Frederick plant to make beers for Denver company

Brewer rolls out heady plans

July 28, 2006|By ALLISON CONNOLLY | ALLISON CONNOLLY,SUN REPORTER

After years of debt and an uncertain future, the former Frederick Brewing Co. introduced yesterday a new owner who wants to aggressively expand production.

Renamed Wild Goose Brewery for the brand of beer made there, the brewery in Frederick is now the East Coast hub for Denver-based Flying Dog LLC, which makes Flying Dog Pale Ale and Old Scratch Amber Lager. Flying Dog purchased the brewery in May for about $1.6 million, said President and Chief Executive Officer Eric Warner.

The plant, completed in 1997, was built at a cost of $8 million that was partly financed by $4.5 million in state economic development bonds.

Warner, who was at the Frederick brewery yesterday for a "grand re-opening," said he has big plans for the company. Between Frederick and Denver, he hopes to double Flying Dog's annual production of 35,000 barrels. Flying Dog beer is sold in 45 states.

"Consumers are going to find it more readily available," Warner said.

It's the first time Flying Dog, which was started in 1990, has brewed beer outside Denver. Production in Maryland started just after the purchase in May.

Warner said the decision to brew elsewhere was based on the rising cost of fuel. Half the company's beer is sold east of the Mississippi River, he said, and as fuel prices rise, transportation grows more costly.

As part of the deal, Flying Dog bought the Wild Goose brand.

The new owners invited the community to the brewery yesterday, offering samples of beer and tours of the plant.

Warner said he had looked at a few breweries around the country, but he felt good about saving the Frederick plant from a possible auction.

Frederick Brewing Co. had been running millions of dollars in debt after going public in 1996. Cleveland-based Snyder International Brewing Group LLC purchased a majority stake in the company in 1999 and officially took it over in 2001, but the plant ended up in receivership. In 2004, a court-appointed receiver advised Snyder to sell the Frederick company to settle its $3.1 million debt.

All the while, the plant continued to pump out beer.

Today, the Frederick brewery employs 25 people. Warner said he is letting most of its management and brew staff remain. He plans to hire more, and says there's room for expansion on the plant's 5-acre site.

While the plant has the capacity to brew 120,000 barrels annually, it will produce 40,000 barrels of Flying Dog brand beer; 7,800 barrels of Wild Goose; and up to 14,000 barrels of other brands under contract.

Warner is building a $150,000 cooler where the craft beer is stored after brewing, and is installing a cold filtration system.

allison.connolly@baltsun.com

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