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Flying Dog Brewery Part of Micro Beer Spurt in US

It’s been around a long time. One of the world’s oldest, written recipes explains how to make it. And the recipe itself was sometimes said to be a gift from the gods. But beer has come a long way. And in the United States, where just a short while ago, overall beer sales were down one percent, micro, or, craft breweries have enjoyed a 12 percent growth over the same period.

It’s hard to imagine life without beer. Especially here… at the Flying Dog Brewery.

This place fills 250 bottles every single minute of production, says the company's Erin Biles. Not bad for a brewery its founder conceived on a 1983 hiking expedition.

“They were in Pakistan, which is a Muslim nation, and they had to sign affidavits stating that they were Sons of Christians to be able to drink… and drink they did! And they stumbled upon a Pakistani artist’s interpretation of an English birddog. And Flying Dog became the symbol of their whole journey,” Biles said.

And the journey continues… because Flying Dog ships its beer around the United States and across the Atlantic to a dozen or so European countries. But like all good journeys… it starts with the first steps.

“You have four main ingredients in beer. You have water, malted barley, yeast and hops. So to start the process the grains and the water are mixed in there together, and that big, stainless steel arm just goes around and around mixing the liquid with the barley,” Biles said.

This happens in something called a “lauter tun,” and it separates the grain from the new liquid mixture: the wort.

“From there, the liquid is drained out of the bottom of this vessel and the grain is left in there, the malt. And we have a local farmer who comes to pick up the grain and he feeds it to his cows. So that hot liquid is then transferred into our brew kettle where we start adding hops,” Biles explained.

Hops are flowers that add bittering, flavor and aroma to beer, and they’re added three times in roughly two hours before the mixture is ready for yeast…

“And then it’s transferred into huge, stainless steel vessels called ‘fermentation tanks,’” Biles said.

These towering tanks were installed just days before our visit, and it’s inside them that magic happens…

“The two byproducts of yeast eating all of the fermentable sugars in the beer are alcohol and carbon dioxide,” Biles said.

The beer is then quality tested in a lab before it’s sent for bottling. Some special batches are done by hand, but most of the beer is packed by machine - with pinpoint precision.

“So at this point in the process, the beer is in the bottles. The labels are on. They run down the conveyor belt and they’re dropped into the six-pack carriers and the cartons that hold the beer… and they are shipped out for the world to enjoy,” Biles said.

Or even better - if you’re one of the lucky ones who can visit the Flying Dog brewery - you can sample some of their quirky artwork and other, tasty offerings at the source.

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    Arash Arabasadi

    Arash Arabasadi is an award-winning multimedia journalist with a decade of experience shooting, producing, writing and editing. He has reported from conflicts in Iraq, Egypt, the Persian Gulf and Ukraine, as well as domestically in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland. Arash has also been a guest lecturer at Howard University, Hampton University, Georgetown University, and his alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife Ashley and their two dogs.