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Flying Dog: A pilot's after-flight palFlying Dog: A pilot’s after-flight pal

Frederick, Maryland, brewery a popular attractionFrederick, Maryland, brewery a popular attraction

Editor's note: Federal aviation regulations prohibit anyone from acting as a crewmember of a civil aircraft within eight hours after the consumption of any alcoholic beverage, while under the influence of alcohol, or while having an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater. Federal regulations do not preclude enjoying alcohol after the day’s flying is done.

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.

  • Flying Dog Brewery, headquartered in Frederick, Maryland, has attracted a national following for its creative microbrews, festive atmosphere, and distinctive marketing. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Distinctive label illustrations by artist Ralph Steadman are as much a part of Flying Dog Brewery as their craft beers. Steadman was the artist for author Hunter S. Thompson and the writer introduced Steadman to brewery founders. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Steam surrounds Flying Dog brewers as they prepare the beer wort, a hot water extract with malted grains and hops that converts the starches into sugars and adds flavors and aroma to the brewing foundation. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Boiling water with malted grains converts starches into sugars while varieties of pungent hops add flavor and aroma to the brewing foundation at Flying Dog Brewery. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Pilot, aspiring flight instructor, and Flying Dog Brewery employee Brian Artusio walks past oak barrels that are sometimes used to infuse flavor into beer. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Home brewers know that cleanliness is paramount to consistency when brewing beer. Flying Dog Brewery brews 40 different styles of beer each year that sees 2 million bottles of beer fermenting simultaneously with crews working six days per week, and 24 hours per day. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Flying Dog Brewery has a lab where brew masters and others check for quality and consistency because brewing beer is both an art and a science. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Pilot and brewery employee Brian Artusio and his flight instructor Jason Cobb are dwarfed by some of the 39 stainless steel 200- to 250-barrel fermentation vessels in Fermentation Hall. Each barrel holds about 31.3 gallons, so the largest vessels yield about 7,825 gallons, which can fill 84,000 bottles with over 1 million fluid ounces of craft-brewed beer. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Carbon dioxide is expelled from fermentation vessels at Flying Dog Brewery, where the equivalent of more than 2 million bottles of beer are fermented simultaneously. Photo by David Tulis.
  • A bottling machine frames pilot and Flying Dog Brewery employee Brian Artusio, who won an employee contest to concoct a beer that he named TikiLeaks, a Mai Tai golden ale that is expected in the spring. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Flying Dog Brewery is nationally known for its high-quality craft-brewed beer adorned with distinctive labels by artist Ralph Steadman and quirky names including The Truth Imperial IPA, Gonzo Imperial Porter, Doggie Style Pale Ale, and Dead Rise Summer Ale. The beer is shipped to 26 states and 28 countries. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Flying Dog Brewery employee, pilot, and aspiring flight instructor Brian Artusio is surrounded by thousands of gallons of bottled, barreled, and canned beer in the cold room, prior to distribution. Photo by David Tulis.

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?”

We spent the next few minutes talking about craft beer brewing, aviation, and their similarities. “I think it’s the independence you feel, like when you’re flying solo. Small brewers and family-owned breweries are independent in that same way. They bring a sense of freedom to their products” that large breweries can’t match.

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.

Flying Dog Brewery, headquartered in Frederick, Maryland, has attracted a national following for its creative microbrews, festive atmosphere, and unique artwork. Photo by David Tulis.

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.

David Tulis

David Tulis

Associate Editor Web/ePilot
AOPA Associate Editor Web/ePilot David Tulis joined AOPA in 2015 and is a seaplane-rated private pilot who enjoys vintage aircraft, aerobatic flying, and photography.
Topics: AOPA Events, US Travel

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