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George Stranahan (1931–2021), physicist who founded Flying Dog Brewery

by Linnea Crowther

George Stranahan was a physicist and rancher who founded Flying Dog Brewery, one of the largest craft breweries in the U.S.

Physics and craft brews

As a young physicist – and the wealthy heir to the Champion Spark Plugs fortune – Stranahan founded the Aspen Center for Physics, which decades later remains a vibrant research center. Twenty years later, Stranahan made a much different kind of business venture, opening the Woody Creek Tavern near Aspen, Colorado, which became notable as a regular hangout for journalist Hunter S. Thompson (1937–2005). Thompson and Stranahan were friends, and Thompson’s aesthetic became a key part of Stranahan’s next business venture, Flying Dog Brewing. Founded in 1990, Flying Dog was at the vanguard of an early wave of craft breweries, and it became known for the wild imagery on its bottle labels – drawn by Ralph Steadman, who also illustrated Thompson’s works. Stranahan later moved Flying Dog to Maryland, and it remains in the top 50 largest U.S. craft breweries. Stranahan also owned a ranch near Aspen, founded Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey, and ran the publishing company People’s Press.

Stranahan on his friendship with Thompson

“We talked a lot, drank a lot and dynamited a lot. We both liked dynamite, and if you’re a rancher, you have access to dynamite.” —from a 2008 interview for the Denver Post

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Tributes to George Stranahan

Full obituary: The New York Times

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