Flying Dog Brewery
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Flying Dog Brewery is a craft brewery located in Frederick, Maryland. Founded in 1990 by George Stranahan, it is the largest brewery in Maryland. As of 2015, Flying Dog is the 37th largest craft brewery in the United States. Flying Dog is known for its connection to Gonzo Journalism through close ties to writer Hunter S. Thompson and artist Ralph Steadman.
In 1990, George Stranahan opened the Flying Dog Brewpub in Woody Creek, Colorado, a small town outside of Aspen, Colorado. It was the first brewery to open in Aspen in over 100 years, and was one of the first brewpubs in the Rocky Mountain Region.
Demand for Flying Dog beers quickly grew beyond the brewpub’s capacity, so in 1994, the company opened a 50-barrel brewery in Denver, Colorado, which was a joint venture with the brewpub Wynkoop Brewing Company.
In 2000, Flying Dog purchased Wynkoop’s interest in the brewery and opened a second location in Denver at 2401 Blake Street.
Looking to expand again in 2006, Flying Dog purchased Frederick Brewing Company in Frederick, Maryland in May and began producing beer in both Maryland and Colorado. Flying Dog also acquired the Wild Goose brand and produced those beers until December 2010, when the brand was sold to Logan Shaw Brewing Company.
In December 2007, Flying Dog announced that it was closing the Denver brewery and would solely produce beer in its Frederick facility. At that time, the Denver brewery was in need of at least $1 million in infrastructure improvements. Flying Dog was also experiencing its strongest growth to date and could surpass Denver production levels by concentrating operations in Maryland.
Currently, Flying Dog Brewery has the capacity to brew 100,000 barrels of beer per year.
In 1983, George Stranahan, Richard McIntyre and a crew of 10 close friends decided to climb the K2 mountain in the Himalayas, the second highest mountain peak in the world. The story goes that they had with them a suitcase of contraband, a donkey, and a Sherpa. About halfway through the trip, the contraband was depleted and their Sherpa had suffered a broken leg. Eventually, the entire crew made it back unharmed. After the trek, the group settled in the Flashman Hotel in Rawalpindi, Pakistan to have a drink. Hanging on a wall of the hotel was a painting of a flying dog made by a local Pakistani woman. George and his crew were inspired by the picture and the idea of the flying dog, which eventually took root in his creation of the company.
Hunter S. Thompson
Notable author and Gonzo journalist, Hunter S. Thompson lived only a few blocks from George Stranahan's Flying Dog Ranch in Colorado and eventually the two became good friends over common interests in drinking and firearms. In 1990, Thompson introduced Stranahan to Ralph Steadman, who went on to create original artwork for Flying Dog's beer labels in 1995. His first label artwork was for the Road Dog Porter, a beer inspired and blessed by Thompson who wrote a short essay about it titled "Ale According to Hunter":
“Ale has long been the drink of thugs, convicts, rowdies, rakes and other depraved outlaws who thrive on the quick bursts of night-energy that ale brings. In the 17th century England gangs of ale-crazed fops would often fight to the death in all-night brawls on public greenswards, which terrified the citizenry and left many of the infamous "youngblood horseman" chopped up with grievous sword and dagger wounds… These were the Wild Boys of Olde English story and song, rich sots on horseback who amused themselves in London by riding out at night, ripped to the tits on strong ale, and "popped old ladies into empty booze-barrels and rolled them down steep, cobblestone hills with crazy screams and shouts." If you must roll old ladies down hills and you don't want to pay the bills, try to be nice and clean off their lice with a powerful Road Dog Ale.”
and a short toast for its commemoration:
“There is an ancient Celtic axiom that says "Good People Drink Good Beer." Which is true, then as now. Just look around you in any public barroom and you will quickly see: Bad People Drink Bad Beer. Think about it."
In 2005, the brewery created a new beer in Thompson’s honor, Gonzo Imperial Porter. Initially in limited-release in 750mL bottles, the Gonzo Imperial Porter is now one of the regular offerings of the brewery.
Labels and Artwork
Flying Dog Brewery is noted for using the unusual art of Ralph Steadman, best known as the illustrator of the works of Hunter S. Thompson, on its labels. His Flying Dog artwork typically consists of strange, twisted imaginations of dogs with wings, featuring a vast array of bright and vibrant colors.
In October 2013, in honor of the relationship between Ralph Steadman and Hunter S. Thompson, Flying Dog Brewery created an exhibition titled "The Gonzo Collection", featuring reinterpretations and responses to Steadman's work by several notable international artists, including Bob Dob, Nathan Spoor, Justin Bua, Michael Owen, Nanami Cowdry, and Tatiana Suarez. In regards to the month-long exhibit, Flying Dog CEO stated, "Ralph is one of the true artists in the world. He is also a principled, loving, generous human being. To pay tribute to him by furthering his impact in the art world is only appropriate."
Since moving to Frederick Maryland, Flying Dog Brewery has become a large supporter of the burgeoning Frederick music scene. After hosting a yearly summer concert series, in 2015 the brewery released "Frederick - Volume One". A compilation album featuring new unreleased music from 15 Frederick based artists and bands, including indie-rock band Silent Old Mtns. The album was released at the first annual Frederick Fall Fest, a mid-sized music festival presented by Flying Dog.
Flying Dog's beer names and artwork can often be interpreted as vulgar and insinuating, which has led to many controversies with government agencies and vendors.
In 1995, While drawing the first label for Road Dog, Steadman was being filmed by the BBC and spontaneously wrote "Good Beer, No Shit" across the back of the label. The Colorado Liquor Board removed the bottles from shelves, citing "obscenity". 5 years later, the beer was allowed back on shelves.
In 2007, Arkansas wouldn't allow the sale of "In Heat Wheat" because of the image on the label as well as the inappropriate name.
In 2009, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission denied Flying Dog Brewery the licensing right to sell their 20th Anniversary beer, "Raging Bitch" in Michigan, with claims that the label is "detrimental to public health, safety and welfare". In 2011, Flying Dog, with help from the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, filed suit against the 2009 decision, citing freedom of speech. Steadman also commented on the issue, stating "Freedom of speech and artistic expression is as fundamental to our being as the alphabet itself. I thought censorship was out with D.H. Lawrence's 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' about 50 years ago! So if you are feeling a strong itch to drink Raging Bitch, just do it and get on with life." Several months later, the MLCC reversed their original decision, allowing "Raging Bitch" to finally be sold in the state of Michigan. In Baltimore's Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the beer is one of several in rotation for Flying Dog's Firkin Friday promotion, but under the name "Belgian-Style IPA."
The "Doggie Style" pale ale used to have the words "Doggie Style" written in large lettering between the wings of the dog on the label, but many retailers refused to sell the beer. Because of this, the beer now says "(Doggie Style) Classic Pale Ale" on the side of the bottle.
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