vineyards that span more than 70 acres in addition to a handful of local vineyards. The staff meticulously handpicks the grapes and gently presses them with a basket press to yield their fresh milk.
At any given time, the Rioja! WineKeeper's handsome wooden casing houses 12 bottles in a temperature-controlled setting. These conditions keep the wines fresh and result in a full-flavored pour. A quick flick of the tap and a crisp white or bold red streams into Riedel crystal, the only glassware used at Rioja! A Wine Bar. Between these sophisticated pouring and storing methods, and the sheer immensity of the full selection—some 800 wines—Rioja!'s dedication to the appreciation of wine is palpable.
Their tapas menu was designed with elegant pairings in mind and—much like playing "spin the bottle" at the UN—highlights flavors from around the world. Prosciutto bruschetta, stuffed dates, and a chorizo and manchego plate show off the kitchen's Mediterranean leanings. South African-style jerky, on the other hand, indicates a willingness to infuse an Old World dining tradition with New World recipes. The bartenders also keep a healthy selection of craft beers from brewers such as Bell's, Duck Rabbit, and Founders.
Studio 91 proprietor Annette Girman handpicks each work of art that adorns the walls of Studio 91, as well as the boutique assortment of fine small plates and artisanal wines that grace guests' gullets. Visitors dip crusty slices of bread or crunchy action figures into savory hummus and nosh on gourmet meats and cheeses, briny kalamata olives, and sun-dried tomatoes artfully arranged into small plates. Eyeballs drink up the work of artists such as France's Gerard Puvis, who molds the metallic foil found on the necks of grand-cru wine bottles into miniature humans, or Canadian painter Rod Chase, whose photorealistic creations often deflect criminals attempting to flee into another reality. As a complimentary gift, each visitor can sample a quartet of 3-ounce pours of South American wine, tasting red, white, and rose varieties of the adult grape juice.