For North Carolina locals, Aviator Brewing Company is one of the “older” breweries in the Raleigh area – they’ve been around for about 8 years! Last year they released a bourbon barrel aged (13% abv) Stout called Night Jump. Oh, and the other thing about Aviator is that they are a can only brewery, so a 13% barrel aged stout in a can is not your normal release. Oh, and the other, most important thing? It tasted great! Once word started getting around about this amazing stout, Night Jump disappeared off the shelves. I have a feeling that the interest and demand for Night Jump took Aviator by surprise – obviously in a good way.
Once word started to spread that Aviator was releasing the 2016 vintage of Night Jump, I made a mental note to make my way out to Fuquay-Varina for the release. Once the release event was announced for November 19, I circled the date on the calendar…..and then I found out that the wife of a fellow board member for a local non-profit I’m privileged to be associated with works at Aviator and could arrange for tickets for me and Mrs. Stoutwhisperer – thanks John and Michelle!!
Aviator called the event the Night-Night party – it was a dual release of Night Jump and Devil’s Nightmare, a 15% abv Belgium Imperial Tripel Ale! Yesterday was a beautiful day – probably the last beautiful day of the year – so Aviator must be doing something right! Aviator is located in a rural industrial park (like so many other breweries) and it took us about 45 minutes to get to Fuquay from Raleigh, but it was a pleasant drive. They timed their tickets in order to avoid lines and Mrs. S. and I showed up around 2:30pm or so (it started at 12:00 noon). As we were walking in, we were welcomed by John and Michelle who gave us the rundown for the day. We circled around to the back lot and as we checked in (no lines), we were handed our Night-Night goblet for the day and we were introduced to Buddy the CFO and were welcomed again! There was a band playing, a couple of food trucks open for business, some intense cornhole contests going on, and taps galore with the entire line of Aviator’s drafts were flowing.
Mrs. S. opted for Mad Beach, a tasty wheat ale. Not unexpectedly, I made a beeline for the Night Jump tap and had my goblet filled with the pitch black elixir. About the only constructive comment I will make about the entire day is right here – and it’s not specific to Aviator – everyone serves Stouts on tap TOO COLD!! Stouts should be served around 50-60 degrees which allows the complex flavors and tastes to emerge. Serve a stout too cold and those flavors stay hidden forever. 13% Stouts are to be sipped and savored and shouldn’t be in the same category as a 5% Ale, which should be served cold. OK, enough of my ongoing quest for warmer draft Stouts!! I spent about 10 minutes cupping my Night Jump trying to warm it up a bit, which helped.
The flavors I didn’t taste when I first sipped it started to come out….the sweet flavors of chocolate and vanilla from the cocoa nibs and bourbon barrel aging and the smoothness on the swallow. That was the Night Jump I remember from last year – in fact, perhaps even better!!
We were fortunate to be able to take a tour of the Aviator facility with Chris, who provided an excellent overview of the past, present, and future of Aviator!! Some snippets:
-Mike, the founder/owner, is a pilot and started brewing in the hangar where he kept his plane….thus the Aviator name and the aviation motif (their tap handles are half propellers)
-the barrels they use for aging are from Smooth Ambler, a West Virginia distillery. Chris told us a good story about how they came to get these barrels. Seems like another brewery backed out of a deal and they stopped by Aviator and asked if they were interested in some barrels. The rest, they say, is history.
-they recently purchased a new canning line and when it is fully operational, it will be the largest craft beer canning line on the East Coast. It is a fully refurbished line once used by RC Cola and has 72 filling heads. I must tell you, it looks pretty impressive and I would love to see it when it comes on line!
Chris did a great job entertaining us and telling the Aviator story and was happy to spend a few extra minutes with me after the tour. After the tour, we spent some more time walking around the premises watching some of the college football that were on the big screen TVs scattered around the taproom. The place had a very easy going vibe – everyone was clearly having a good time!!
When we decided to leave, we found John and Michelle again. I purchased some Night Jump cans to go and also picked up a cool T-Shirt – I’ll be a walking Night Jump billboard! We had a great time at Aviator and it won’t take us another release party to return! Thanks to all of the good people at Aviator! The Night-Night release party was a success!
One other note about Aviator – they have quite a presence in Fuquay-Varina. Besides the brewery, they have a taproom/restaurant, a smokehouse, and a bottleshop all in the downtown district in Fuquay….and when we drove by, the outside patio of the taproom was packed!! It’s amazing how craft beer breweries can impact a local economy – Aviator is a wonderful example of playing a key role in revitalizing an area. Another example is the South Slope area of Asheville – see my previous post about our Asheville Stoutcation!
As an aside, Mrs. S. and I had dinner at City Barbecue in Cary – highly recommended!! Go for their Brisket and their Potato Salad is fantastic as well!
What has been your favorite release event? Leave a comment and share!