Last Thursday (April 12th, 2007) I drove up to Oak Harbor to interview Tony Savoy, head brewer and co-owner of Flyer's Restaurant and Brewery. Over the course of the discussion I learned about his inspiration to brew, his current interests, and above all, the future of Flyer's.

Tony, prior to working in Oak Harbor's Whatcom County, educated himself in Skagit County's town of Mount Vernon. There while on a soccer scholarship and the support of his parents in his native Hawaii, he studied general academics and practiced regularly on the soccer field at Skagit Valley College (1995). It was during this time that he discovered a new brewery called Skagit River which hadn't quite found its identity.

Applying for a job as server, he started asking questions at the facility in regards to the process to make beer. During this time spent at the brewery, he learned about equipment cleaning and maintanance, as well as participated in sales and delivery of Skagit River's beer. With his education and a gathering enthusiasm, Tony was looked to as the person whom was most qualified to offer brewery tours, whenever possible.

During this time the assistant brewer Jenny Barker, tendered her temporary leave while she went away to University of California - Davis' American Brewing program. With an assistant to brew at the time, several people were asked including Tony on whether or not they would accept the task of brewing and maintaining the brewery. With little hesitation, he raised his hand and started his continued education on making beer. At the age of 21 and now an assistant brewer, his popularity became evident as the man who "made beer" while at college.

Finally, the opportunity to study at UC Davis came about and with the advice of one of his close friends, he declined the chance and instead continued learning through execution rather than coursework.

Looking back on the whole process Tony recalls one of his first beers was a "beer in a bag" product from Sharper Image. Suffice to say, you pour the contents into a plastic bag and after waiting several weeks, you hang the bag from a hook or door knob and pour it into a glass. Not the best tasting thing in the world and he had no idea what kind of beer it was supposed to be.

After some time spent with Skagit, he set his sights on working for Big Horn Brewing aka The Rab Pub & Brewery, in Seattle and Tacoma. Living in Bellingham at the time, the commute to and from the breweries as well as the coporate mentality (compared to the mom and pop approach with Skagit), started taking a toll on him, and shortly after, he moved onto Wards Cider based out of Canada. During this time he performed sales and delivery, but never truly received tutoring on the process as the company was restrictive on who had knowledge of the recipes.

Finding that he wasn't able to perform to the standards set by the company, he found himself unemployed and with barely a seasonal soccer coaching job. Sending out resumes to every brewery in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho; he kept expanding until getting an interview and acceptance at Jaxson's Pub & Brewery in El Paso, Texas.
As the head brewer and designer of the El Paso location, he took the chance to experiment further and create some interesting creations.

2003, after operation Shock and Awe, the town found its economy slowly shrinking as more and more servicemen & women were shipped off to Iraq to continue the fight. During this same time Tony started to gain speed as a known brewer, while at the same time the business was starting to falter. With little chance of continuing his employment he started sending applications to Washignton state. Snipes, based in Sunnyside, Washington accepted his resume and offered him a chance to interview for the position of head brewer. With the help of his then girlfriend's folks, he paid for a plane ticket for a same day flight, rented a car and drove from Seattle to Sunnyside Washington to interview. Immediately after speaking with the hiring manager, he was offered the job and took it willingly. That same week he flew back to El Paso, and offered his resignation.

Snipes, offered him another chance to use the current recipes that were at the brewery, while adding some of his own to the mix. Using his previous experience he went to Great American Beer Festival in Denver Colorado, and not only supported Snipes but also his previous brewery Jaxon's, since those beers offered were his original recipes. Tony, would stay on with Snipes for the duration of (2) two years, before being contacted by a friend to open a brewery & restaurant in Oak Harbor.

Since 2006, Flyer's has won several medals, attended over (2) festivals and recently bottled the now released, Bottleworks 8th Anniversary Scotch Ale.

When pressed on several questions I pose to him, he had this to say.

Beer Passport: Do you think that the term micro or craft "brew" is appropriate to describe your beer?
Tony Savoy: I think the the craft brewer feels the term micro is lost, because of volume versus quality. I also don't like the tag brew master to describe myself since I am the only brewer onsite.

BP: Do you think that the brewering industry is faltering, on the rise, or stagnant?
TS: In regards to the actual 4 ingredients, hops are becoming the most difficult in order to gurantee supply with sustain itself. In one such situation I had had substitute a different hop for my India Pale Ale. Additionally, equipment is getting hard to come by.

BP: Do you think that beer is decling, rising, or remaining constant with today's wine & hard alcohol crowd?
TS: A new generation of brewers and restaurant owners are on the rise. Compared to the 1990's when more people with cash flow operated and lost breweries. I believe that people with much prior experience with brewing and operating restaurants. Also, I feel that with more experienced brewer's that the quality will go up and therefore force other brewer's to worker harder.

BP: Where does the name Flyer's originate?
TS: The name itself is an homage to Jason's (co-owner and manager of the restaurant operations) family heritage in aviation. If you look around the place you will see pictures that are in fact photographs of some of his family.

BP: How would you classify the atmosphere at Flyer's?
TS: I would classify this place as something for everyone. We have well drinks, right alongside our tap handles. Also, we support the brewing industry by offering not only domestics like Guinness, but also local offerings, such as Hale's Ales. Which was featured at a brewer's night event just recently. I also feel that if I run out of my stuff that its comforting to know that people have a choice.

BP: Does the staff offer food pairing suggestions with their meals or this is still a relatively new concept with the age of the restaurant?
TS: I would have to say that we always welcome suggestions to the customer, and encourage the staff to learn more about matching the many beers that are offered in collaboration with their meals. With an experienced chef I know that we would feel more comfortable offering suggestions. However, the operation is still relatively new and we have had to put this on hold till we can finish the higher priority "to do" items.

BP: Which would you say you focus on in regards to beer, ales or lagers? Is the reason more financial or personal preference?
TS: We currently offer one lager, during the summertime (Catalina California Common). Overall, we offer multiple ale selections. Unfortunately I can't change this right now, due capacity of the breweries, three brewing tanks. Our current annual release is around 250 barrels.

BP: Posing the question, what would you say is your favorite of the beers that you make?
TS: I would have to say that I prefer drinking my porter or brown ale, since they are contain low amounts of alcohol. But, I also like the Pilsner that we have on top right now (Georgetown Brewing's Roger's Pilsner), and I like to rotate a pilsner at all times to offer a variety for people. The other factor I have to consider is that we have a loyal IPA (India Pale Ale) crowd, and its hard to keep the Afterburner IPA on tap, and if we do blow the keg, I will always put someone else's IPA on tap, if we run out of mine.

BP: What is the current line up of Annual release beers?
TS: Right now what I currently offer is the Hefeweizen, Amber, Red, Porter, Brown, & India Pale Ale.

BP: What if any does the business commit to in the ways of charities or events?
TS: We like to offer assistance to multiple charity events when we can. Recently we offered Gift Certificates to the restaurant that were auctioned off and proceeds going to the families of the Naval EOD Reservist killed. I think that also because we are a relatively younger group of owners, we like to give more to the community.

BP: Would you consider yourself pretty open to offering advice to home brewer's and aspiring brewers alike?
TS: I would have to say that I am always open to offering tips to people on the brewing process. In fact the Bottleworks 8th Anniversary was a collaboration with some home brewers. Also, I would have to say that there are times I make phone calls to the local home brewer clubs whenever I have runoff from my yeast. If you want to find me its usually during the 6 days out of the week.

BP: Well I think that is all the questions I have for you, I want to thank you very much for sitting down with me and letting me better understand Flyers and the brewer behind the beer.
TS: Thank you.

As always, it goes without saying, this is a personal expression and any comments posted should be relevant to the subject being discussed. Any attempts for solicitation that do not fit within in the criteria of the topic will be result in report to the webmasters and possibly the company in question for legal action.
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