After a year that saw sales of craft beer surge while mainstream beers declined, Flying Dog Brewery, Maryland's largest, has set an ambitious rollout of 20 new brands in 2012.
One of them, Wildeman, is the first year-round release from the Frederick-based brewery since it unleashed its popular Raging Bitch brand in 2009.
The brewery is also embracing its experimental side, introducing a limited series called "Brewhouse Rarities" that will be available only in the Maryland, Virginia, and DC area.
Like Raging Bitch, Wildeman, which was released last week, is a Belgian-style IPA fermented with an unusual yeast strain - a Saison that balances "hoppy and funky" flavors, according to brewmaster Matt Brophy.
It will start popping up in some stores this week; the Creative Alliance at the Patterson is holding a release Friday. It should be widely available in most stores that carry Flying Dog starting January 30.
The rarities series consists of ten, limited-edition beers designed by Flying Dog individual brewers.
"For this new series, we made their experimentation official and only gave one guideline: push the boundaries of conventional beer styles," Brophy said in a press release.
The first of the beers, an Imperial Hefeweizen, premiered at Max's in Fells Point January 5. It is available only on draft at 13 area locations, listed below. The rest of the beers in the series will be available in the region over the course of the year.
They include include German (weizenbock, a gose), Irish (a red ale), and Scottish (gruit)-style ales.
Flying Dog had an upbeat 2011; overall sales were up 25 percent over 2010 and 60 percent in the Mid-Atlantic. The company produced 85,000 barrels last year up from 78K the year before, said spokeswoman Erin Biles.
Like in the rest of the country, where craft breweries expanded from 1,587 in 2009 to 1,716 in 2010, according to the Brewers Association, the Maryland craft industry grew as well.
Several new breweries, including Monocacy in Frederick and Burley Oak in Berlin, opened, bringing the total in the state to at least 20, according to the Brewers Association of Maryland.
And in Baltimore, the guys behind Pratt Street Ale House and Raven beer are opening Charm City Brewing Company sometime later this year.
Locations carrying Imperial Hefeweizen:
The Perfect Pour in Columbia
1311 Beer & Wine in Mt. Airy
Sean Bolan's Irish Pub
Clyde's of Columbia
Frisco Tap & Brew Housein Columbia
T-Bonz Grill & Pub in Elliccott City
Victoria Gastro Pub
Laurrapin Grille in Havre de Grace
No Idea Tavern
Tommy's Downtownin Baltimore
Mt. Airy Inn