Growth and automation don’t necessary lead to stultification, stresses Matt Brophy, director of brewing operations for Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick.
“You can make the same thing day in, day out, and it doesn’t matter if you do 2 million barrels a year or 2,000 barrels,” he comments. “It all depends on what kind of culture you maintain in your brewery.”
To impress that fact on his staff, Brophy in July 2011 gathered his staff together in the tea room at Gambrill State Park in the Catoctins and came up with the idea for Flying Dog’s Brewhouse Rarities series: one-off beers, released monthly, often incorporating non-traditional ingredients and usually draft only.
Brophy repeated the “beer summit” this year. An inner circle consisting of the heads of brewing, packaging and marketing whittled down 22 suggestions to 11 beers that will appear in 2013. A Chipotle Dark Ale leads off the new year, followed by a Green Tea Imperial Stout in February. (The stout, says Brophy, is one of three that will appear in 750-milliliter bottles as well as kegs. The other two are Belgian Devil, a strong golden ale set for a July release, and a Cinnamon Porter that will finish off the year next December.)
Check out the complete list on the Flying Dog site.
Brophy has been working on his brainchild, a Pumpernickel IPA slated for a March release. “It’s our liquid version of pumpernickel bread,” he says about the black rye IPA that incorporates caraway seeds.
Nailing a recipe the first time is problematic, so the Flying Dog brew crew does a pilot batch of each Brewhouse Rarity release at least 90 days in advance. In the case of the Pumpernickel IPA, the caraway character was too intense, reports Brophy, and will be scaled back for the commercial release.
“We don’t want them simply to be interesting,” Brophy says. “We want people to enjoy them, to drink them more than once.”
The brewery, Brophy notes, has already been experimenting with its planned September and October 2013 releases, Vineyard Blonde (brewed with vidal blanc grapes) and Orchard Ale (brewed with locally grown apples), because both require fruit fresh from the harvest. (November 2013 has been left open, just in case next year’s harvest comes late and throws the brewery off schedule.)
Meanwhile, Flying Dog plans to release its final Brewhouse Rarity for 2012 during the week of Dec. 17. It’s a gruit, a kind of medieval spiced ale, bittered with horehound and incorporating lavender and heather. The beer contains a minimal hopping (“a ceremonial pellet,” jokes Brophy) because of federal requirements that beverages labeled “beer” contain hops.
Flying Dog is also getting ready to release its final single-hop varietal for the year, an ale hopped exclusively with the galaxy strain from Australia. “It’s got a little cattiness,” cautions Brophy of the galaxy hop, “but it’s not overpowering. Even if you don’t like the catty, there is a lot of fruit going on.”