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The Beer Circle » Flying Dog Brewery, Labels » Flying Dog Brewery Tour – Good Beer, No Shit

Flying Dog Brewery Tour – Good Beer, No Shit

Some friends and I went to Flying Dog for a brewery tour this past weekend. The tours are extremely popular and fill up quickly so we had to sign up 90 days in advance, the earliest possible. Reading below, you’ll see exactly why the tours are as popular as they are.

The tour costs $5 per person and includes a Flying Dog tasting glass and six sample tokens. I started with their Gose, a draft-only release in MD/VA/DC. Gose’s press release states “Our latest Brewhouse Rarities release pays tribute to an ancient German beer style that makes the combination of sweet and salty so passé. Introducing Gose, a sour and salty wheat beer brewed with coriander and a Maryland twist.” What was the twist you may wonder? Old Bay. It was an interesting taste. Interesting in the sense that I was glad I tried it but I don’t think I would drink it again. It could go great with steamed blue crabs.

George Stranahan

Our tour guide, Pete, was extremely knowledgeable about Flying Dog’s history, which alone was worth the price of the tour. George Stranahan, heir to the Champion spark plug fortune, was what you would call a free spirit. He gathered a group to climb K2, one of the most dangerous assents in all of the Himalayas. Since oxygen canisters would take up took much room, George and his crew, the “Innocents,” decided to leave them behind so that more alcohol could be brought along. George said that the biggest disaster faced on the 35 day trek was running out of alcohol on day 17. After the climb, the group went to a Pakistani hotel bar for a drink. In the bar was a painting of a bird-dog. Unfortunately, the Pakistani painter didn’t understand the that the term referred to a hunting dog so he painted a dog with wings, a.k.a., the Flying Dog.

Hunter S. Thompson

Upon returning to the US in 1990, George decided to start a brewpub in Aspen, Colorado. Around the same time, George’s friend Hunter S. Thompson, a famous Gonzo journalist, was living on a farm next to George’s Woody Creek Ranch. The place became a hangout for Hunter and his friends, including artist Ralph Steadman. Hunter introduced George to Ralph, who then began doing original art for Flying Dog’s labels in 1996. Ralph’s first art was for Road Dog Porter. When Flying Dog is preparing to release a new beer they send a 6-pack to Ralph, who drinks the beer, and then paints what he feels from the beer. The label is purely Ralph’s and not from an art department.

Flying Dog was quickly outgrowing its Aspen location and, since the majority of the sales were from east of the Mississippi, they looked for an East Coast brewery. They stumbled upon the former Wild Goose Brewing Company location in Frederick, Maryland. The sale was finalized in 2006 and since 2008 all Flying Dog beer has been brewed in Maryland. I was surprised that  Flying Dog beers are as widley available as they are: 36 states and 15 countries.

Much of the tour was pretty standard with some notable exceptions. Our first stop was at the brew kettle and lautering tun. The wondering aroma of malt and hops was in  the air as brewing was actively going on only a few feet from us. I was a little taken aback when I saw an employee walk up to the tank and climb right in! He was cleaning it in preparation for the next batch. Next stop was the fermentation tanks. This year Flying Dog took delivery of eight 200 barrel tanks, greatly expanding their capacity. To stress how beers change and develop over time he shared a pitcher of non-fermented Raging Bitch. You got a sense of what it would become but it wasn’t there yet.

Next stop was the laboratory where the chemists handle the yeast samples and ensure that Flying Dog has all their different yeasts ready to go. For cleanliness reasons we weren’t allowed in the room but Pete passed around a sample of the yeast to taste. Our third stop was where the beer was filtered and bottled. Here, Pete passed around a pitcher of a finished Raging Bitch. Lasly, was the packaging line. They keep a two week supply of packaged beer on hand at all times. I know where I’m going when the Apocalypse hits at the end of the year.

Another interesting story from the tour involves Flying Dog’s tag line: Good Beer, No Shit. The Texas government, in their infinite wisdom determine that the term was unacceptable because of the use of profanity. Flying Dog replaced the text with, ‘Good Beer. No Censorship.’ and with the help of the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) fought to get the original text re-instated. In 2001 the goal was achieved.

Now onto the tasting room, the entire Flying Dog portfolio was on tap so I had to plan well. My first 3 tastings were the Single Hop Imperial IPA series: Chinook, Citra, and El Dorado. My favorite was the Citra with its amazing orange aroma. Next up was their Imperial Coffee Stout, Kujo, on nitro. The creaminess imparted by the nitro really took Kujo to the next level. My last tasting was a mix of Raging Bitch and Woody Creek called “Raging Woody.” I have to admit I got it because of the name. A previous mix available in the tap room was the Raging Bitch and In-Heat called “Raging Bitch in Heat.”

The gift shop was good. The cooler held some gems: bombers of Barrel-Aged Gonzo and vintage bottles of Gonzo and Horn Dog dating back to 2006. One of the items for sale was women’s underwear with “Raging Bitch” on the back. One guy commented if his wife had a sense of humor he would buy them for her. Since he risked a certain death he decided to pass.

Jim Caruso (bottom left)

As we were leaving we decided to take a group shot. At the same time, Flying Dog’s CEO, Jim Caruso, was walking into the brewery for an event. We talked a few minutes and he was gracious enough to take a picture with us! Even without the bonus of meeting the CEO I can’t recommend this tour highly enough. It was very informative concerning both the brewing process and Flying Dog’s history yet highly entertaining at the same time.

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Written by Bob Pack

Simply put, Bob is a beer lover. He goes out of his way to try new beers whenever he can find them. The love of trying new beers had resulted in a beer label collection of over 1400. When it comes down to it, Bob is a hop head. He loves IPAs (including double and black). Stouts are a close second. His tweet reviews on @nova_beer are simple and approachable. Let him know what you think. Find Bob Pack on Google Plus

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