I make no secret about my love for all things Clipper City Brewing. I've yet to turn up my nose at any of their brews, and in casual conversation my exclamations are so over-the-top that people wonder if I'm on their payroll. That said, it's been with some trepidation that I've taken the news of their expansion and rebranding.
CC's beers have really been taking off over the last year, especially the Heavy Seas line. That should come as no surprise to anyone who's had a taste. Everything they make is delicious, interesting, and carries a killer alcohol percentage. They're sold in nineteen states and most of the beers have won awards of one kind or another. As with any success, theirs has brought both questions and opportunities. In response, founder Hugh Sisson has come up with a series of new answers.
First of all, the brewery is expanding. I'm not sure when, where, or how, but the aim is to be able to brew more of the beer people are drinking and to be able to host bigger events. It doesn't sound like an expansion into the realm of mindless mass production, but simply an effort to meet growing demand.
Second is a rebranding. Everything will now fall under the Heavy Seas label in different "fleets." The original local beers — McHenry, MarzHon, Pale Ale, and Golden Ale — will all become part of the Clipper Fleet, complete with new names and labels. Finally, the Oxford Organics will be shelved indefinitely.
I am totally stoked that Hugh and company are doing so well. The rise of a quality product with deep Baltimore roots is just the sort of publicity the city needs. Every time someone takes a look at that label somewhere in the country, it shows the wonderfully creative side of Charm City. Even so, expansion makes me nervous. So many times you see a great company move too big too fast and in the process it loses its soul. I'm terrified that this will happen to Clipper City. Hugh loves his beer and loves that it makes people happy, and I pray that no matter what changes he makes, that attitude stays at the Brewery's heart.
It's a strange swirl of feelings I have over all this. I want everyone who loves beer to try Heavy Seas because I know they will love it too. At the same time, with every new fan, the beer runs the risk of becoming overly ubiquitous, even generic, and that would be a fall too tragic to discuss. What I'm hoping for, I suppose, is to see Clipper City Brewing succeed, but slowly and with its irreverent, pyrate soul intact.