HEAVY SEAS BEER:
Hugh & the Heavy Seas Story
Beer takes us on adventures. It allows us to discover new flavors and exotic cultures. Our quest for great beer can lead anywhere, from corner pubs to faraway breweries.
For Heavy Seas founder, Hugh Sisson, beer altered the trajectory of his life.
In 1980, intending to become a stage actor and director, Hugh's plan was to move to NYC after completing his course work for a masters degree in theater. Hugh's father, Albert, a Baltimore area businessman, persuaded him instead to come "help" at a newly opened family business, a tavern called Sisson's. When Hugh showed up to start what he assumed would be a short-term position, his father tossed him the keys to the pub, said "OK, don't f*** up!" and walked out the door.
Hugh had spent a great deal of time in pubs during college and grad school, but until that point, his entire bar experience had always been on the consumer side. With Big Al's handoff of Sisson's pub, Hugh was abruptly faced with learning the "landlord" side of the equation.
Despite no business background, Hugh quickly realized he needed a way to differentiate Sisson's from other bars to give customers a reason to visit. Having studied in England in 1974, his eyes had been opened to traditional cask-conditioned ales, essentially unheard of in the US at that time. His pub and beer experiences abroad made him a fan of "better" beer, influencing his decision to make Sisson's into a beer destination. By 1982, Sisson's had the largest selection of beers in Baltimore and was Baltimore's first draft Guinness account.
The consumer's interest in beer was growing fast, so in 1984, Hugh and his father decided to explore the idea of making their own beer at the pub. Only a handful of brewpubs existed at that time in the US, so turning Sisson's into a brewpub was a groundbreaking concept. One big problem - brewpubs were illegal in Maryland.
Undaunted, the Sissons - under the tutelage of Senator George Della - introduced a bill in the MD Legislature in 1987 to legalize brewpubs. Much to their surprise, the bill passed on first attempt. Sisson's officially became Maryland's first brewpub in August 1989, with Hugh as the brewer.
Hugh remained at Sisson's until December 1994, when he left to form a new company, Clipper City Brewing Co., now home to Heavy Seas Beer.
Today, Heavy Seas produces 18 different beer styles and distributes in 17 states. Heavy Seas has become one of the most respected and award winning craft breweries on the East Coast. The company celebrates its 20th anniversary of business operations on December 8, 2015.
GREY SAIL BREWING:
This brewery had been a thought for Alan and Jennifer Brinton for over 15 years. A move from New Jersey to Rhode Island, and 4 children, put Jen and Alan’s plans on hold until Autumn, 2010.
It was worth the wait. Just one year later, the building had been purchased, the renovation completed, the equipment installed and the beer brewed and distributed.
Finding our home at 63 Canal Street came to be a big part of who we are. Built toward the end of the 1920s as The Westerly Macaroni Factory, grain once again courses through the building. We have been fortunate to meet many local residents who still recall the days of purchasing their fresh pasta here.
After WWII, the United States Post Office ran their parcel service out of the building until 1989 when NAPA Auto Parts moved in. After their relocation in 2010 the building was once again available for purchase.
On April 4, 2011, Grey Sail Brewing of Rhode Island moved in. After seven short months the renovation was complete and grain was once again brought to the building, now to brew the first batch of Flagship Ale on 11/11/11.
Sit on any beach in New England and enjoy the views of rolling waves, glistening waters and grey sails on the horizon… it is truly inspiring. Those grey sails inspired us to keep moving forward, and here we are.
Brewing great beer is our passion. We want to share that passion with you. Please visit our facility at 63 Canal Street in Westerly to see where it all began and sample our fine brews.