New York’s FX Matt Brewing Company has struck a deal to acquire Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, Maryland, the companies announced today.
Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Flying Dog’s production will begin shifting to FX Matt’s Utica, New York-based production facility over the summer with operations in Maryland expected to stop “sometime in August.”
Flying Dog will maintain a presence in Maryland as FX Matt is seeking a location for an innovation brewery and taproom in Frederick.
FX Matt is a logical fit for Flying Dog as the company has contract brewed many of Flying Dog’s offerings over the years due to capacity constraints at the Maryland brewery.
FX Matt CEO Fred Matt said in the announcement that Flying Dog offers his company “a great opportunity to grow in the Mid-Atlantic region.”
“When you think of craft beer in Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic, Flying Dog is the first brand that pops into your head,” he said. “We are excited to join forces with such a great brand and look forward to helping Flying Dog reach new heights.”
Flying Dog CEO Jim Caruso added that he “could not imagine a better steward for the Flying Dog brand going forward than FX Matt.”
“We have worked with them for many years, they are a prestigious family-owned brewery with more than 135 years of history, they are committed to building on the deep roots Flying Dog has established in Maryland, and their capabilities will take Flying Dog to a new level,” Caruso said.
“It is important to me that FX Matt Brewing is offering employment opportunities to as many employees as possible and we will provide job placement assistance to team members,” he continued. “Frederick is a great place to live and do business, unfortunately even though we have invested millions of dollars in the brewery, it has too many limitations and puts Flying Dog at too great a competitive disadvantage.”
Flying Dog CMO Ben Savage will become president of FX Matt’s Flying Dog division.
“This acquisition gives our brand immediate capabilities and flexibility to adapt to the changing consumer preferences,” Savage said in the release. “There will always be a market for great beer, but the lines between beer, cocktails, spirits, and wine continue to blur. FX Matt Brewing Company gives Flying Dog significant resources to not only optimize our current product portfolio, but also quickly develop products in new, emerging categories.”
In 2021, FX Matt completed a nearly $35 million brewery upgrade, with the investments made possible by the sale of a 20% stake in the business to the Brooklyn Brewery, which has contract produced its beer at F.X. Matt for around 30 years.
The deal between FX Matt and Flying Dog will bring together the 14th and 34th largest Brewers Association-defined craft breweries by volume in 2022, respectively.
In 2021 (the latest year that production data is available), FX Matt produced 183,200 barrels of beer (-4%), while Flying Dog’s output reached 81,231 barrels (+4%). The two breweries’ combined output of more than 264,400 barrels of beer would rank them as a top-10 BA-defined craft brewery that year.
Both Flying Dog and FX Matt are elder breweries within their respective corners of the industry. FX Matt was founded in 1888 and is in its fourth generation of family ownership. At 135 years old, it is the fourth-oldest family-owned brewery in the country, according to a press release. FX Matt’s brands include Saranac, Utica Club, Flying Bison and beyond beer offerings such as McKenzie’s Hard Cider and Jed’s mule RTDs.
Members of the Matt family have long been seen as leaders in the industry, with the BA’s annual F.X. Matt Defense of the Industry Award given to a person who advocates for beer at the state or federal level. Earlier this year, Fred Matt was named chairman of the Beer Institute’s inaugural Brewers’ Council.
George Stranahan founded Flying Dog in 1990 as a brewpub in Aspen, Colorado. The brewery added additional capacity in Colorado throughout the 1990s, before acquiring Maryland-based Frederick Brewing Company in 2006. The Frederick facility became its sole headquarters after the company announced it would shutter its Colorado brewery in December 2007, according to the Baltimore Business Journal.
Stranahan’s friendship with gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson colored much of the brewery’s attitude and branding, which was created by artist Ralph Steadman at Thompson’s recommendation, according to the brewery’s website.
Flying Dog has long held free speech as a company value. In 2009, Flying Dog filed a federal challenge after the Michigan Liquor Control Commission rejected a label for Raging Bitch, the brewery’s 20th anniversary beer, as well as several other labels containing the word “bitch.” Flying Dog won its case in 2015 and was awarded a six-figure damages payment, which it used to establish the First Amendment Society.
The brewery terminated its Brewers Association (BA) membership in 2017 after the trade group amended its Advertising and Marketing Code to curtail the use of “sexually explicit, lewd, or demeaning brand names, language, text, graphics, photos, video, or other images” in craft beer marketing.
“This sort of policy is nothing more than a thinly veiled side door to censorship,” Caruso told Brewbound at the time. “It’s anti-free enterprise. It’s interfering with their competitors’ business. It’s thinking for consumers. Americans hate thought police, and they hate censorship.”
In addition to Raging Bitch, Flying Dog’s portfolio has contained sexually explicit, innuendo-laden brands such as Doggie Style Pale Ale and Pearl Necklace Chesapeake Stout.
Asked by Brewbound in 2017 about brand names that consumers may consider offensive in Flying Dog’s portfolio, Caruso replied: “The question is, ‘offensive to whom?’”
“Everybody has something subjective,” he said. “There is a free market, and it’s as much a marketplace of ideas as it is products, and over time … good products survive and bad products disappear off the shelves. That’s how it works.”