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Flying Saucer Celebrates 25 Years of Craft, Food and Fun

In June 2020, national “neighborhood pub” Flying Saucer Draught Emporium will celebrate its 25-year anniversary, and in April 2020, Dallas gastropub Meddlesome Moth will celebrate its 10-year anniversary. These innovative restaurants have enhanced awareness about local craft beers from Texas to North Carolina. This year, the Flying Saucer and Meddlesome Moth are planning a slew of special events in honor of the milestones and offering anniversary beer experiences at each location.

Flying Saucer operating partner and Meddlesome Moth co-founder Keith Schlabs said “Beer Knurds,” members of the Flying Saucer’s “UFO Club” of loyal customers, can expect tastings, happy hours, beer festivals and special guest appearances. The restaurants will also hold beer dinners with guest speakers from the Saucer’s and Moth’s favorite breweries. The Flying Saucer restaurants are organizing some events in coordination with craft brewers, including Dogfish Head Brewery founder Sam Calagione and Avery Brewing founder Adam Avery.

“There will be anniversary events at different times at all Flying Saucers throughout the U.S., from Little Rock to MemphisCharlotte to Sugar Land. Most of our staff and customers have been with us for years. It should be a fun celebration throughout the year,” said Schlabs.

Schlabs said FSDE and Meddlesome Moth will present special beers and host new guest speakers. They will also offer anniversary glassware and t-shirts throughout 2020.

“Our goal is to continue to grow the beer culture, encouraging enthusiasm about craft beer and offering a fun, laid-back atmosphere,” said Schlabs.

The Future of the Restaurants 
Schlabs said the Flying Saucer’s newest location, The Sound at Cypress Waters, showcases the brand’s interest in healthy dining options in a “fast casual” setting.

“The new Flying Saucer model, which opened in June, is right on the shore of North Lake. It offers live entertainment in a development with 10,000 office workers. It is about 3,500 square feet, our smallest footprint for a Flying Saucer to date. Here we offer beer and wine only, although you can take crowlers and growlers to go. We have a special food menu with bowls, salads, and sandwiches, featuring wild-caught salmon, grass-fed beef, and free-range chicken,” said Schlabs.

Flying Saucer and Meddlesome Moth also engage with brewers and experiment with products in ways that benefit one another.

“Occasionally, when the Moth produces something that’s interesting, the Saucers will try to pick that up. For example, the Moth’s craft cocktail program has somewhat influenced the Flying Saucers. In turn, the Flying Saucers’ close relationship with craft brewers helps the Moth. The brewers know that we will sell their beers. I think that is why they’re interested in offering the Moth special opportunities,” said Schlabs.

Schlabs said one of the secrets to Flying Saucer’s success is the emphasis on freshness.

“I find that I am buying beer like I used to buy milk – checking in the back for a better canning date,” said Schlabs.

The Origin of Flying Saucer 
In 1995, after managing the first brewpub in Texas, Yegua Creek Brewing Company in Dallas, Schlabs left the restaurant with the hope of founding a similar establishment of his own. While scouting a site in Sundance Square in downtown Fort Worth, he met restaurant owner Shannon Wynne.

The two had a discussion, which culminated with Wynne founding the first Flying Saucer on the site Schlabs had visited. Wynne hired Schlabs to be his first general manager and beer director.

“When we were creating the first beer menu, it was difficult for us to pronounce half the beers. We had so many imports. We were still learning about beer. I thought, ‘How do I get people to order these [beers] if they can’t even pronounce them?’” said Schlabs.

Schlabs said his concern led to him making FSDE into a place where customers could learn about beer.

“We envisioned the (first) Flying Saucer as a neighborhood beer bar, a place for people to go after work. Yet we also wanted to create experiences where our customers could taste new beers. We began a tradition of ‘flight nights,’ positioning specially curated beers so people could learn about them,” said Schlabs.

Schlabs said early on he realized that Sunday and Monday nights were very slow. But the Saucers needed to move beer.

“We created a pint night on Monday, where we sold all draughts for $2. We also created the society of “Burn a Turd,” or “B.A.T.,” where people could smoke a cigar and drink cheap craft beer,” said Schlabs.

Schlabs said he learned a lot in the early days of the Flying Saucer.

“I remember offering the strongest Belgian beer on tap, which was designed for a small pour, for $2 a pint. The distributor and importer were amazed at how much we would sell in a week. We were selling maybe six kegs a week,” said Schlabs.

When the Fort Worth location built a strong following, Schlabs and Wynne started establishing more Flying Saucers around Texas, including HoustonSan Antonio and The Lake in Garland.

“We built a German-centric menu with brats, sauerkraut, pretzels and cheese boards. But we kept our focus on the beer, bringing dozens of local, regional and international craft brewers to our bar. We trained our staff to understand beer and reach out to the top producers. This helped us present the best beers in the market to our customers,” said Schlabs.

How the Saucers Spread 
After the Flying Saucers became a success in Texas, Schlabs and Wynne introduced the brand to other states. The pair began with locations in Arkansas and Tennessee in 1998. They spread the Saucer to North Carolina in 2000, South Carolina in 2003 and Missouri in 2008.

“We decided to put a Flying Saucer wherever Southwest Airlines would fly. We didn’t do much demographic research. We asked ourselves, “Is this a cool town? Do they have good beer?” The success of our previous locations helped. Dirt traders started calling Shannon,” said Schlabs.

Schlabs and Wynne give their general managers the freedom to organize all kinds of events, including community outreach, beer festivals and special tastings.

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