Art of the Brew: Oak Harbor brewmaster concocts award-winning beers

Tony Savoy enjoys a Pacemaker Porter at Flyers Restaurant and Brewery. He developed the recipe for the award-winning ale while his assistant brewer

Sacks of barley, wheat and rye are transformed into beer — all within a 20-foot radius of the bar taps at Flyers Restaurant and Brew Pub.

There are always a few people who don’t seem to notice that beer is being brewed onsite, despite the stainless steel tanks visible behind glass. That makes head brewer Tony Savoy shake his head.

So does the idea of someone ordering a Bud Light, although the restaurant happily serves that too.

Flyers produces six beers year round and an assortment of other speciality beers that appear seasonally, or when time allows Savoy to brew an extra batch.

“My goal in brewing is, whether you like blonde ale or IPA or something else, somewhere in there you have a beer you like,” he said.

The craft brewery is producing some of the best beers in the country. Two beers developed by Savoy recently won top awards at a national competition — again.

Flyers won golds for its Barnstormer Ale and Pacemaker Porter at the North American Brewers Awards.

Flyers brewery, considered small for a craft brewery at around 700 barrels a year, competed against the likes of mega-producers like Sam Adams.

The batches that won the awards were brewed by assistant Robert “Fergie” Ferguson. But the recipes were all by Savoy, who learned his craft in the past 20 years.

He started at age 21, just as the craft brewery movement was taking off. Pioneering brewers started making so called “craft” beers, more full-flavored brews using high-quality ingredients.

His job, he said, “never felt like work.”

From “grain to glass,” the 14-day brewing process includes a number of decisions that affect the style of beer and the flavor. It’s part science and part art.

Savoy knows both, but said he he leans toward the creative side of the process. He knows the ingredients and works intuitively when developing a new beer.

Savoy created his award-winning recipe for Barnstormer Brown Ale about a decade ago. Since then it’s been a perennial award winner at major competitions. Pacemaker Porter was the third beer he developed at Flyers.

Savoy said he is happy to give patrons a tour of the brewery and explain the complex process of how beer is developed.

Hearing Savoy talk about beer is akin to hearing a sommelier talk about wine. He describes the flavor of his brown ale as lighter in body than Pacemaker Porter, with notes of caramel, toffee and nutty malt.

The Porter is robust with complex flavors that include coffee and baker’s chocolate. It’s a medium to full bodied beer that Savoy said is more “drinkable.”

The more in balance, the more drinkable the beer.

Savoy is part owner of Flyers. He said he and his partners plan to open another restaurant at the Port of Skagit sometime next month.

The new Flyers won’t include an onsite brewery but will bring in its beer from the Oak Harbor location.