Maryland’s largest brewery, concocting one-of-a-kind craft beer
Jim Caruso is the CEO and General Partner of Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, Maryland. Founded by astrophysicist and rancher George Stranahan in 1990 in Aspen, Colorado, Flying Dog was one of the first brewpubs to open in the Rocky Mountains. Sixteen years later, the company purchased the Frederick Brewing Company, which eventually became Flying Dog’s headquarters after the closure of its Denver facility. Today, Flying Dog is the largest brewery in Maryland and the 37th largest in the US. Emblazoned with names such as Raging Bitch, Bloodline, Snake Dog, and Fever Dream, Flying Dog’s labels feature art created by Ralph Steadman, who connected with the company through a mutual friend of Steadman’s: Hunter S. Thompson.
Between the hundreds of thousands of beers available on the shelf, how do you ensure Flying Dog stands out? How important is it to protect your trademark and copyrights?
JIM CARUSO: With all these beers, these hundreds of thousands of beers out there, how do you find a name? Well, it’s challenging. If you go to find a name for a beer, especially if it has the word “dog” in it, I can guarantee you it’s probably taken. Raging Bitch, the beer that has become the First Amendment beer, started out as “Double Dog.” We use El Diablo yeast. It’s a raging yeast—that’s actually where “raging” comes from in Raging Bitch. It’s a very aggressive yeast that ferments very aggressively. By the way, in Raging Bitch, El Diablo yeast, a raging yeast, bitch is a dog, “Raging Bitch”—we get it has all the connotations. It was a number one seller from the month we introduced it until today.
I got a little off track here, but I’ll tell you the Raging Bitch story real quick. It was our 20th anniversary. We couldn’t come up with a name. We came up with the name Raging Bitch—it was Heather, a 26-year-old marketing person. I said, “We’re not giving up this name.” It takes about 11 months to have this whole process happen. We came up with Raging Bitch from raging yeast, bitch is a dog, and she said, “I love it, but I have to ask my mom.” She came back the next day and said, “my mom loves it.” I came back to the brewery, we had all the ladies with Flying Dog in the conference room. I said, “It’s our 20th anniversary. We have several names for the beer, one of which is Raging Bitch,” and they all loved it. Heather said to me, “Based on everything you say about ‘we do what’s true for us’ and so forth, if you don’t do that I will be forever disappointed in you.” And the beer has really caught on. Many women find it a very empowering name.
But when you go back to the name thing, when you start Googling names—especially if it has the word “dog” in it—it’s taken, it’s taken, it’s taken. So, there has been more and more conflict in the industry on trademark and copyrighting that sort of thing, so it is an art. Something that we hadn’t done for many years is now a big workload for us in terms of getting these beers trademarked. We sell beer across the world, so we have European trademark situations, China—somebody I’m sure can read the documents, I can’t, but supposedly we have some protection there.
It’s a big deal. You can Google “dog fight Flying Dog Brewery vs Budweiser.” Budweiser has a brand of beers out there—the Wild series: Wild Red, Wild Blue, Wild Black. They’re beers that we would never do. I’m not saying they’re bad beers; they’re just beers with flavorings in them that would never be Flying Dog. The art is very similar to Flying Dog’s art. The copy on it is very similar. Nowhere does it say “Made by Budweiser.” On the bottom of the package, it indicates a brewery. It shows up on the shelf, next to our beer sometimes, and we get complaints from our consumers. It’s kind of a big deal. We don’t sue Budweiser—they are way too big, they would crush us—but that kind of blurriness and confusion in the market is not good for the industry. It’s a challenge, and copyrighting has become critical. As the industry is changing, we have a 100 breweries and there are not that many names out there. It’s very different from 4,500 breweries each introducing 10 or so beers per year.
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