It was 1982, when it first crossed Hugh Sisson’s mind. At the time, he was running the only craft beer bar in Baltimore with his father, Sissons. He couldn’t help but wonder if he could make his own beer, or if it was even possible. It was the question that would alter his life forever.
In 1986, Hugh started to take his passion project seriously. On a whim, in the Fall of 1986, Hugh met with Senator George Della in hopes of introducing a bill that would legalize brewpubs in Baltimore City. As fate would have it, the bill passed on the first attempt a year later.
Sisson, who is responsible for the legalization of brewpubs in the state of Maryland, originally targeted Baltimoreans as his main consumer base. After years being in the brewpub business, Sisson wanted to shift his focus singularly on his own beer, intending to fill the niche left open by the relocation of the National Bohemian brand.
In 1994, Hugh Sisson left his family-owned and -operated brewpub, Sisson’s, to focus on brewing beer at a larger scale. A year later, Hugh started brewing in 1995 as Clipper City Brewing Co. named after the clipper ship, which was first constructed in Baltimore.
When the craft brewing industry experienced a contraction in the late 1990s, Clipper City resorted to contract brewing to stay afloat financially. In 2003, Clipper City introduced the Heavy Seas line of beers—intended for higher gravity beers. They were bold beers meant to challenge the average beer drinker — high alcohol with incredible flavor.
Introduced in 2004, Loose Cannon IPA became the fan favorite and ultimately the flagship beer of Heavy Seas. The new brand and beers took off; the beers under the Heavy Seas line could sell in more states than could Clipper City beers, limited as they were by insular branding. With the steady success of the Heavy Seas line of beers, Sisson in 2010, decided to rebrand Clipper City beers adopting the name Heavy Seas for the brewery.
Two years later, Chris Leonard joined as Brew Master, and the brewhouse was expanded, adding on 10,000 square foot addition to its 15,000 sq. ft. brewery. Fun favorites like TropiCannon and award-winners like Blackbeard’s Breakfast paved the way for newer, riskier beers.
Heavy Seas currently offers a variety of beer styles in approximately 18 states within the United States. Several Heavy Seas beers have been awarded and include the following: Cutlass Amber Lager (a repeat medal winner at the Great American Beer Festival from 2006–2010, bronze medal winner at the 2010 World Beer Cup and silver medal winner at the 2012 World Beer Cup as Heavy Seas Märzen), Powder Monkey Pale Ale (silver medal winner at the 2008 Great American Beer Festival and bronze medal winner at the 2010 World Beer Cup as Heavy Seas Pale Ale), Small Craft Warning Uber Pils (bronze medal winner at the 2004 Great American Beer Festival), Gold Ale (gold medal winner at the 2010 World Beer Cup, bronze medal winner at the 2010 Great American Beer Festival and bronze medal winner at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival as Heavy Seas Gold Ale) and Winter Storm Imperial ESB (gold medal winner at the 2008 World Beer Cup).
To sail new brewing horizons, guided by the winds of traditions, and driven by the quest for adventure. Born near the harbor of Baltimore and raised in the spirit of exploration. Heavy Seas has been independently brewed since 1995. We strive to craft brews that capture your sense of adventure.