Saturday, January 25, 2014

Flying Dog Brewery

This past winter The Lovely Spouse and I did some travel. This included a trip to the Baltimore-Washington area.  Our hosts for this trip live not far from the Flying Dog Brewery, so we decided to head over for a tour.  My previous experience with Flying Dog beers was an appreciation for the greatly refreshing hefeweizen In Heat Wheat, which is one of my go-to beers for the hot days of summer and for friends who don't like "strong beer" (when they actually mean "beers with beer flavor").  [Strong beers are actually those high in alcohol that may or may not taste like it. I personally consider a beer strong if it is over 5% alcohol by volume.]  From reading the bottles I knew the artwork was by Ralph Steadman, but I didn't know anything else about the history of the brewery.

The Flying Dog Brewery is located just south of Frederick, Maryland in an industrial park.

From the parking lot you can see this is not your typical warehouse.

Locals have told me that the brewery hosts fabulous parties when the weather is warmer. It was not warm enough to sit out here when we visited in December.
The tap room and retail area of the brewery are comfortable.  It's also where you get wristbands for the tour.

Quite a large selection.

Growlers for sale, and they'll fill them for you.

The wristbands had tabs to keep track of the post-tour tastings.
Next we went on the tour of the brewery.  It started with a history of the company, which is quite colorful.  So colorful, in fact, I can't do it justice.  Read about it here on their website.  It involves a trip to K2, a religious conversion, Hunter S. Thompson (yes, THE Hunter S. Thompson), and Ralph Steadman. It also involves moving the entire brewery from Colorado to Maryland, which is no small feat.

For what it's worth, the picts that turned out the best all had our tour guide in them.

As you enter the brewery you pass a hallway with a mural depicting the Flying Dog story. And you learn that every time the tour guide says "Good beer" you reply with "No Sh*t!"  Or face humiliation. [not really]

Brew kettles

Super secret barrel aging thing going on. 

250 barrel and 100 barrel fermenters.  Flying Dog has 24 hour operations to keep these running.

They have an on-site quality assurance lab. This ensures a consistent top quality product.

The bottling apparatus. This is state of the art.  The foam on the floor is due to disinfection following a bottling run.  They've tried canning, but consumers prefer their beer in bottles.  So they give the consumers what they want.

One of the coolest parts of the tour, other than the tour itself, what that they served you the beer at various stages throughout the tour.  So you got to taste it just out of the brew kettle, just past fermentation and before conditioning, just before bottling, and then the final product.  All in sequence.

Even the packing is state of the art.  All of it is automated.

Following the tour you do the logical thing - taste the beers.  5 tastings are included with the tour.  If you have a group you can share the 6 oz tastings and cover many of the selections.
The tour was a great way to spend an evening and got me more acquainted with the varieties of Flying Dog beers not available in Texas.  I still very much enjoy the In Heat Wheat, but now I know they have a lovely cinnamon porter and a stout called Pearl Necklace, in addition to an interesting line of craft beers.

If you visit the Frederick area, I recommend stopping in for a tour.  Sign up well in advance as spots disappear quickly and availability is quite limited. They also have special events on a regular basis.

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