Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery is goofy. In a darn cool way.
Its cartoonish, Monty Python-esque website is filled with parachuting monkeys, floating pigs, flying skulls and beer trucks with wings.
The cardboard box for The Chocolate Manifesto — yes, the 22-ounce bottle is sold in a cardboard box — is covered from top to bottom with writing. (It’s impossible to describe the oh-so busy image so check out the attached photo.)
And the company motto is: “Normal Is Weird.”
Flying Monkeys, located about 60 miles north of Toronto in Barrie, Ontario, Canada, is entering the U.S. market now, starting with Ohio, New York and Michigan. It’s launching with Smashbomb Atomic IPA, a 6 percent aggressive hop bomb; StereoVision American Kristall Wheat, a 5 percent wheat beer; and The Chocolate Manifesto, a 10 percent triple chocolate milk stout.
The brewery, which owes its name to the not-so-nice flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz, is bound to alter some U.S. impressions of Canadian beer. Flying Monkeys is no Labatt, Molson, Kokanee, Sleeman or Alexander Keith’s. Or even Unibroue.
“I’m definitely not about subtlety when it comes to flavor,” said Peter Chiodo, whose business card describes him as founder, beer whisperer and lion tamer.
He sat down last week with the Akron Beacon Journal and Cleveland Plain Dealer at the Lizardville in Copley Township to chat about his beer and his nine-year-old brewery.
It turns out that Chiodo, who wore a Russian River Pliny the Younger work shirt for the interview, is well acquainted with the U.S. He’s a graduate of the University of Alabama and the University of Mississippi. He’s a college football nut who swears Ohio State is one of his top 10 favorite teams — he’s not obsessed with hockey. He also married his college sweetheart, Andrea, an American with a Ph.D. in literature who’s responsible for the marketing and crazy designs on the website and packaging. And it’s a dream fulfilled to start distributing his brews in the U.S.
“The U.S. craft beer consumer, they’ve embraced the market so much,” he said. “Why would you not want to give somebody some liquid gold down here, really? We make some unusual beers that we think some people would dig.”
Despite being a relatively small brewery — it produces about 10,000 barrels a year, compared with about 130,000 for Cleveland-based Great Lakes Brewing Co. — Flying Monkeys can be found in Sweden, Spain, Norway, Belgium, Brazil and the Cayman Islands. In addition to Canada and the U.S, of course.
Esber Beverage Co. in Canton brought the brewery to the U.S.
“Flying Monkeys is one of the best in Canada,” Dave Esber said.
Flying Monkeys will be available in Ohio in Columbus and north for now. The distributor expects to open up the rest of the state later this year.
“Craft beer is not just about the brands like the big breweries,” Chiodo said. “It’s about the brewery and the culture behind the brewery. And that’s the difference. It’s not about Smashbomb. That’s just part of who we are. We’re Flying Monkeys. There are real people doing f----- up experiments behind the scenes. That’s who we really are. A lot of trial. A lot of error.”
Asked about the wacky website, he said that it fits the Flying Monkeys philosophy.
“I don’t believe in the Reinheitsgebot or any of that good stuff,” Chiodo said. “I believe this is an artistic canvas and whatever ingredient we can find, whatever barrel, whatever element of wood or fruit, you name it, can go into a beer is fair game. There is no element of censorship in craft beer.
“So back to the website, it kind of represents who we are. We are Flying Monkeys. We are moving around the brewery doing crazy s--- all the time. I’m not saying it’s a party all the time. We’re very serious about what we do but we have fun doing it.”
That creativity is evident in the beer.
The Matador is a 10 percent imperial IPA aged on Spanish cedar. Chiodo wanted it to be a beer shared over a cigar.
City and Colour Imperial Maple Wheat — thanks to the overwhelming maple syrup flavor — should be poured on pancakes. It’s 11.5 percent. (City and Colour is a Canadian band and helped brew the beer.) “It’s a wonderful breakfast beer, as dysfunctional as that sounds,” said Chiodo, who expects some of his specialty beers to filter into the U.S. later.
And then there’s The Chocolate Manifesto, an over-the-top chocolate bomb.
Chiodo also is refreshingly candid when talking about his own beer. Ask a brewer which beer is his favorite and you’re bound to hear one of two noncommittal responses:
1. They’re like my kids. I can’t choose among them.
2. Depends on the season.
Not Chiodo. His favorite year-round Flying Monkeys brew is Smashbomb. He also freely offers his favorite beer, period. It’s Samuel Adams Utopias.
While in the U.S., he also grabbed plenty of beer he can’t find in Canada. He gobbled up Hoppin’ Frog Brewery in Akron and Jolly Pumpkin. And during the interview at Lizardville, he cracked open Jolly Pumpkin and Anderson Valley brews to sample.
"I love to sample everything," Chiodo said.