Taking flight: Aviator Brewing Co. owner combines his passions--beer and comic books--to grow his share of North Carolina's bustling craft-beer industry.


On Saturdays when Mark Doble was young, no matter where his father's Army career took the family, he and his brother were buying comic books at the base bookstore. "We grew up reading comic books such as Conan the Barbarian magazine and all the Marvel stuff."

Turn a few pages forward, and Doble found a second hobby. "When I was oversees in Holland, I started brewing beer when I was 16, believe it or not, and just kept at it." He added brewing experience while in Belgium and Wales. And like a well-crafted storyline, the two collided in 2008, when he opened Fuquay-Varina-based Aviator Brewing Co. in a hanger at Triple W Air Park. "We moved the plane to one side and put in the boil kettle."

Aviator Brewing has grown since then. It has a tap room, beer shop and smokehouse restaurant in downtown Fuquay-Varina, along with a bar at an expanded brewery less than 5 miles from the original site. But it's the brewer's unique marketing plan that has gained it the most altitude. Bold-named beers--including Hogwild India pale ale, Madbeach American wheat, Wide Open Red Irish red ale and Black Mamba oatmeal stout--are put in cans with comic book style graphics. "We just put things out there that we like," says Doble, 50, Aviator's founder and owner. "We wanted more aggressive images that are more in your face, that get people excited. Most people are drinking beer when they're having fun, so we put fun images on the can."

The business began with Doble working 18-hour days and advancing himself cash from credit cards, eventually transferring balances to new cards to avoid paying interest. "We didn't have any investors because then you lose control of the company, and everyone's trying to mainstream it because no one wants to take risks. I was able to float the money, and when the banks refinanced it, we got a good rate. You can do anything you want. You just have to be willing to do it. Money is just a tool to get something done."

Raleigh-based SkyBound Marketing designed Aviation's website. "And they're really talented," Doble says. "But they just got so busy, and we needed someone onsite. We purposely don't bring in big marketing companies, because they try to water us down. They want everything mainstream. We try to make the brewery reflect our personality--not trying to sell anything, just show people who we are." Enter Chris Edge, Aviator's graphic designer, and his artistry. "We did a mass interview of tons of people, and his interview was the best...

To continue reading