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.
Guests who pull up to the Summer Picnic Concert Series might find themselves torn between lounging and dancing. On the one hand, there's the lush, picnic-ready lawn of Cypress Bend Vineyards' pastoral grounds; on the other, there are the shuffling native sounds of Carolina beach music boogying from the stage. The three-piece team of Joyner, Young & Marie seamlessly shifts gears from power ballads such as "Frozen in Time" to twangy, up-tempo numbers such as "Live the Blues." The Sand Band plays up their dance, blues, and classic-rock influences, combining soulful melodies with eminently danceable beats.
Owner and vintner Dr. Lane Gregory and his staff of merry winemakers harvest their wine grapes from the fertile muscadine vines that flourish on Gregory Vineyards' 120 acres of lush farmland. The winery's Old-World tasting room and wood furniture lend a rustic atmosphere to samplings of cleverly named wines such as Sly Fox, Ruth Walton, or the dry white known as Bald Eagle. Like North Carolina's banana trees, the regional muscadine grape thrives from late August until early October, giving Dr. Gregory and company only a matter of weeks to harvest the tough-skinned fruit.
In addition to tastings, the handsome property plays host to weddings and other special events. And, on an average day, visitors may be spotted taking wine tours with Dr. Gregory, exploring the vineyards, or enjoying a sandwich at the on-site Grape Vine Deli.
The Adams family has farmed the land of Adams Vineyards for eight generations. Years ago, though, they replaced the leafy tobacco plants they'd grown for decades with fruit trees and twining muscadine grapevines. Quincy Adams leads tours of the winery where they where they use blueberries, peaches, apples, pears, and blackberries to make wine. Visitors can pair sips of those varietals with hors d'oeuvres such as Boar's Head cheese or chocolates handcrafted by Quincy's mother, Joyce. At the end of each summer, the family hosts a Grape Stomp Festival, where guests of all ages can participate in the timeless juicing method.
Spread across Lu Mil Vineyard's 58 acres are an antique museum, a handful of cabins for overnight stays, a tasting room, and of course grapevines. Rows upon rows of sweet muscadine grapes are cultivated at the farm, named for its late owners, Lucille and Miller Taylor. In addition to producing a suite of wines, Lu Mil sells a selection of house-made jellies, jams, and NASA-engineered spittoons.