Flying Dog VIP Tour

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.

Sampling "green" beer

Why, yes, I would like to sample some green beer (photo courtesy Christopher Vigliotti)

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.

Al Everett, at the end of the day

At the end of the day (photo courtesy of Naomi Everett)

Homebrew clone kits direct from the brewer: Stove Toppers from Flying Dog

eldoradoOkay, now this is cool. I have seen people try to recreate commercial brewer recipes on a home brew scale (in fact, I have a book of such recipes) and I’ve even seen brewers release their recipe for home brewers to convert, but I’ve never seen a brewer sell the actual ingredients to copy their recipe. But this is what Flying Dog has actually just announced.

Introducing Stove Toppers, a series of all-grain homebrew kits for advanced homebrewers that include our exact ingredients and brewmaster’s recipe, all scaled-down to for your 5-gallon home brewery.

We’re launching one kit per month in 2013 and each kit will be on sale for that month only. Starting tomorrow, Single Hop Imperial IPA with El Dorado will be on sale in our gift shop and the Flying Barrel Homebrew Supply Shop in Frederick, Maryland.

I like that they’re keeping to one kit and changing over to a new one every month. They’ve even released their schedule for 2013:

  • February: Single Hop Imperial IPA with El Dorado
  • March: Raging Bitch Belgian-Style IPA
  • April: Woody Creek Belgian Wit
  • May: Single Hop Imperial IPA with Citra
  • June: Snake Dog IPA
  • July: Dogtoberfest Marzen
  • August: The Fear Imperial Pumpkin Ale
  • September: Single Hop Imperial IPA with Sorachi Ace
  • October: Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout
  • November: Single Hop Imperial IPA with Simcoe
  • December: Barrel-Aged Gonzo Imperial Porter

Heck, this might even be enough to get off my butt and learn how to brew all-grain.

If you brew with one of these kits, let us know how it turned out. (Bonus points if you invite us over for some.)

Kujo

My friends at Flying Dog announced the availability of this puppy a month ago, but I haven’t seen it until now. (All due to my charming wife. Thanks, dear!) Of course, I did happen to have it at the brewery before they gave it a name, and again while they were test marketing it in bottles.

After today’s thrilling New York Giants playoff victory over the top-seeded Green Bay Packers, I figured I should celebrate.

They say:

Kujo is the savage spawn of two brewing worlds – coffee and beer – colliding. But in that collision, there’s a balance between rich and roasted stout characteristics and the deep, dark coffee notes. The result is an 8.9% ABV brew made with locally-roasted coffee from Black Dog Coffee out of Summit Point, West Virginia.

It is nearly as dark as burnt motor oil, with a thick, medium-brown head. The coffee is obvious in the aroma, with a bit of that dark-roasted malt underneath. Creamy and roasty both. At 8.9% ABV this isn’t something to quaff in large quantities, but this is definitely becoming a new favorite of mine.

Flying Dog Kujo

Hop Talk Podcast #8 – It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. No, it’s the heat.

In this episode we talk about

  • MillerCoors loses their license in Minnesota due to government shutdown
  • Flying Dog fights for the First Amendment in Michigan
  • Sunoco tests selling craft beer in growlers at convenience stores
  • and, our contest winner!

Download it here: Hop Talk Podcast ep. 8

…or subscribe with iTunes

Show notes:

Beer News

MillerCoors got caught up in the government shutdown in Minnesota and temporarily lost their license to sell beer there. That’s 40% of the market suddenly gone. But, crisis averted?

All Beers Considered“, from Aleheads, pointed us toward this issue, where Flying Dog’s best-selling beer was originally blocked for sale in Michigan, but a court reversed the block. However, Flying Dog is continuing to fight for the First Amendment.

Sunoco is conducting a test at 30 of their APlus stores in and around Buffalo, New York. It’s called the Craft Beer Exchange.

Our Contest Winner!

Congratulations Amanda Brezina!

What we drank:

Spot a discrepancy? Something missing? Let us know. contact@hop-talk.com

Follow us on Twitter: @hoptalk and @hoptalkron

Music credits:

Background music at bar during intro:
Artist: Gnappy
Song: Best Not FUnck Around

Main intro:
Artist: A Thousand Knives of Fire
Song: She’s Yours

Outro Music:
Artist: Aphasia
Song: Metal Tank

Transition Music:
Artist: Devil In A Woodpile
Song: Beer Ticket Rag

Beer news sampler

A six-pack of beer news items that caught our eye.

A-B InBev takes controlling stake in Goose Island
Not much of a surprise, really. They’d already owned a pretty large chunk of it.

Local businesses not happy with A-B InBev’s new acquisition
Craft brew fans can be a passionate, opinionated bunch.

A-B InBev CEO Carlos Brito named one of the best 30 CEOs
I have a feeling that making good beer was not one of Barron’s criteria. “Cost-cutting” comes to mind.

Discovery show Brewmasters cancelled. Rumor says it was pressure from the big brewers.
So says Anthony Bourdain, anyway.

Flying Dog sues Michigan Liquor Control Commission
This isn’t the first time Flying Dog has had a First Amendment tousle with a government entity. This time it’s over their 20th Anniversary beer: Raging Bitch. (Which happens to be their best-seller and a personal favorite.)

Automated home brewery in a laundry room
Want!

GonzoFest postponed

GonzoFest will not be happening on June 19, 2010 as originally planned. Here’s part of a note I received from Erin Biles, Public Relations Manager for Flying Dog:

Thank you so much for your interest in Gonzofest 2010 on June 19. Unfortunately, we have decided to reschedule the party until later this year. The amount you spent on tickets will be refunded directly to your purchasing account within the next 24 hours.

We don’t throw parties that suck and it became clear to us last week that we won’t be able to throw a kick-ass party here at the brewery. We will pick a new venue and a new date soon, and you will be one of the first to know.

Thanks again for your support of Flying Dog Brewery and we look forward to partying with you soon!

It sucks that they didn’t figure this out until after they’d already started selling tickets. I hope they don’t choose a date where I already have a commitment. That would really suck.

Still, it’s probably a good thing. Parking logistics last year were, shall we say, sub-optimal. Having two sessions this year, even with two hours buffer between them, is probably too ambitious. Having to truck all that beer to another location is going to be a cost they didn’t anticipate, and woe unto them if they run out of beer.

As soon as I know something I’ll let you know.

p.s., I might have a couple of tickets to give away. I’ll keep you posted.

Gonzo Fest 2010

Update: GonzoFest has been postponed.


It’s that time of year: GonzoFest!

I went to the 2nd Annual GonzoFest last year and it was great.

It was so popular last year that they’ve split it into two separate 4-hour sessions: 11-3 and 5-9. June 19, by the way.

All proceeds go to the Gonzo Foundation:

The mission of the Gonzo Foundation is to promote literature, journalism, and political activism through the legacy of Hunter S. Thompson.

By hosting events at high schools, colleges, and public libraries to highlight the life and times of Hunter, the Gonzo Foundation plans to encourage young adults to pursue the study of journalism and provide scholarships to financially deserving journalism students. Collegiate journalism departments across the country attribute much of the interest students have in journalism to Hunter. The foundation will also promote the works of other notable American writers, as Hunter is often studied alongside the likes of H.L. Mencken, Truman Capote, Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tom Wolfe, Jack Kerouac, David Halberstam, and Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Established in 2005 by Anita Thompson, Hunter S. Thompson’s widow, the Gonzo Foundation is primarily supported by Flying Dog Brewery. In addition to Gonzofest, all proceeds from every Flying Dog’s Gonzo Imperial Porter – brewed in commemoration of Hunter – sold benefit the foundation.

For more details and to buy your tickets, go to GonzoFest2010.com.

Who’s going?

Flying Dog American Craft Beer Week events

Next week–May 17-23–is American Craft Beer Week. Flying Dog has a whole host of events in Maryland, Northern Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

I’m going to try to get to at least two. Anybody else looking to go? Maybe we can meet up and toss a couple back.