Fear and Loathing in Denver

From Flying Dog Brewing’s Official Blog:

As some of you may have heard, Flying Dog Brewery announced on Tuesday that we are embarking on the next step in our illustrious, 17 year history of crafting remarkable beer by concentrating all of our brewing and production to the brewery in Frederick, MD, where 70% of Flying Dog Beer is already being brewed. This move will take place in January and we are working to ensure that our entire production team will be able to make this move over to Maryland.

That’s right – Colorado’s most iconic brewery is moving to Maryland. Why?

We look forward to ramping up production and growing our business even more than the +20% trends we are experiencing in 2007

I’m no economics whiz, but if I am correct in reading between the lines, they’re saying that more than 20% growth in one year is unacceptably small, and they’re going to seek browner pastures on the East Coast. In Maryland. Home of … Baltimore.

Call me crazy, but I find it pretty hard to believe that things could be that much cheaper in Maryland. It seems unbelievable that real estate would be cheaper in the lonesome, crowded East, but transportation alone seems like it would kill this deal. The hops are travelling farther, the grain is travelling farther, and the finished beer is going to travel a LOT farther, from the east coast to points far West. I can tell you with 100% certainty that transportation costs are going nowhere but up. But I’m sure they’ve crunched these numbers themselves.

I’ll focus instead on the traitorous-ness, the anti-Coloradan, the anti-Gonzo nature of this.

Ralph Steadman’s Pig Illustration from the cover of George Orwell book

Flying Dog’s identity is Colorado. Their labels are drawn and designed by Ralph Steadman, Hunter S. Thompson’s illustrator. Hunter Thompson is himself a Coloradan, one who ran for Sheriff of Aspen several times, and it was this fiercely independent, “Gonzo”, COLORADO attitude that Flying Dog’s marketing department attempted to capitalize on in selecting Steadman as their label-maker.

Hunter Thompson for Sheriff

If I was a Coloradan, I’d be pretty pissed about this disloyalty. Coloradans weaned this brewery for 17 years, and upon reaching adulthood, Flying Dog has decided to pay Colorado back with the removal of brewing and manufacturing jobs in the name of the bottom line. Basically, Flying Dog has turned into a giant, mother-fucking pig.

So I’m going to put this out there, to you, Mr. Stranahan and the rest of your spreadsheet-happy corporate tenders … What would Hunter S. Thompson do? Is he the kind of guy that would walk out on a friend, or is he the guy that would take a buck, walk, and “fuck you, too?” Would he want to be associated with this profit-driven factory farm bullshit, or would he be into big talkers who lived the right way – their own way? I never met the man, but I’ve read enough to guess where his chips would fall, and I’m pretty sure their resting place wouldn’t rhyme with “buryland.”

And while I’m at it, your flashy website navigation pisses me off, too.

9 thoughts on “Fear and Loathing in Denver”

  1. As if manufacturing jobs are really great jobs anyway. Wake up, our economy is away from manufacturing, and towards thinking jobs. It is an economy of ideas and innovation. A business must serve the business side of itself first to remain in business. Just a bit of a rant to start things off.

    More ranting. By moving to a place where their analysts have determined that they can grow their business, it will make their products available to a wider audience. Unless you want to see Bud Miller Coors continue to dominate the market, we need solid business decisions being made by our favorite brewers.

    Maybe you love Miller. Maybe you can’t wait for Miller Lite Brewers Craft-Like Bullshit. Maybe you just want to keep the good things small and local, and all to yourself. But I think that most craft beer lovers are happy to have as many options at their local bottle shop as possible.

    What I see from the press release is that Flying Dog can increase their production, and thus their availability, by moving to Maryland. To me, that’s a good thing.

  2. you know what dude, if u relly knew what was going on
    you wouldent be runnin your lips. its either move to frederick or go bankrupt. check and see how much a box of hop is rite now. so shut the hell up

  3. Keith – you make some good points, but I’m sticking to my gut on this one – I think it’s possible to make a good product, a good profit, and do so in Denver, or just about any other local economy. I must also disagree on the worth of manufacturing jobs point – I think the people doing those jobs feel they’re doing worthwhile work, and it puts food on their tables. I’d also make a point of differentiation with assembly jobs, and more hands-on craft jobs – I don’t think you can move brewing jobs the same way you can the production of DVD players.

    Worker – you’re also right – I don’t know the whole story, but the rubber stamp press release Flying Dog is circulating leaves a lot of room for speculation, which I am admittedly doing. It also takes a pretty cold look at what for many must be a very emotional decision.

    Good healthy discussion – I appreciate the diversity of opinions here and thank you for your comments.

  4. I think when a company/beer’s brand is Gonzo and counter to the industry standard, this seems like a very corporate America decision and leaves them very open to this sort of criticism.

    Live your brand otherwise we the public call bullshit.

    Of course, I never knew any Flying Dog was made outside of Colorado, they’re not really on the radar in the NW.

  5. Costs, production output…all of that I get. It’s a free market. But taking a Colorado brew and transplanting it to a place not even remotely similar while still feigning the “attitude” seems so bloody traitorous. I always figured the Maryland plant was just an extension making it easier to get to the east coast market. The soul, or so I thought, was still CO. Indeed, I was wrong, and apparently have been for a while. I’m just an ordinary consumer, not a guru. That doesn’t change the sting; like a lover who has found out that, not only is his girl running off with another guy, but that she’s been screwing him 70% more than you for some time. But even with that, just drop the HST/Steadman theme, and we can go our separate ways. If they want to be in Maryland, alright, just BE Maryland. Become “Crabcake Ale” or “Oriole Ale” or “Shipbuilder’s Suds” or “Marion Barry Moonshine.” HST, Steadman, et al is a well-identified CO thing and THEY know it. Yes, the doc was actually from Kentucky, but all Coloradoans are transplants. That’s part of the ethos…coming from elsewhere (places LIKE Fredrick) and disappearing into the dark mountains for the freedom of peyote button sheriff slogans, screeching acid-induced delusions and violent explosions in cold winter valleys. Of course that is mostly myth, but it’s OUR myth and transplanting it to goddam eastern-uptight Maryland and still passing the product off as Colorado Gonzo just stinks!

  6. I don’t know much about Hunter S. Thomson, so that aspect of the brand never spoke to me. I am more motivated by what’s in the bottle than what’s on it. Of course, the label helps me make that first decision sometimes.

    Since Flying Dog’s brand is all around Colorado-based things, this move to Maryland does cheapen that angle. But at the same time, Sam Adams isn’t really made in Boston, but it doesn’t change their Boston image.

    I like the girl running off on you analogy. I can definitely see the sense of betrayal that people from Colorado would feel in response to this move.

    Think of it this way, though – the same guys are still in charge at Flying Dog, so their hearts are still from Colorado. Let’s save the big anger for when they sell the company to Anheuser-Busch. (which hopefully will never happen)

  7. Interesting to see all the readers who aren’t from Colorado worrying about Coloradoans loosing their assumed deep connection to a microbrew marketing campaign…

    As a fan of Dr.Thompson, I always resented Flying Dog’s cheap attempt to leverage the HST/Gonzo image for their beer. Dr. Thompson was more of a whiskey drinker, and was better known for drinking quantity than quality. HST would trade your fancy home brew recipe for a case of warm Schlitz any day of the week.

    I am writing from the East Coast, near Boston, and I can tell you that (for whatever reason) Flying Dog is widely available in the North East. Perhaps Flying Dog found it a bit easier to get their foot in the door in New England, then woke up one day and realized that a substantial percentage of their business was on the East Coast…

  8. Ho hum. I couldn’t ever find an IPA out here, so I was never able to form much of an opinion of them. That’s my litmus test.

  9. I couldn’t agree with the original post more. For Coloradans who support local brewers our response is partially emotional as it should be. We should not be ashamed of the fact that were pissed about losing one of our own craft breweries, #2 in the state, and the jobs that came with it. We can debate the business/economics aspect of it all day but in the end FD betrayed the people that helped get them started. Years ago when they were up in Aspen, no one back east was drinking FD. As far as the fantasy fueled post degrading the worth of industrial jobs and declaring that America is moving to an “Innovative Economy”, I recommend you stay in college a while longer. Your Innovative economy is really called a “Service Economy” which without the fuel of invention and manufacturing leads to lower paying jobs and the elimination of the middle class. Why is the 3rd world becoming the first world, because they build/make shit that other markets buy. Thus, all classes of people have jobs, and the economy rises as a whole.

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