Hugh Sisson can sure keep a secret.
Sisson is a loquacious fellow, the founder and managing partner of brewery Heavy Seas, in Baltimore, Maryland. I sat next to him Wednesday evening, as he hosted a Heavy Seas beer dinner at Wildfire Restaurant, in Tyson's Corner, Virginia ... but he dropped not one hint about his big news. A theater major in college, Sisson delivered a hilarious oration of "Our Beer, who art in heaven." But, not one clue about his upcoming announcement.
It was not until the following morning, that I would read this press release, as reported by Brad Klipner at his Beer in Baltimore blog:
A new and unique restaurant is on the Baltimore dining horizon, the Heavy Seas Ale House. The 4,900 sq. ft. space is located at The Tack Factory, 1300 Bank Street, convenient to Harbor East, Little Italy, Fells Point, and the Inner Harbor.
Heavy Seas Ale House will allow patrons to tap into the Heavy Seas Beer experience in a brick and mortar extension of the pyratical brand. Developed by Patrick Dahlgren, a Baltimore City restaurateur and stepson of Hugh Sisson, the concept is a natural extension of the Heavy Seas locally brewed beer. Hugh Sisson is the owner of Clipper City Brewing Company (the brewer of Heavy Seas Beer) and former owner of the much beloved Federal Hill institution, Sisson’s, which was also Maryland’s first brewpub.
Other points of interest: a 40 foot bar, 8 taps (and a cask line), a full kitchen for lunch and dinner (including a raw bar), and an outdoor beer garden. The projected opening is early spring 2012. Read the rest of the press release here.
It's a full circle for Sisson. He got into the beer business at his family's eponymous Baltimore, Maryland, restaurant, in the early 1980s, after graduating from college.
He recounts the story of how, on only his first day at the pub, his father, Al, tossed him the keys at the end of the evening, and said: "It's your baby, now, Hugh. Don't f*%^$ it up!"
A few years later, after successfully lobbying the Maryland legislature to change the law forbidding brewing in restaurants, he would add brewing equipment, establishing Sisson's as the first brewpub to operate in Maryland (and, in fact, preceding any in Virginia or Washington, D.C.). In 1995, he would sell his stake back to his family, and open Clipper City Brewing (now known as Heavy Seas).
The soon-to-open Heavy Seas Ale House is not a franchise. Although headed by Sisson's stepson, it is a wholly independent operation, separate from the brewery, but granted a license to use the Heavy Seas logo and branding. This is similar to the Dogfish Head Alehouses, licensed to use the name by the brewery, but owned and operated separately.
Maryland law prohibits Sisson from owning a retail operation because of his large stake in Heavy Seas Brewing Co., previously known as Clipper City Brewing Co. But he said licensing his brand will enable him to have the retail operation to help better brand his beers.
“I have for years wanted to have some sort of retail branding platform, many breweries do,” Sisson said. His company will sell beer to Heavy Seas Ale House. “They don’t get any additional perks,” he said. Sisson said he could expand the licensing of his brand if it’s successful.
Baltimore Business Journal
- Website: heavyseasalehouse.com
- Twitter: @heavyseasalehse
- Other mentions of the opening include those at Baltimore Beer Guy and at "The Original" Baltimore Beer.com, where Alexander D. Mitchell IV, as a good journalist, 'sat' on his inside information, until the story was released. He is sleuthing stories on other potential openings.
- Caveat lector: As a representative for Select Wines, Inc. —a wine and beer wholesaler in northern Virgina— I sell the beers of Heavy Seas.