Clipper City Brewing Company really did remind me of a pirate ship. Despite its relatively large craft brewery size (when I compare it to the 15 barrel system of Cap City) it still maintains its scrappy rebelliousness despite its heavy metal. Giant fermenters line the walls of the warehouse on the outskirts of Baltimore with ladders hanging off their sides, soft tubing pipes running like a maze across the floors and puddles of water (or blow-off) dot the floor and makes you want to yell for some scallywag to swab the decks. Surrounded by this noble vessel, I felt like I was in a brewery that was making quality beer while still remembering Charlie Papazian’s classic line: “Relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew.”
When we arrived at Clipper City, we entered to find Hugh Sisson, the founder, holding court that the captain’s desk right in the tasting room. I didn’t inquire who he was meeting with, but the meeting did involve a pint of beer and that seemed like a good way to hold a meeting to me. We later saw Hugh checking things out in the brewery, asking the brewers about the gravity of the wort and discussing ways to increase efficiency and reduce waste. It was cool to see a founding father still involved in the process and making sure his vision is still being followed. I’d say it translates well into the beers.
Andrew and I arrived at Clipper City around 2:00 on Friday to witness (and help out a little with) their afternoon brew of the Heavy Seas Peg Leg Imperial Stout. For those drinking along at home the Peg Leg is one of their bigger beers hitting 8% ABV and it is available in DC. The morning’s brew and also the first half of this batch of Peg Leg was already fermenting in the 100 Barrel fermentation tank a few feet from the kettle when we got there–guess it didn’t take long for the yeast to find all that sugar in the unfermented high-gravity wort.
We were first greeted in the entry way by Ernie Ingot the Brewmaster. Ernie has been brewing for over 30 yrs now–starting out in the Philippines at San Miguel Breweries. At Clipper City he has found the smaller scale and creativity to his liking. But he compared craft-brewing to be sorta like running a single 7/11 going up against the Walmart Corporations of the world. I thought it was a good comparison, but I might say gourmet corner neighborhood store instead of 7/11 for the craft breweries.