As my wife summed it up: Great day, great friends, great beer.
It was a day born of tragedy. A VIP tour of the Flying Dog brewery was offered as part of a charity auction. There is a sizable contingent of craft beer fans in Brunswick, Maryland, and we decided that we must have it. There was some early competition in the bidding, but we decided we were not to be denied. (We also raised more than a little money for the auction.)
Next came the negotiations. It is no mean feat to get ten couples, all with children of various ages, to all agree on a date and time. There was much back and forth and I feared that it wouldn’t happen, but we finally arrived at a date. (The fact that it was Cinco de Mayo is a complete coincidence.) Even then, we were still short one of our original twenty. (Sorry Louisa. You were missed!)
So yesterday, on a beautiful Spring afternoon, we clambered on to the Flying Dog RV with Petey (job title: Captain Experience) and Meghan (job title: Garb and Gadgetry Guru) at the helm for the 25-minute drive up to the brewery. (Thankfully, there were two beers on tap, so the time passed quickly.) There we were met by Jim Caruso, CEO and partner. We spent a few minutes kibitzing in the tasting room (and tasting, of course), and then headed in on the tour, led by Jim himself.
Now, I’ve been through the facility before. F.O.A.M. has had their February meeting there for as long as I have been a member, and so I’ve gotten informal tours. Not to mention a couple of years ago I was invited to be a beta-tester for their new tour format. But with Jim leading us we got to hear quite a bit more of the history behind the brewery and the friendships of George Stranahan, Hunter S. Thompson, and Ralph Steadman.
We got to see the “hot” side, and the “cold” side. Jim spent quite a bit of time talking about the lab and how they do daily tests and tastings of every run. He told us about how the tasters keep their palates in tune (because your taste does change over time). He rattled off number after number after number: tons of grain, gallons of water, bottles of beer. Huge numbers, and they’re still only number 29 (by volume) amongst U.S. craft brewers. And, of course, the packaging area with skid after skid of beer ready to be shipped out.
After the tour we went back to the tasting room. a.k.a. Frisco’s catered (and the exploded potatoes were delicious) but we were all most interested in the twenty or so taps. Even more, I was excited about the several beers that I had not yet had.
And then we did what beer people do. We sat around together, sampling the wide variety of beer, noshing, and talking. We talked about the beer, we talked about the tour, we talked about our kids. I got to talk briefly to Jim about what a great beer community we have in Frederick County –granted, it’s no Portland or Asheville, but we do pretty well for a mostly-rural county–and how fortunate Flying Dog and we were to find each other.
All too soon it was time to go. We all climbed aboard the RV once again for our trip back home. We universally agreed that we should do it again some time.
Thanks Jim, Petey, Meghan, Abby and the rest of the Flying Dog crew.