Aviator Brewery is flying high

Aviator offers a variety of great brews.

Aviator offers a variety of great brews.

You have to go out of your way to get to Aviator Brewery in Fuquay-Varina, south of Raleigh. But once you get there, you’ll find three different Aviator locations to enjoy, and which one you choose sort of depends on what you’re looking for.

Aviator frequently runs Living Social or Groupon deals for brewery tours. The tours are scheduled for early evening, so expect a crowd if you show up after one of these offers. While you wait, you can enjoy one of their beers on draft or get your growler refilled.

I haven’t done the tour yet, but the brewery is one of the largest in the area, and that alone could be interesting.

If you’re hungry, head downtown to the Aviator Smokehouse about two miles away. Ample street parking is nearby, as well a few local municipal lots. The Smokehouse is famous for barbecue – chopped or pulled pork and beef brisket – as well as standard bar chow like wings, burgers and chili. The food is good with generous portions, and servers are attentive.

Black Mamba Stout is one of Aviator's classic brews.

Black Mamba Stout is one of Aviator’s classic brews.

Your biggest challenge may be deciding which Aviator brew to have with your meal. Can’t decide? Then, choose four four-ounce beers in the Aviator flight. Hot Rod Red is a favorite, and we recently tried the Black Mamba Oatmeal Stout, also very good.

The one with a kick is Devil’s Tramping Ground (9.2% AVB), named after the infamous North Carolina attraction where nothing will grow and strange things happen to folks who dare venture there after dark. It tastes innocent enough, but packs quite a punch.

Across the street from the restaurant is the Aviator Tap House in the old Varina train depot, dating to 1903. Today the Tap House houses a 38-foot African mahogany bar — “a true beer drinkers’ heaven with lots of wood and hearty plank floors” — and a patio for outdoor beer drinking in mild weather.

Not far away in Holly Springs is the Carolina Brewing Co., and a recent article cited other new breweries coming to the Holly Springs and Fuquay-Varina area. Looks like the beginning of a beer dynasty…

Aviator Smokehouse has a family atmosphere, with aviation decor.

Aviator Smokehouse has a family atmosphere, with aviation decor.

Smokehouse sign

Barbecue beans, collards and chopped barbecue are among the Smokehouse specialties.

Barbecue beans, collards and chopped barbecue are among the Smokehouse specialties.

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