The Flying Dog Story

Nobody had ever connected the words “flying” and “dog” together...until 1983, when George Stranahan* was itching for an adventure.

This time it would be K2, also known as the “Savage Mountain,” the second highest mountain in the world and one of the most deadly. For every four people who have reached the summit, one has died trying. And it has never been climbed in the winter.

After traveling 8,000 miles from Woody Creek, Colorado, George and his band of 12 “Innocents” set off from Rawalpindi, Pakistan (or “Pindi” as everyone called it) for the summit of K2 with a Sherpa and a mule loaded with provisions.

Ignoring the fear, George and the Innocents trekked across the Baltoro Glacier and the Braldu Gorge. Reinhold Messner, the world’s greatest mountain climber, said the Braldu Gorge was the “most dangerous thing [he] had ever done in his life.” According to George, the largest disaster he and the Innocents faced was that “on day 17 of a 35-day trip, we totally ran out of booze.”

Back in Pindi at the Hotel Flashman, George and the Innocents were triumphant but in a dry state of mind. After getting on the “alcohol list” of this Muslim nation, they settled in to drink their quota. Then, their eyes caught sight of a large painting.

As George describes it, “It was a full-on oil painting of a dog. A beautiful oil painting, big, nice. And the dog was like…well, he had left the ground. Here we were, the March of the Innocents and this ‘Flying Dog,’ and the weirdness of it all. And the combination of the words ‘Flying Dog’ stuck with all of us, but particularly for me. They fit together in some way. I don’t know how it makes sense, but it makes sense.”

In 1990, George founded the Flying Dog Brewpub in Aspen, Colorado. From that brewpub to a full-fledged Denver brewery (co-founded by George and his longtime friend and partner, Richard McIntyre**) in 1994, and then to our current state-of-the-art brewing facility in Frederick, Maryland, Flying Dog continues to make sense.

* George Stranahan is an astrophysicist with a PhD from Carnegie Mellon University and the founder of the Aspen Center for Physics. He is also a photographer, rancher, writer, philanthropist, and an educator who has founded three schools. For more information, visit www.georgestranahan.com.

** Richard McIntyre is a rancher at the Flying Dog Ranch, which also serves as a conference and retreat center, situated at the base of Mt. Sopris in Carbondale, Colorado. For more information, visit www.flyingdogranch.com.

Hunter S. Thompson

The outlaw Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson moved into Owl Farm, his “fortified compound” in Woody Creek, Colorado, in 1969.

Owl Farm was just down the mountain from Flying Dog founder George Stranahan’s Flying Dog Ranch and they became close friends. Their shared interests included explosives, high-powered weapons, politics, football, whiskey, and beer.

Most of Hunter’s works were illustrated by British artist Ralph Steadman, beginning “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved” in 1970 for (the now defunct) Scanlan's Monthly. Their best known collaboration is “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”

Hunter introduced George to Ralph, who then began doing original art for Flying Dog’s labels in 1996. Ralph’s first art was for Road Dog Porter.

Hunter wrote an essay, “Ale According to Hunter,” for Flying Dog to celebrate the launch of Road Dog:

Ale has long been the drink of thugs, convicts, rowdies, rakes and other depraved outlaws who thrive on the quick bursts of night-energy that ale brings. In the 17th century England gangs of ale-crazed fops would often fight to the death in all-night brawls on public greenswards, which terrified the citizenry and left many of the infamous "youngblood horseman" chopped up with grievous sword and dagger wounds… These were the Wild Boys of Olde English story and song, rich sots on horseback who amused themselves in London by riding out at night, ripped to the tits on strong ale, and "popped old ladies into empty booze-barrels and rolled them down steep, cobblestone hills with crazy screams and shouts." If you must roll old ladies down hills and you don't want to pay the bills, try to be nice and clean off their lice with a powerful Road Dog Ale.

Hunter also wrote a toast for the launch of Road Dog to go along with his essay:

There is an ancient Celtic axiom that says "Good People Drink Good Beer." Which is true, then as now. Just look around you in any public barroom and you will quickly see: Bad People Drink Bad Beer. Think about it.

Hunter died in 2005. Godspeed, Hunter, wherever you are!

Ralph Steadman

Ralph Steadman is a prolific artist who has produced thousands of groundbreaking and influential works during the last 45 years. He has been creating original art for Flying Dog’s labels since 1995.

Ralph was born in 1936 in Cheshire, England and was brought up in Wales where he attended high school. After serving in the Royal Air Force, he studied at the East Ham Technical College and the London College of Printing and Graphic Arts.

Ralph has written and illustrated dozens of adult and children’s books, held exhibitions throughout Europe and the U.S., and created art for theater designs, television, Oddbins Wine & Spirit Shops, and CDs. He is also a contributor to newspapers (The Observer, The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times) and magazines (Punch, Private Eye, The Radio Times, Scanlan’s, Rolling Stone, Esquire, GQ, The New Yorker, and The New Statesman).

Steadman first met Hunter S. Thompson in 1970 when they worked together on “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved,” an article for (now defunct) Scanlan’s. That was the start of a lifelong friendship and artistic collaboration. Some of their best-known works are “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72,” and “The Curse of Lono.”

Steadman’s books for adults include:

  • Still Life with Raspberry Rapp, 1969
  • Dogs Bodies, 1970
  • America Straight, 1974
  • Cherrywood Cannon, 1978
  • Sigmund Freud, 1978
  • No Good Dogs, 1982
  • I Leonardo, 1983
  • Treasure Island Harrap, 1985
  • Paranoids, 1986
  • Scar Strangled Banger, 1985
  • The Bit I Am, 1988
  • Near the Bone, 1990
  • Tales of the Weird, 1990
  • The Grapes of Ralph, 1992
  • Still Life with Bottle, 1994
  • Jones of Colorado, 1995
  • The Book of Jones, 1997
  • Gonzo the Art, 1998
  • Mildenhall Treasure, 1999
  • Doodaa – The Balletic Art of Gavin Twinge, 2002
  • Untrodden Grapes, 2005
  • The Joke’s Over, 2007
  • The Ralph Steadman Book of Dogs, 2010

Steadman’s awards and honors include:

  • The Francis William Book Illustration Award for Alice in Wonderland
  • The American Society of Illustrators’ Certificate of Merit for I Leonardo
  • The W.H. Smith Illustration Award for I Leonardo
  • The Dutch Silver Paintbrush Award for Inspector Mouse
  • The Italian Critica Erba Prize for That’s My Dad
  • The BBC Design Award for postage stamps
  • The Black Humour Award in France
  • XIX Premio Satira Politica, Forte dei Marmi, Italy
  • The Vlag em Wimpel Award for best illustrated children’s book, Quasimodo Mouse
  • The Kent Institute of Art and Design Fellowship Award
  • Numerous Designers and Art Directors Association Awards
  • Voted “Illustrator of the Year” by the American Institute of Graphic Arts
  • Honorary Doctorate from the University of Kent

Ralph currently lives with his wife, Anna, in a castle in Kent, England.

For more about Ralph Steadman and his art, visit www.ralphsteadman.com. To view the Ralph Steadman Collection, visit www.ralphsteadmanartcollection.com.