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Flying Dog Brewery and Stranahan's Whiskey Honors George Stranahan, Their "Pilgrimosopher"

A maverick in myriad fields, Stranahan was honored recently by two Colorado businesses he founded: Flying Dog Brewery and Stranahan's Whiskey.

Flying Dog Brewery and Stranahan's Whiskey Honors George Stranahan, Their "Pilgrimosopher"

There are only a select few in the world today that can be categorized as a “renaissance man.” George Stranahan – the maverick millionaire who founded both Flying Dog Brewery and Stranahan’s Whiskey – is one of them – though his preferred term for himself was one he came up with himself: “pilgrimosopher.”

Born in Toledo, Ohio in 1931 with a grandfather who co-founded Champion Spark Plug in 1903, Stranahan could’ve coasted on his family’s immense wealth and not worked a day in his life. Instead, Strahanan let wanderlust guide him on a meandering career path that saw him carve his own swath through life’s twists and turns.

Among Stranahan’s many accomplishments – which include founding the Woody Creek Tavern in Woody Creek, Colorado, proposing the Aspen Center for Physics, raising grand-champion beef cattle in the late 80s and early 90s and publishing the outdoor magazine Mountain Gazette – the pioneering figure also founded not one, but two notable Colorado beverage establishments: Flying Dog and Stranahan’s.

Flying Dog first opened as a brewpub in Aspen, Colorado in 1990 and has since grown to top-50 status in the U.S. and relocated to Frederick, Maryland. Stranahan’s, which opened in 2004, was the first legal distillery in downtown Denver since Prohibition.

Stranahan died in 2021 at the age of 89, but he left behind an iconoclastic legacy that made it difficult to pigeonhole him. His mantra, which would make more stuffy business types scoff, surely didn’t help matters: “Do good. If you make money, God bless! That’s more fun even.”

George Stranahan and Hunter S. Thompson
George Stranahan (right) with another notable iconoclast – author Hunter S. Thompson. Thompson's friend and collaborator Ralph Steadman continues to produce the can and bottle artwork for Flying Dog.

Now, this year, the two businesses in Colorado that he helped found – Flying Dog and Stranahan’s – joined forces to produce two limited-edition collaboration beverages (a whiskey and a beer) as part of The Osopher Project to honor the memory of the two companies’ founder.

Flying Dog’s Osopher release is an imperial version of the brewery’s Road Dog Porter, but the added twist of being aged in 10-year-old Stranahan’s Whiskey barrels. The Original Stranahan’s Whiskey utilized mash from a batch of Road Dog, and Road Dog, in turn, was the first beer that featured art from famed artist Ralph Steadman – whose work still adorns the cans and bottles of Flying Dog to this day.

Not to be outdone, Stranahan’s Whiskey’s version of The Osopher is the oldest whiskey the distillery has ever bottled. According to a release from Stranahan’s, “The Osopher matured for four more months in the same barrels used to age Flying Dog's Road Dog Porter, in addition to the 11 years it had already carefully aged at the distillery.” The sensory profile of the whiskey consists of rich coffee cake and roasty malt mingling with toffee and barrel char in the nose, dark chocolate caramels, sherry-soaked plums, and a dash of aged hops on the palate with a delightful bread pudding and barleywine leading on to a dry finish.

An endlessly fascinating character, both craft beer in general and the booming distilling scene in Denver owe much to George Stranahan, and this release is a lovely memorial to his intriguing life.

“The teams at Flying Dog and Stranahan's loved the idea of commemorating George in a way that spoke to the art, science, and creativity that he instilled in both companies,” said Jim Caruso, CEO of Flying Dog. “George was a man of many talents, he considered himself a ‘pilgrimosopher,’ so The Osopher speaks to the idea that you can pursue anything if you’re just crazy enough to try it.”

Body Photo Courtesy The Gonzo Foundation

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