In our experience it's every bit as reliable as mainline nginx.
Also, you can upgrade nginx binary without any downtime, see: http://wiki.nginx.org/CommandLine
Have you ever actually used nginx? I compile it from source with much-less-than-everything for security reasons (e.g., no proxy, no email, no ssi, no ssl, not any of the other ten modules that come by default), and in the 3 times that I needed a module later, it was a quick ./configure;make;make install;kill -SIG2 (or whatever the signal is to switch to a new version), which was not more painful than I remember from my apache days of 5 years ago.
(Has apache changed since then?)
How do you handle deployment of your custom nginx on several boxes?
(My recent nginx deployment have 2 machines, so I do it manually, but in the past, I had a homegrown solution that would pull files from version control, and if they changed, asked the binary to restart)
> recompiling nginx everytime you need a custom
> module quickly loses its charm
[I'm a huge nginx fan myself but recall that this is coming to the main project soonish.]
It's like a sausage, you can enjoy eating it without seeing how it's made.
But apache can let you load a new .so without recompiling (or even restarting) the main server, which, for most intents and purposes, gives you equivalent functionality.
But I bet for developing modules, loading standalone is a huge help.
I haven't used nginx often, but the default Debian nginx doesn't come with many things included, I find.