The Flying Dog Story

Jul 12, 2017

The Flying Dog Story

Nobody had ever connected the words “flying” and “dog” together…until 1983, when George Stranahan was itching for an adventure.

This time it would be K2, also known as the “Savage Mountain,” the second highest mountain in the world and one of the most deadly. For every four people who have reached the summit, one has died trying. And it has never been climbed in the winter.

After traveling 8,000 miles from Woody Creek, Colorado, George and his band of 12 “Innocents” set off from Rawalpindi, Pakistan (or “Pindi” as everyone called it) for the summit of K2 with a Sherpa and a mule loaded with provisions.

Ignoring the fear, George and the Innocents trekked across the Baltoro Glacier and the Braldu Gorge. Reinhold Messner, the world’s greatest mountain climber, said the Braldu Gorge was the “most dangerous thing [he] had ever done in his life.” According to George, the largest disaster he and the Innocents faced was that “on day 17 of a 35-day trip, we totally ran out of booze.”

Back in Pindi at the Hotel Flashman, George and the Innocents were triumphant but in a dry state of mind. After getting on the “alcohol list” of this Muslim nation, they settled in to drink their quota. Then, their eyes caught sight of a large painting.

As George describes it, “It was a full-on oil painting of a dog. A beautiful oil painting, big, nice. And the dog was like…well, he had left the ground. Here we were, the March of the Innocents and this ‘Flying Dog,’ and the weirdness of it all. And the combination of the words ‘Flying Dog’ stuck with all of us, but particularly for me. They fit together in some way. I don’t know how it makes sense, but it makes sense.”

In 1990, George founded the Flying Dog Brewpub in Aspen, Colorado. From that brewpub to a full-fledged Denver brewery (co-founded by George and his longtime friend and partner, Richard McIntyre) in 1994, and then to our current state-of-the-art brewing facility in Frederick, Maryland, Flying Dog continues to make sense.

Q & A with CEO Jim Caruso

How has Flying Dog seen the craft beer industry change or evolve since the brewery’s founding? How has Flying Dog reacted (or not)?

There were around 250 total breweries in the U.S. when Flying Dog opened its brewpub in 1990. Today there are close to 5,500 breweries producing more than 25 million barrels of beer. Craft has evolved from a niche product to the beverage of choice for millions of beer drinkers. As Flying Dog moves toward the half-century mark, it has defiantly maintained its unique brand expression and distinctive Gonzo persona even as craft has become more and more mainstream.

How does the brewery and marketing maintain its high level of creativity and innovation?

We abhor such activities as focus groups, which only dumb a brand down to some common denominator and force it to get lost in a sea of sameness. Instead, we listen to the voices in our own heads, unbound by cubicles and political correctness, knowing that there are people out in the world who are just as irreverently off-kilter and whimsical as we are. It just never gets weird enough for us, as our good friend Hunter S. Thompson would say.

What’s the most exotic or unique beer that’s been made at the brewery?

We did a beer (International Arms Race) with the goal of achieving hop flavors without using hops. It took us 12 trial batches using dozens of exotic spices and herbs before we succeeded. The final (and secret until now) recipe included juniper berries, bay leaf, rosemary, spearmint, elderberry flowers, and lemon and orange peels.

The Beers

Raging Bitch Belgian IPA

Sweet malt body contrasted with pine and grapefruit hop flavors and exotic fruit yeast notes.

ABV: 8.3%

Availability: Year-round

Hop Bitterness: 60 IBU

Specialty Malts: Caramel

Hops: Warrior, Columbus, Amarillo

Yeast: El Diablo

Bloodline Blood Orange Ale

Bloodline begins with huge grapefruit on the nose. Then, a delicate balance of citrus sweetness and bitterness.

ABV: 7%

Availability: Year-round

Hop Bitterness: 40

Specialty Malts: Rye, Caramel

Hops: Northern Brewer, Citra, Galaxy

Snake Dog 20 IPA

Big citrus (notably grapefruit) hop aroma and flavor with caramel malt notes.

ABV: 7.1%

Availability: Year-round

Hop Bitterness: 60 IBU

Specialty Malts: Caramel

Hops: Mosaic, Citra, Simcoe, Columbus and Warrior

Yeast: American Ale

Double Dog Double IPA

Citrus hops with sweet malt and subtle alcohol burn (like a kiss on the cheek).

ABV: 11.5%

Availability: Limited distribution

Hop Bitterness: 85 IBU

Specialty Malts: Light Caramel

Hops: Columbus, Warrior, Cascade

Yeast: Ale

Doggie Style Pale Ale

Grassy, citrus, and slight perfume hop aromas with subtlety sweet malt body.

ABV: 5.5%

Availability: Year-round

Hop Bitterness: 35 IBU

Specialty Malts: Caramel

Hops: Northern Brewer, Cascade, Simcoe, Citra

Yeast: American Ale

Numero Uno Agave Cerveza

ABV: 4.9%

Availability: Beginning of May Release

Hop Bitterness: 20 IBU

Specialty Malts: Bon Munich, Flaked Maize

Hops: Hallertau, Saaz

Yeast: Proprietary lager strain

Gonzo Imperial Porter

Roasted chocolate, coffee, and vanilla malt flavors balanced with a unique hop bite.

ABV: 9.2%

Availability: Limited Distribution

Hop Bitterness: 85 IBU

Specialty Malts: Caramel, Black, Chocolate

Hops: Warrior, Northern Brewer, Cascade

Yeast: Two yeast strains

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