Taking Off: Aviator Brewery

Mark Doble likes beer so much that in 2008 he began brewing it in two used dairy tanks at a secluded airport hangar in Fuquay-Varina. The word quickly spread, and beer aficionados began flocking to the humble airfield on a regular basis.

Before long, Doble’s hobby had grown into a bona fide brewery operation.

Nowadays Doble and a small, dedicated crew produce 1,200 barrels of craft beer a month using 100 bbl (beer barrel) fermenters, brite tanks, a canning machine and an Alfa Laval centrifuge.

It all happens from a 23,000-square-foot facility known as Aviator Brewing Company, which was deemed Best Craft Brewery in the Maggy Awards by the readers of Cary Magazine.  

“We focus on producing the best quality product possible, because all we make is beer,” said Doble, clad in a black Aviator branded hoodie on a recent chilly afternoon. “We’ve never cut corners, and we’re serious about our craft. Every year we go to Portland, Ore., to pick our hops. It’s not about slick marketing or fancy packaging.  In the end, it comes down to the beer.”

Aviator generates 16 varieties of brews including various seasonal offerings and a limited-edition “hangar series” of  more than a half-dozen specialty concoctions.

“We try to create styles of beers that no one else is doing the way we interpret them,” said Noble. “For IPAs, we like to do full-on West Coast style. These are black IPAs aged on oak chips soaked in bourbon. We also have Belgian Triple in a can. Other places don’t do this kind of stuff.”

Aviator is currently distributed in six states. The brewery just started selling its beverages in the Miami and Fort Lauderdale markets in Florida and also in Alabama.

Here in the Triangle, Aviator beer is found on tap at most sports bars, taverns and restaurants.

“We have a huge amount of respect for the local people who serve our beer, and we try to reciprocate by going to and supporting those bars and restaurants,” Doble said.

Amazingly, a devoted team of just 12 people makes it all happen at the brewing concern. “That number includes office staff,” Doble noted.

Among the brewing company’s popular year-round selections are Devil’s Tramping Ground Tripel, Hogwild India Pale Ale and the barrel-aged Black Mamba Oatmeal Stout.

“Hog Wild is the IPA from which I set the standard for all other IPAs,” said Aviator enthusiast Matt Dickens of Fuquay-Varina. “I like that it’s local, and I can retrieve it directly from the source, which is something everyone who enjoys craft beer should experience.”

Seasonal favorite Frostnipper Winter Ale is dark in color and combines Perle and Willamette hops to deliver a contrasting intensity with the fall spices. From the exclusive Hangar Series, 919 Pale Ale employs barley sourced from Farm Boy Farms of Pittsboro.

“The grain is a lot more expensive, but it’s good to support the local farmers when we can,” Doble said.

A large hangar bar is open Thursday through Sunday afternoons. Brewery tours also are available for just $4 a person. Abundant samples are included, and no reservations are required.

Just a few miles down the road in the historic Varina train depot, Aviator Tap House offers patrons fresh-brewed beer seven days a week and live music on weekends.

The Tap House boasts a state-of-the-art micromatic system with glycol cooling in the beer lines. 
Along with its aviation-themed ambiance, the establishment features plank wood floors and a handsome 38-foot mahogany bar to offer beer drinkers a laid-back haven to imbibe Doble’s fermented specialties.

On temperate days, the Tap House’s outdoor seating is a popular option for patrons to enjoy the afternoon and watch the pedestrian traffic around the Varina downtown district.
Conveniently situated across the street from the Tap House, Aviator Smokehouse provides hearty provisions like pulled pork, St. Louis-style ribs and smoked jumbo chicken wings in a casual setting.

“Generally speaking, anyone who likes good beer also likes good food, plus it keeps people drinking longer,” Doble said with a smile.

Doble’s newest endeavor, the Aviator Beer Shop, sells a first-rate assortment of craft beers and bottled wines that extend beyond his own branded products. The shop is located beside the smokehouse.

“We have beers from around the world, but also some North Carolina beers to give other people exposure to brews they don’t usually get around here,” said Doble.

In addition to these eclectic brews and hard-to-find liquid gems, a cozy bar in the back serves liquor for patrons seeking a libation of the non-malt variety. The shop also peddles cigars and bags of gourmet coffee.

When it comes to the future, Doble said he believes Aviator will remain a regional brewery but hopes it will continue its pattern of growth and popularity.

“We’re still an independent company, but we’re always for sale,” he said with a smile. “I would like to retire at some point.”

Aviator Brewing Company
209 Technology Park Lane,

(919) 567-2337

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