Flying Dog



Dale Zupsansky

Today, microbrews, breweries and other sorts of small-scale beer manufacturers can be found just about anywhere – whether it’s at a local restaurant that also dubs itself a brewery or a friend who brews in his basement, throws some fancy labels on it and takes it to a party for friends to sample.

However, 30 years ago even a common craft beer by today’s standards (such as Samuel Adams), wasn’t available on tap at your local pub. Only large-scale brewers were common in your average bar. Today, things could not be more different, but back then nobody could have imagined the brewing industry would have turned into what it is today.

In 1990, George Stranahan opened the Flying Dog Brewpub in Woody Creek, a small town outside of Aspen, Colorado. In 1994, through a joint venture with another craft brewery, Flying Dog opened a full-fledged production brewery in Denver. The brewery was co-founded by George’s longtime friend and partner, Richard McIntyre.

In early 2000, the Woody Creek brewpub closed and Flying Dog began to look east as sales East of the Mississippi and in Western Europe skyrocketed. The original brewery in Denver was also in need of major repair and was about half the size of Flying Dog’s current brewery. Then the owners stumbled upon the now defunct Frederick Brewing Company in 2006, which is where Flying Dog’s current brewery is located, and decided to move production to Frederick, Maryland. During the transition, the company produced beer in both Denver and Frederick, but closed the Denver brewery by 2007. Now, every drop of Flying Dog beer is produced in Frederick and the brewery continues to have record sales each year.

Flying Dog has become well known for its affiliation with outlaw Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson and Ralph Steadman, a prolific artist who has produced thousands of groundbreaking and influential works during the last 45 years. Long before he founded Flying Dog, George rented Owl Farm, Hunter’s “fortified compound” in Woody Creek, to Hunter. They became fast friends and regularly got together to talk politics, drink beer, watch football, shoot guns, and experiment with explosives – all activities you can imagine Hunter enjoying in his spare time. When George decided to open the Flying Dog Brewpub, Hunter suggested that he ask Ralph – his long-time collaborator on books and articles for Rolling Stone, Playboy, and more –  to do the label artwork. His greatest contribution to Flying Dog, Hunter introduced George to Ralph in 1995 and Ralph has been working with the brewery ever since.

In 1995, Ralph created the artwork for the Doggie Style Pale Ale, which eventually morphed into the company’s logo. Back then, Doggie Style was one of the most aggressive pale ales in the market and, combined with Ralph’s inimitable style, made it really stand out on shelves. Doggie Style Pale Ale is dry hopped with Cascade, Simcoe, and Citra hops grown in the Pacific Northwest. Doggie Style has enough hop character to satisfy hop-heads, but is balanced by sweet Caramel malt..Doggie Style Pale Ale was named the #1 American Pale Ale in the U.S. by The New York Times in 2010.

Seasonal brews have become very popular over the years and Flying Dog’s Woody Creek Belgian White, which pays homage to the small town where Flying Dog began, is hitting shelves now. Woody Creek is a traditional Belgian White, which involves brewing it with coriander and orange peel. It is one of the few beers Flying Dog brews that has more than the four standard ingredients of beer (water, hops, malt and yeast). The brew’s citrus, subtle wheat, coriander, and orange flavors pair well with light cheeses, Asian foods with wasabi and ginger, light shellfish, and fruity desserts. Woody Creek is light and refreshing for a reason, so be careful not to overpower it with heavy foods.

New brews at Flying Dog include Bloodline Blood Orange IPA, which was brewed exclusively for the 2013 Craft Brewers Conference (and a collaborative project with Reyes Beverage Group, Bloodline is an intensely-hopped IPA brewed with Blood Orange peel and juice. According to Brewmaster Matt Brophy, the result is a flavor profile that harnessed the best aspects of both the hops (Warrior, Citra, and Galaxy) and the citrus. He and his brewing team are very fond of hop-based citrus aromas, so experimenting with actual citrus was a natural extension of that.

Another new beer unveiled earlier in 2013 is Flying Dog’s Single Hop Imperial IPA with El Dorado. The El Dorado hop was first bred between 20 and 25 years ago by a USDA research program for eventual use by Anheuser-Busch. Once mature, A-B played with it for a few years and eventually dropped the variety. A sole grower in Moxee Valley, a northern district of the famed Yakima Valley, kept the variety in the ground over the years and in 2010, harvested a mere 1.5 acres. That same year, during hop selection at the Great American Beer Festival, Brewmaster Matt Brophy was introduced to El Dorado and immediately drawn to its pungent dried fruit (think apricot and pineapple) aroma.

Bold enough to stand on its own with in this Single Hop Imperial IPA, those fruit aromas and flavors shine through, along with a fresh-cut grass crispness and clean, dry finish. The beer was first released on draft last year and has since returned and is available on draft and in 6-packs now.

“I think the most exciting beers we are producing are our Brewhouse Rarities series,” explained Mr. Brophy. “It is a series of edgy, experimental brews that are born from various Flying Dog team members. These are mostly draft releases that come out each month.” The 2013 Brewhouse Rarities include Chipotle Dark Ale, Green Tea Imperial Stout, Pumpernickel IPA, Big Black Wit, Easy IPA, Pineapple Saison; Belgian Devil, Roggen, Vineyard Blonde (brewed with local Vidal Blanc grapes), Orchard Ale (brewed with local apples), and Cinnamon Porter.

Mr. Brophy added: “Also exciting is the remaining beers in our Single Hop Imperial series. This year, we have four beers each with the same base recipe and the only variable is the hop in each one. The next Single Hop Imperial IPA will feature Citra and will be released in April.” Each Single Hop Imperial IPA clocks in at 10% ABV and 70 IBUs. The same grist bill – with Rye, Cara-Pils, and Biscuit specialty malts – is used for each style to let each hop variety shine through. All of the 2013 releases are available on draft and in 12 oz. bottle 6-packs in the mid-Atlantic region.

 “Good Beer, No Shit.” Located in Frederick, MD, Flying Dog is Maryland’s largest brewery. As its tagline proclaims, Flying Dog is committed to producing world-class craft beer and continues to push the envelope with experimental and limited-edition releases. Recent accolades include Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale ranked as the #1 American Pale Ale in the U.S. by The New York Timesand Raging Bitch Belgian-Style IPA named one of the best new beers in 2010 by multiple sources. For more information, please visit

The other members of the Flying Dog Pack that are available in Western PA at your favorite Craft Beer retailers are Double Dog Imperial Lager, Gonzo Imperial Porter, In Heat Wheat, Raging Bitch Belgo IPA, Snake Dog IPA, Underdog Atlantic Lager, Wildemans Farmhouse IPA and the Shock & Awe Variety Pack. Also, coming soon is the Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout as a new member of the Pack. Flying Dog is distributed in Western PA by Frank Fuhrer Wholesale Co. For more information call 412-488-8845 or like the Fuhrer Craft Specialty Division on Facebook (please use symbol) PintsOverPittsburgh or follow us on Twitter at @PintsOverPGH.