Flying Basset Brewing owner takes long way into establishing careers as pilot, brewer

Rob Gagnon, Flying Basset Brewing
Flying Basset owner Rob Gagnon took advantage of pandemic down time to add a canning operation in the brewery. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)

Flying Basset owner Rob Gagnon took advantage of pandemic down time to add a canning operation in the brewery. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)

Rob Gagnon said he has had a dream to pursue two activities in life: flying, from his youth, then later on, brewing beer.

In both cases, Gagnon took a circuitous route to get there, but get there he did.

Gagnon dreamed of flying growing up in northwest Phoenix and hoped he could get there through the military, but he lacked perfect vision. Later, at his sister’s urging, he became a flight attendant, and from the people in the cockpit, he learned he only needed 20/20 vision if he were to be a military pilot.

Five years later, in 2003, he became a pilot and has flown for the Department of Homeland Security and has chartered planes that move troops or firefighters around.

Brewing came later alongside then-girlfriend and now wife Sara Cotton.

“My wife and I like to say we’re technical people,” Gagnon said. “We like to get hands-on and learn stuff from the whole beginning. And so we did that.”

They developed some home brews and even won awards. With that résumé and his technical background, Gagnon was hired to be the head brewer at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse in Chandler in 2013. That helped him build connections in the local brewing industry.

In 2014, he and Cotton moved to Hawaii to fly cargo and in hopes of opening a brewery. The two got married and enjoyed island life, but when opening a brewery over there could not work, they returned to Arizona.

They opened Flying Basset, with an interior that speaks to Gagnon’s love of flying, in February 2018 on the site of a closed bar. Gagnon and Cotton put a lot of their own labor into renovating the space.

“My dad was a mechanic,” Gagnon said. “My mom was [a nurse], so we didn’t have a lot growing up. You had to learn how to make do with what you had. You learn how to do things.”

As for the beer, Gagnon said his tastes run to classic brews, though the brewery does some that are a little more eccentric. All the beer served there has been brewed there. It brewed 420 barrels last year, up from 403 in 2019, despite the pandemic, and the owners hope to do 520 this year, Gagnon said.

The pandemic did limit what the owners did for a while, but it pushed the brewery into canning beers, and the business has just unveiled a scaled-down menu meant to help make the downsized staff more efficient in serving food.

Now Gagnon runs the brewery and still flies as a charter captain a few days a month. Cotton is busy in her other career as a traveling nurse, which is keeping her out of state.

“We’re trying to get that whole big picture to work out,” Gagnon said about getting past COVID-19. “We’re still kicking.”

The real flying basset

Rob Gagnon said the brewery name did not come from his other career as a pilot. He and wife Sara Cotton got a basset hound they named Lt. Dan. The brewery name and logo came after having some fun with the dog’s ears and doggles. Now the couple has two more basset hounds, Angela Basset and Chica, and the bar has a dog-friendly patio and supports a basset rescue.

Flying Basset Brewing

720 W. Ray Road, Gilbert


Hours: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sun., closed Mon., 3-9 p.m. Tue.-Thu., noon-10 p.m. Fri., 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sat.
By Tom Blodgett

Editor, Gilbert

Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent more than 30 years in journalism in Arizona and joined Community Impact Newspaper in July 2018 to launch the Gilbert edition. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he served as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication from 2005-19 and remains editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.


Now open sign
Three salons now open in Gilbert

Here are three salons that have opened recently in Gilbert.

Gilbert sold home and real estate data
Gilbert riding strong seller’s market

The Gilbert residential real estate market has mirrored the trends around much of the nation as sales prices soared in the winter and early spring, local data shows.

Buono's Pizza Gilbert serves New York-style pizza. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)
Buono’s Pizza Gilbert opens; low inventory leads to rising home prices in Chandler and more top area news

Read the top business and community news from the past week from the Chandler and Gilbert areas.

Higley USD District Office
Former Higley USD Superintendent Denise Birdwell, local contractor employees indicted relating to construction projects

Criminal indictments have been issued against a former Higley USD superintendent and three other people who are being charged with financial crimes, according to the State Auditor General’s Office.

Cafe Rio Mexican Grill
Cafe Rio has opened second location in Gilbert in past three months

The restaurant serves made-from-scratch Mexican food with fresh ingredients

School crosswalk with crossing guard and two students
Drivers reminded to slow down in school zones as students return

Gilbert has 58 public schools in the three districts that serve the town, with all of them having designated school crossings

Dawn Foley
Initial Higley USD test scores higher than state averages

The data was presented at the district’s initial board meeting for fiscal year 2021-22, the first meeting under which Dawn Foley is the district’s permanent superintendent.

Campus ushers in new era for Arizona College Prep High School

July 21 marks the start of the school year and the opening of Arizona College Prep High School—the district’s newest campus—which will house the Arizona College Prep students and staff in a state-of-the-art high school facility

Q&A: Chandler USD interim superintendent shares goals for district ahead of school year

Chandler USD interim superintendent Frank Narducci answers Community Impact Newspaper's questions ahead of the start of the school year July 21.

recycling bins
Gilbert launches expansion of recycling pilot program

Gilbert is asking residents to only put four types of items into recycling bins for collection: plastic bottles, jugs and jars; metal food and beverage containers; paper; and flattened cardboard.

The freeway expansion project will occur across 11 miles of east- and westbound I-19 between Loop 202 and I-17, including the Broadway Curve between Baseline Road and 40th Street. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)
Work to begin on I-10 Broadway Curve project July 23

The first phase of work for the Arizona Department of Transportation’s I-10 Broadway Curve improvement project is set to begin late July 23 with a weekend closure of westbound I-10.

An ice cream shop, a restaurant with a gaming twist and more are coming soon to Chandler. (Community Impact Newspaper)
6 businesses coming to Chandler; sushi shop opens in Gilbert and more Phoenix-area news

Read the latest business and community events from the Chandler and Gilbert areas.