Distilleries and Breweries Team Up
Four years ago, when Mark Lambert was still the CEO of a nuclear company, he had a heart attack. “That was my wake-up call,” he said. “I knew I needed to do something different.”
As the Mount Airy resident considered the road ahead, he looked to his past for inspiration — specifically, to his great grandfather “Bad” Bill Tutt, a legendary Maryland moonshiner with eastern Kentucky roots — and the idea of Dragon Distillery was born.
Soon after Lambert finally opened Dragon Distillery’s doors to the public, Flying Dog Brewery CEO Jim Caruso, a passionate supporter of “all things local,” came for a visit.
Over samples, Caruso’s exploratory mission organically led to a discussion of opportunity — was there an interest in collaborating?
“I’d love to,” Lambert replied.
Dragon Distillery and Flying Dog, both in Frederick, embarked on their partnership with the Dragon Dog Frederick Rye whiskey, which featured a rye mash with nine specialty rye grains. Though it was conceived as a one-off, it will make another appearance this year, thanks in large part to the positive response the initial run received.
Ahead of that second generation of Dragon Dog, however, Flying Dog and the now 1-year-old distillery were hard at work on not one, but two parallel collaborations, which were scheduled to be released simultaneously in early September: Fear the Dragon, a spirit distilled from The Fear, which is Flying Dog’s imperial pumpkin ale, and a limited release of The Fear aged in the same barrel used to age Fear the Dragon for 10 months—a charred American white oak.
It was Flying Dog brewmaster Ben Clark who had the initial idea to distill their annual fall seasonal, which boasts a bold flavor profile of cinnamon, allspice and ginger, accented by approximately 600 pounds of pumpkin per 50 barrels and the rich hue of midnight wheat.
“You can pretty much distill anything that will ferment,” Clark said. “That’s always been really interesting to me. Plus, it was great to see Mark in his element.”
“You also get to see the precise methodology of brewers,” Lambert said. “Distillation is a lot more forgiving than brewing. If you screw up a batch of beer, you toss it. If you screw up a batch of spirits, well, you redistill it.”
But at the heart of their animated conversation of comparison was a clear message that goes beyond whatever final liquid you’ll see in a glass—it’s about mutual respect and empowering the totality of Frederick’s thriving craft beverage community to be successful. Not only has Flying Dog been a great experimental craft beverage partner, but, “They’ve also been amazing in their support of us as we’ve grown,” Lambert said.
This spirit of community seems to be contagious. “The industry here in Frederick is growing,” said Monica Pearce, owner and cofounder of Tenth Ward Distilling Company in downtown Frederick. “We work to promote each other because there are more benefits to working together than competing against each other. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.”
It’s this attitude that inspired Tenth Ward to embark on a barrel project with its neighbor, Olde Mother Brewing, founded by Keith Marcoux and Nick Wilson.
It started with a Tenth Ward apple jack barrel, which was later passed to Olde Mother for the aging of a plum saison, then a stout. That same barrel will now go back to Tenth Ward for reuse in the crafting of a “stouted” rye.
“Collaborating is about thinking outside the box, with the added bonus of getting to work with other small businesses in the area,” Marcoux said.
In addition, Tenth Ward has joined forces with Orchid Cellar Meadery and Winery in Middletown and Milkhouse Brewery at Stillpoint Farm in Mount Airy for a barrel-aging story told in three parts.
First, Orchid Cellar mead was distilled into honeyjack, a honey-based spirit, at Tenth Ward and aged in a whiskey barrel for 11 months. That same barrel is now at Milkhouse for the aging of three beers: Goldie’s Best, Dollyhyde farmhouse and Coppermine Creek dry stout.
Again, for Pearce, it’s about more than the final product. “We’re improving and growing our communities, rather than focusing on ourselves.”
Back at Dragon Distillery, Fear the Dragon is ready for launch. But the barrel-aged version of Flying Dog’s The Fear is still shrouded in oak and mystery, ahead of its early September release.
Having drawn a few tastes off the barrel, however, Flying Dog’s Clark hinted at what drinkers can expect. “You definitely get that barrel character, and the spice notes have more depth.”
Those who miss out on the opportunity to sample it themselves need not despair, though. Other inspired, community-forward creations will follow.
“We’ve got some things in the works,” Clark teased. “I’m really excited for what may come in the future.”
To try Fear the Dragon and The Fear, visit Dragon Distillery or Flying Dog while supplies last.
Follow Tenth Ward Distilling on Facebook for info about an event celebrating their collaboration with Orchid Cellar Meadery and Milkhouse Brewery at Stillpoint Farm.