Flying Dog Scraps Would-Be Farm Brewery

Flying Dog Brewery

Five months after outlining plans to brand and develop its “Farmworks Brewery,” Flying Dog has officially canceled the project.

In December, the company detailed its ambition to launch Farmworks — complete with a 15-barrel brewhouse and tasting room — on a 53-acre farm in Lucketts, Va. Located just 17 miles from Flying Dog headquarters in Frederick, Md., the new brewery was planned to be a separately branded craft subsidiary owned and operated by Flying Dog. Farmworks was slated to open this summer.

In a prepared statement sent to media outlets last night, the company cited unspecified “recent developments” for the project’s cancellation. Reached by phone, Flying Dog CEO Jim Caruso would not disclose further what specifically derailed the project, saying only that it had to do with “internal business,” adding that, as of today, the Farmworks concept is still 100 percent owned by Flying Dog.

“I’ve done so many deals over the years, some work out, some don’t,” said Caruso. “There’s really no mystery about it.”

He did, however, add that it would be “extremely inefficient” to devote the resources necessary to a project of such small scale — Flying Dog anticipated production climbing to as much as 110,000 barrels this year. Farmworks, by comparison, would have produced about 500 barrels by year two, he said.

“This is a very, very small project for Flying Dog, but an interesting project because it would’ve allowed us to do sour beers and open fermentation,” he said. “But let’s keep it in perspective. It wasn’t a Flying Dog expansion.”

As Brewbound reported at the time of the project’s announcement, Farmworks was to occupy roughly five acres of land belonging to Black Hops Farm (also operating under the name Lucketts Mill Hopworks). Jonathan Staples, an agri-beverage entrepreneur involved in an array of brewing, farming and distilling ventures and owner of the farm, believes Flying Dog’s own expansion in Frederick may have played a role in the company withdrawing its participation.

While the specific ownership structure was not revealed at the time of the initial announcement, Staples told Brewbound the Farmworks Brewery project was supposed to be jointly owned by him and Flying Dog.

“If they were going to do a farm brewery, I’m sure they’d buy their own farm and do it without me. That would make sense,” he said. “I’d be the guy in the partnership with less money and less beer knowledge. Whats my role? In this case I happened to have this farm.”

Staples and Flying Dog have a history of doing business. In 2013, Flying Dog COO Matt Brophy and Staples jointly purchased the shuttered Cirrus Vodka distillery in Richmond and rebranded it as the James River Distillery, a venture in which the two are still partners.

Staples also serves as a partner at Aid/Abet, which provides financial assistance to early stage breweries in need of brewing equipment and marketing expertise. The company currently works with two craft companies: Pen Druid Brewing, which is slated to open this July in Sperryville, Va. (of which Staples is listed as a partner on its website) and Bulk Head Brewing in Columbia, Md (whose website indicated Staples involvement but does not describe his role).

Staples is currently in talks with new prospective partners and still plans to go forward with a newly branded farm brewery, he said.

As for the state of Flying Dog’s Farmworks project, CMO Ben Savage said the company remains open to launching the venture elsewhere at some point in the future.

“We remain excited about a farm brewery concept, and we are still very much interested in developing the Farmworks concept if the right opportunity presents itself,” he said in the statement.