For fans of Heavy Seas Brewery, a new season means a new beer.
Riptide White IPA, a spring seasonal craft beer, will hit the shelves in April. Its hoppy taste with hints of wheat are made from fresh ingredients at this Baltimore brewery.
“We’re in a unique position that it’s really hard to meet demand,” said Kelly Zimmerman, marketing director at Heavy Seas. “You have to resist the temptation to push beer out before its ready.”
It started in the mid-1980s when Hugh Sisson and his father lobbied for a bill to legalize brewpubs in Maryland. The bill passed and Sisson was intrigued in making craft beer. In 1994 he founded Clipper City Brewing Co., the brewery behind Heavy Seas Beer.
“The biggest thing is be prepared for everything,” said Hugh Sisson. “Walking into an ever evolving set of challenges is kind of what makes the whole thing interesting.”
The Heavy Seas name developed from the vision of looking out into heavy seas.
“It’s a challenge, it’s a sense of adventure, it’s spinning into the wind,” Zimmerman said. “That’s sort of the theme and the attitude we try to convey.”
The idea behind Heavy Seas Beer is to be bolder more complex, with bigger flavors and higher alcohol by volume (ABV), Zimmerman said. There are four main ingredients in craft beer. The biggest ingredient is water. Hops gives beer aroma and bitterness, malt gives beer its color and sweetness. The fourth ingredient is yeast.
“It’s very particular. There’s a lot of specific steps you need to take,” said David Sauer, brewer at Heavy Seas. “Temperature is the biggest factor in a production brewery.”
First the grains and essential ingredients for a particular beer are milled up. Those ingredients are mixed with water to hydrate the grains and left in the masher to sit for a certain period of time with an increased temperature. This breaks down the starches into fermentable sugars so yeast is able to convert them into alcohol and CO2.
The ingredients are then moved into a lauter tun, which is a separation vessel where the grains are filtered out from those broken down sugars. The sugars run through the kettle where hops is added and boiled for an hour and a half, allowing conversions of flavors and proteins to take place. After boiling, the brewers collect troob from the beer, which are extraneous hops and ingredients left in kettle.
The beer is then casted out into fermenters through the heat exchanger, changing the temperature from 96 degrees Celsius to about 20 degrees Celsius in a second. Yeast is then added to ferment out. It typically takes three to seven weeks for the yeast to convert the sugars into alcohol and CO2.
“Our quality is consistent,” Zimmerman said. “You know what you’re gonna get when you buy one of our beers.”
The beer at Heavy Seas is brewed 24 hours a day with the exception of Saturday and Sunday. However, it takes more than just the ingredients to make the beer and company sail forward.
“It’s not a ‘how did I’,” Sisson said. “It’s much more a how did the collective people who have been part of this thing throughout all these years, how did they and us.”
There are many jobs within the brewery. First, there are the brewers. There is a packaging line, which is in charge of getting the beer into bottles and kegs. People who work in the warehouse are responsible for sending out shipments. One general manager oversees the brewery. There’s a sales team, who interfaces with distributors, in addition to being out in the field conversing with liquor stores, bar owners and restaurants. There is an accounting position and a human resources position, as well as three marketing positions. Those are the marketing director, social media director and graphic artist for Heavy Seas, Zimmerman said.
“This is fun,” Zimmerman said. “Everybody likes beer. I don’t have to sell anything to anybody, because the product is good and it really does sell itself, so it makes my life easy.”
Since the start, Heavy Seas Brewery is continuously expanding in size, staff and market, Zimmerman said. Heavy Seas products are in 19 states up and down the East Coast, except for West Virginia. The brewery intends to produce 85,000 barrels this year compared to 17,000 barrels in 2010.
“It’s not a destination,” Sisson said. “It’s a journey.”
The tours offered every Saturday at the brewery take you through the in-depth process, from touching fresh hops and malt, to the seeing the machinery that creates these bold beers.