17 November 2011

Heavy Seas Ale House coming to Harbor East

Heavy Seas, the popular Clipper City Brewing brand which had its origins in Maryland’s first brewpub, (Sisson’s in Baltimore’s Federal Hill, which later became Ryleigh's and lost the brew house), is in a sense returning to its roots with the Heavy Seas Ale House, to be opened in 2012 in downtown Baltimore's Harbor East area.

The project is the brainchild of Patrick Dahlgren, owner of The Rowhouse Grille in Federal Hill and stepson of Hugh Sisson, in partnership with Kevin Hollins, managing partner at The Tack Factory and landlord for the new site.  It will be located at 1300 Bank Street at Central Avenue (more or less between Harbor East and Fells Point), the location of the former Diablita and adjacent to the Mustang Alley bowling bar.  Heavy Seas will only be a provider of beer and a licenser of the brand name, not a partner in the operation of the restaurant.

“Heavy Seas Ale House,” says Heavy Seas marketing director Kelly Zimmerman, “will allow patrons to tap into the Heavy Seas Beer experience in a brick and mortar extension of the pyratical brand.”  Clipper City founder and general partner Hugh Sisson, who often recounts the tale of how his father tossed him the keys to the family’s Sisson’s restaurant one night, literally and metaphorically, with the admonition “Now don’t [screw] it up!”, relishes the opportunity to pass on at least part of the business to his stepson.  "I love the symmetry - the pub business launched my craft beer career.  How cool is it that my brewing career will further the pub profession of my stepson?" said Sisson.

The Heavy Seas Ale House is the first in what is hoped will be a chain of several such locations around the region.  The bar, much like the Dogfish Head Alehouse chain, will be a "tied house" to its namesake beer brand, featuring the various Heavy Seas beers in bottle, on draft, and on cask.

The neighborhood tavern inspired decor will feature a  long bar, dark woods, comfortable seating, flat screens and a unique outdoor beer garden offering first class food and beer pairings, an array of specialty beer and cask ales, a raw bar, and growlers to go.

This does not mean an end to Heavy Seas distribution to other Baltimore locations, any more than the Pratt Street Ale House limits distribution of Oliver Breweries projects.  You'll still see Heavy Seas drafts and firkins at better beer bars throughout the city.  (As a matter of fact, the brewery held off on releasing this story until the Heavy Seas crew itself, including Sisson, had a chance to go around and personally inform his steady, loyal patrons in East Baltimore, the bars that serve his beers, that he was working with the project and not directly setting up shop to compete with them.)

Interestingly, this announcement comes at a time when several other projects are--pardon the expression--brewing in Baltimore.  In addition to the previously announced Raven Brewery in Highlandtown and Union Craft Brewing in Woodberry, this writer is tracking down the full story behind at least one other confirmed brewery proposal in Charmingly Crabby City.  Stay tuned........

UPDATE:  More here, from the Baltimore Sun (subscription site alert).

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