Strong winds from the northwest had just battled my Cessna 172 and nearly won. After a round of touch-and-goes that seemed more like slam-and-swerves, I knew just what I wanted—sympathy, a friendly ear, and a craft-brewed beer.
I planted myself on a wooden stool at Flying Dog Brewery just seven miles from my home base at Frederick Municipal Airport in Frederick, Maryland, and bartender Brian Artusio suggested a Bloodline orange ale to cheer me up. Artusio is a pilot with aspirations to become a flight instructor, and he spotted the AOPA logo on my shirt. “I’ve always loved aviation and when I did a discovery flight, I realized I couldn’t get enough of it,” he confided. “Why would you do anything else?”
Flying Dog has garnered national attention and stands atop a crowded field of 18 Frederick-area microbreweries. Aviators and beer lovers who will be attending the May 10 to 11 AOPA Frederick Fly-In at Frederick Municipal Airport for the eightieth anniversary might want to reserve a tour of Flying Dog Brewery.
Flying Dog's story begins on the snowy slopes of Nepal’s K2—the world’s second-highest mountain—and a world away from its sprawling headquarters about 35 miles north of Washington, D.C.
Co-founders George Stranahan and Richard McIntyre had intended on summiting the 28,251-foot-tall Himalayan peak, dwarfed only slightly by Mount Everest at 29,029 feet, but their provisions depleted.
The friends retreated to a Pakistani hotel to wallow in their sorrow and that’s where they misinterpreted a painting of a flying bulldog. The weary trekkers began calling themselves the “Flying Dogs” in reference to the mysterious beast. “It really struck a chord with them,” explained Artusio as he ushered visitors past a visual reminder of the company’s history during a recent brewery tour.
A mural depicts the company’s 1983 beginnings, the first brewpub in Colorado, and the 2006 cross-country move to Maryland. Distinctive illustrations by Ralph Steadman, the artist responsible for the wacky observations of “gonzo” journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson, line the hallway leading to the brewing complex. Steadman’s inkwork adorns the company’s beer bottle labels and contributes to the brand’s attitude and identity. The company is the state’s largest microbrewery and views “craft beer as an art form unlike any other.”
When you go, ask for a Snake Dog IPA, Doggie Style Pale Ale, Gonzo Imperial Porter, or one of the many seasonal brews.
“Like we say,” added Artusio, ‘It’s art in a glass,’”
Ask for Artusio too, if you want to swap some flying stories while you enjoy your craft brew.