If you happen to make a wrong turn going to BWI airport in Baltimore, MD, you might find yourself in an industrial park that’s home to the Clipper City Brewery (AKA Heavy Seas). It hard to miss it with a old school bus park out front with Heavy Seas all over it.
As soon as walk in you can see that the bus is a food truck that makes pretzels and pizza from some of the spent grain from the brewery. Across from the bus is the door to the tap room. In the tap room, you can have a pint of your favorite libation on draft or something special on cask. This is also the place to check in for your tour of the facility. The tour costs $7 per person but you also get your own pint glass and some samples of Heavy Seas year round offerings. After you walk through the door beside the bar, you find yourself in the warehouse of the brewery full empty kegs and firkins. The next thing you see is a small mobile bar set up next to a giant cooler. This is the place where you get your samples of beer. Don’t drink too fast because you need at least one ticket left so you can stay hydrated during the tour.
The day I took the tour with my father in law, we had the pleasure of having the founder/owner of Heavy Seas, Hugh Sisson, leading the tour. I would highly recommend reserving a spot on one of his tours. Mr. Sisson he started the tour by giving everyone a small amount of barley malt to eat as we walked into the brewery. That beer in your glass comes in handy to wash the taste of grape nuts off your palette. At the same time, he explains how the grain comes into the crusher before it’s sent to the Mash Tun. He gets in to how the sugars are extracted during the mashing process and that the wort as it’s called is transferred over to the kettle. Then it’s boiled and hops are added during specific times of the boil. From here you walk about thirty feet to 230 Barrel fermenters.
Hugh talks about how the wort is cooled down and transferred to the fermenters. These massive vessels are where the wort becomes beer by the addition of yeast. Next you winded through the rest of the fermenters and pass by the brite tanks till you come to a platform that overlooks the brewery. Mr. Sisson then proceeded to pass around Simcoe hop cones for everyone to smell the pungent oder of cat pee. We then proceeded up the stairs of the platform to see the whole production side of the brewery. From there we went to the next room which housed the bottling and packaging line. Then we walked into their giant cooler that had very little beer in it at the time. Then we walked out of the cooler and to my surprise there was a Zillie’s sticker on the post beside the door. We found ourselves right where we started the tour. Once everyone made it out of the cooler Mr. Sisson thanked us for coming and hoped we took something away from the tour. The tour was one of the best brewery tours I’ve ever been on and having a little Zillie’s inside the brewery was icing on the cake. Next time you find yourself in Baltimore go see our friends at Heavy Seas and take the tour. And tell them Zillie’s sent you!