Thanks to Geistbear, I was turned on to the brewing (hah) story that Clipper City Brewery may be changing their name as part of a rebranding effort for the new year. This will lead them to officially become "Heavy Seas," which is currently the name of their line of higher-ABV beers. While there hasn't been an official press release from them at this point, their use of a new logo (above) and referring to themselves as "Heavy Seas brewers" in recent announcements seems to be consistent with this.
While not terribly newsworthy, the idea of a well-established and successful brewery completely changing it's name for a purely marketing reason is an interesting decision. I've long felt that Clipper City's overall brand has suffered somewhat for having several lines of beer that are graphically and nominally different than each other - namely, the Heavy Seas line, the Clipper City series (with includes the further branded outliers of the Balto MarzHon and McHenry), and the Oxford Ales line. Yes, brand uniqueness can be important, both for building name recognition for specific brews and maintaining historical tradition (the Oxford series exists as a distinct entity because Clipper City took over the Oxford Brewing Company in 1998, for example). That noted, it is not immediately obvious to the casual observer that beers from each of these lines are, in fact, made by the same brewery.
I take no particular issue with the Heavy Seas name, as it is awesome. However, the traditionalist in me wishes they would have stuck with Clipper City, and reorganizing the brands around that. Head brewer Hugh Sisson originally chose the name in 1995 due to Baltimore being the first US port to develop and build the clipper ship, as a nod to the history of the area. From their site:
The Clipper ship is the symbol for a strong nautical and maritime heritage with a commitment to craftsmanship of the highest caliber. It captures both the hardy nature of our working class history and the romance of what lies on the seas ahead. Why be normal when you can be EXTRAARGHdinary? We believe in bringing beer drinkers the quality and flavor of a handcrafted beer while supporting the local communities we serve.
In any case, this is a tiny gripe in what will hopefully be a successful marketing move for a local company that excels at the brewing craft. Hopefully, this will bring a larger audience to some their more niche beers in the Clipper City and Oxford lines. More details on how the rebranded beer series will look can be found at BeerInBaltimore.
Although they've remained officially silent on the naming issue, today Clipper City announced its beer line-up for the coming year:
HOLY SHEET - Über Abbey Ale 9% ABV - A Belgian Abbey style that is both aromatic and full bodied. It will benefit with aging up to two years.
Mutiny Fleet – 22 oz and draft – limited release. January.
SIREN NOIRE - Chocolate Stout 8% ABV - English style imperial stout, fermented and flavored with imported Belgian chocolate nibs. Smooth and easy drinking. Named for the Sirens who lured seafarers off course and ultimately to their demise.
Mutiny Fleet – 22 oz and draft – limited release. February. NEW
Big DIPA - Double IPA 10.6% ABV – Triple hopped during brewing, well balanced with an earthy hop aroma and flavor. Brewed with 5 pounds of hops per barrel!!!
Mutiny Fleet – 22 oz and draft – limited release. March.
LETTER OF MARQUE - Hop Rye Porter – Winners from our 2009 Letter of Marque Homebrew Competition will work along side our brewers to create this one time special release. Letter of Marque will feature a different beer every year selected from our national homebrew competition. Historically, a Letter of Marque was a document that made a Pyrate a legitimate professional. Hence, our Letter of Marque makes a home brewer a legitimate professional as well!
Mutiny Fleet – 22 oz and draft – limited release. April. NEW
RED SKY AT NIGHT - Belgian style Saison 7.5 % ABV - country farm house ale. A complex yet delicate ale, brewed with a unique Belgian yeast which develops a spicy, fruity flavor.
Pyrate Fleet – 12 oz and draft - available March thru May.
BELOW DECKS (BARREL AGED) – Barley Wine 10% ABV – Our award winning barley wine which has been aged two ways - in wooden bourbon barrels and cabernet barrels. It will benefit with aging. VINTAGE DATED
Mutiny Fleet – 22 oz and draft – VERY limited release. May. NEW
SMOKE ON THE WATER – Smoked Imperial Porter - Details are Top Secret.
Mutiny Fleet – 22 oz. and draft – limited release. June. NEW
HANG TEN - Weizen Dopplebock 10% ABV – A classic German-style weizen bock, slightly cloudy and bursting with flavor. It will benefit with aging up to two years. VINTAGE DATED. Mutiny Fleet – 22 oz and draft – limited release. July.
SUMMER ALE - Details are Top Secret.
Clipper Fleet – 12 oz and draft -available June thru September. NEW
PROSIT! - Imperial Oktoberfest Lager 8% ABV - Malt focused with five types of grain including Vienna and Munich malts - plus a secret extra malt that we use only in our Prosit! Balanced with 3 kinds of hops.
Mutiny Fleet – 22 oz and draft – limited release. August.
THE GREAT PUMPKIN - Imperial Pumpkin Ale 8.5% ABV - We add the pumpkin during the mash at precisely the right time to create just the perfect balance of malt, hops, pumpkin and spice.
Mutiny Fleet – 22 oz and draft – limited release. September.
THE GREATer PUMPKIN - Imperial Pumpkin Ale 9% ABV tbd - Our Great Pumpkin enhanced by aging in bourbon barrels.
Mutiny Fleet – 22 oz and draft – VERY limited release. September NEW
Early Winter 2010
WINTER STORM - Imperial ESB 7.5%ABV - Brewed with copious helpings of English malts plus US and English hops. Full malty flavors dancing with powerful hop aromas and a lingering, firm hop bitterness.
Pyrate Fleet – 12 oz and draft - available October thru December
BELOW DECKS - Barley Wine 10% ABV - Our English style barley wine - rich, malty, and opulent. Great at time of release but will benefit from bottle aging for many years to come. VINTAGE DATED.
Mutiny Fleet – 22 oz and draft – limited release. November
YULE TIDE - Belgian Tripel Ale 10% ABV - Slightly sweet with a complex malty flavor. The spicy flavor comes from our unique blend of Trappist yeast and Belgian candi sugar - making it both aromatic and flavorful. It will benefit with aging up to two years. VINTAGE DATED.
Mutiny Fleet – 22 oz and draft – limited release. November
They've also announced their next special event, the Heavy Seas Oyster Fest, taking place on Saturday, February 6, from 12 - 4pm at the brewery:
Thousands of Oysters - 12 Taps - Special Firkins
Live Music - Backstage Access to the Brewery
An All-You-Care-To-Taste fest of oysters and craft beer for the pyrate in all of us!
On tap will be Heavy Seas favorites and special cask ales. The fest also features 6 different kinds of oysters shipped in from around the world, plus several of the top local restaurants serving up their favorite oyster & seafood menu items. Live music and special behind scenes access to the brewery.
Tickets $49 and designated drivers are $35. Adult swim only (Must be 21+ to attend)
Tickets are now on sale here.
Clipper City may be setting sail for new and different waters, but I for one look forward to the treasure they will find there. (Oh, come on! How could I not?)