Flying Dog Celebrates 25 Years of Cutting-Edge Brewing

Twenty-five years since its founding, Flying Dog Brewery is still striving to be innovative and original.

Mnet 150565 Flying Dog Logo Listing
Mnet 150564 Flying Dog Logo Listing

FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — Twenty-five years since its founding, Flying Dog Brewery is still striving to be innovative and original.

Originality is what keeps the Frederick-based brewery, which is known for its unique beer and edgy label and carton designs, on the cutting edge of brewing and branding, said Flying Dog Brewery CEO Jim Caruso.

When you're being original and constantly experimenting, the chance of failure can be just as high as the chance of success, according to Caruso.

"But if you're doing that, the stuff that works — that is original — catches on," Caruso said.

For Flying Dog, originality has led to economic success. The brewery's sales skyrocketed over 300 percent since 2008, and sales in the Mid-Atlantic region jumped more than 600 percent in eight years, according to Caruso.

Today, Flying Dog employs more than 125 people, up from 24 people in 2006 when it first moved from Colorado to Frederick, setting up at 4607 Wedgewood Boulevard.

"The Flying Dog that you see here ... today is very much a Maryland phenomenon," Caruso said. "For good reason, many people think that Flying Dog started here because it's such a presence and we've grown so much."

However, Flying Dog Brewery began as a brewpub in Aspen, Colorado, in 1990. Four years later, the company opened a brewery in Denver, where it remained until Flying Dog moved to Frederick.

"The 10 years here has really been Flying Dog's coming of age," Caruso said. "It's our adulthood. And it's a very different facility and brand image than it was in Colorado."

Although the brand image has evolved under Ralph Steadman, a well-known British artist who began designing Flying Dog's labels and art in 1995, the brewery has also expanded its production and facilities.

In 2006, Flying Dog moved east to follow its sales and expand to a larger facility — the 46,200-square-foot building it now occupies in Frederick. It includes brewing facilities and a tasting room.

"Colorado was our home, and we were rooted there, but we were always bigger than the state of Colorado. ... We were known for pretty edgy beers from the start," Caruso said.

In Colorado, the brewing company offered 12 to 13 beers, said Matt Brophy, COO and brewmaster of Flying Dog. Today, it has 40 to 50 beers available, about 15 that are new releases.

New beers to Flying Dog's selection include Mint Julep Ale, a blonde ale with mint leaves and honeysuckle for a bourbon taste released in April, and Tropical B----, a fruity twist on the brewery's well-known Belgian style IPA beer Raging B---- to mark 25 years in business this January.

Flying Dog will also release Berliner Weiss and Heat Series Ancho Lime Paradise Lager in May and bring back Dead Rise Old Bay Summer Ale later this week, according to Erin Weston, a spokeswoman for the brewing company.

Dead Rise Old Bay Summer Ale, which contains the famous Maryland spice, is a direct product of the brewery's presence in the state, Caruso said. Some of the proceeds from the beer's sales go to the state's True Blue program, which aims to protect Maryland crabs.

Since the beer launched in 2014, the brewery has donated over $20,000 to the True Blue program, according to Flying Dog's website.

Flying Dog's partnership with Old Bay is one of several Maryland initiatives the brewery has supported since moving to the state. The company also launched a partnership with the Department of Natural Resources to brew Pearl Necklace, a stout brewed with fresh oysters, and is working with the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in downtown Frederick to launch several beers later this year.

"Our goal when we came here was to be an integral part of the community, to embrace the community as it has embraced us," Caruso said.

And Flying Dog has no intention of leaving the Frederick community. In fact, the brewing company is looking to open a new facility near the airport that would be three times the size of its current building.

Caruso said if all goes according to plan, Flying Dog will be operating out of its new facility on 31.67 acres near Frederick Municipal Airport by 2018. He said he expects work on the property to begin this summer.

Flying Dog is currently in the process of buying the land from the city of Frederick, but the brewery must address three concerns, according to Richard Griffin, the city's economic development director.

The first is finding a way for an airport antenna on the property to function without impediment. The second is obtaining a conditional use permit from the city so that Flying Dog could hold tastings and events on the property, which is not zoned for that use, Griffin said. The third is ensuring all public roads are provided for on the final site plan, according to Griffin.

"Once those contingency items are resolved, I am hopeful and confident that Flying Dog will move forward and complete the sale," Griffin said.

As for the future of Flying Dog's beer, Brophy said he plans to continue experimenting with new beer flavors and inventing new pairings, staying with the brewery's tradition of originality.

"I think the combinations are endless," Brophy said. "There's always going to be innovation, and it's exciting to have no limitation really as we continue to innovate and experiment and have fun."

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