Flying Dog Brewery in nearby Frederick, Maryland, closed their tap room and stopped giving tours to the public almost a year ago as a result of pressure from state authorities over Maryland laws for breweries. President and CEO Jim Caruso and his team have recently come across a new interpretation of the law that will allow Flying Dog to be open to the public once again.
This winter, the award-winning local brewery will resume public tours and beer sampling on Saturdays, thanks to some creative interpretation of the meaning of the words “tour” and “beer” in the following part of Article 2B Section 2-206 of the Maryland state law about brewery licenses:
A licensee may serve up to 6 ounces for a sample of beer brewed at the licensed premises to anyone who has taken a tour of the brewery, if that person is of legal drinking age.
The ingenious plan is to break up the regular, pre-fuzz era Flying Dog tour into small visits to different parts of the brewery. Visitors receive a token for each “tour” they complete, which they can then redeem for a six-ounce sample of beer in the tap room. Similarly, the definition of the word “beer” can be interpreted as plural to include the multitude of beers a brewery makes. This reading of the law could allow the brewery to serve liberally, since Flying Dog has as many as two dozen beers available at any given time.
Over the past year, Flying Dog has advocated to get the law changed, and they are close to succeeding. The brewery has worked with local representatives to re-write the law so that breweries have more freedom to give tours and serve beer on premise. Under the current law, Maryland breweries also cannot donate beer directly to non-profits. According to Flying Dog sales representative J.T. Smith, breweries with manufacturing licenses have to buy their product back from a wholesaler in order to donate it. This means if Flying Dog wants to support a community event with their product, they could have to pay as much as $24.50 for something that cost them $15 to make.
Since counties run their own liquor boards in Maryland, Frederick County will be able to take advantage of the new law under local courtesy. The proposed law will be voted on in January or February, but by the time it goes through the legislative process it could be summer of 2011 before Flying Dog fans are enjoying beers in the tap room. Luckily, this will be just in time for the long-awaited return of GonzoFest.
This Lagerhead had the opportunity to participate in a pilot version of the new Flying Dog tour this week. Visit our Facebook album for photos.