Brewing Success: Hugh Sisson

Hugh Sisson's brewery, Clipper City Brewing Co., is facing some major changes these days. Not only did he recently pass a growler bill through the Maryland Legislature, but he has also found his brand in need of a makeover. Alongside this, he has almost 550 firkins in the brewery and a robust (and costly) barrel-aging program to consider. Be sure to read more to find out what else this revolutionary brewmaster has up his sleeves.

Hugh Sisson: Founder and Owner of Clipper City Brewing Co.

Hugh Sisson has a lot on his mind: the growler bill he just passed through the Maryland Legislature, the 550 firkins sitting in his brewery and his robust (and expensive) barrel-aging program—not to mention his recent brand makeover.

The craft beer guru and entrepreneur has been at the helm of Clipper City Brewing Co., located in Baltimore, Maryland, since its conception in 1995.

An Entrepreneurial Dream

Having graduated Maryland Institute College of Art in the early seventies, Sisson moved to Chicago to pursue a career in theatre, his first love. While doing some on-stage work, Sisson was constantly exploring the city’s unique nightlife, particularly its “brew pubs.” It wasn’t long before he began to tinker with the craft beer-making process himself, thus initiating his entrepreneurial dream.

In 1983, Sisson returned to his home state and opened a brew pub in Federal Hill, a neighborhood in Baltimore. However, due to a liquor law in the state of Maryland that prohibited on-premise consumption and off-premise sales, Sisson’s operation was defunct less than a year after opening.

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But Sisson wasn’t one to give up easily.

Finding Success In Clipper City Brewing Co.

Rather than give up on his dream to make craft beer, Sisson worked diligently to modify and eventually rewrite the state’s liquor laws in order to make his dream a reality. His hard work paid off, and in 1995 Clipper City Brewing Co. opened its doors to the craft beer world—allowing Sisson to reach his entrepreneurial dream.

What Sets Clipper City Brewing Co Apart?

Clipper City Brewing Co offers an array of traditional lagers, India pale ales, stouts and wheat beers for the craft beer community. They also offer something unique to their brewery, which makes them stand apart from the rest. They offer a full line of ales aged in whiskey barrels, many of which have been aged for more than three years.

The kegs are made from white oak and are filled with whiskeys such as bourbon, rye, whiskey and Irish whisky. The barrels are aged for two years, then blended and aged once more, making everything fresh and flavorful.

Flagship Dishes

The brewery serves up specialty dishes that are only available at Clipper City Brewing Co. These signature dishes include;

  • The Famous Clipper City Beer Cheese Soup
  • Clipper City Blue Burgers
  • The Clipper City “ShroomDoom” Burger
  • The “Mint” City Burger
  • The Captain’s Choice Reuben Sandwich
  • Two-Day Brisket with Beets and Turnips

These dishes are the perfect accompaniment to their robust ales. The restaurant also serves wine and cider for those who don’t prefer craft beer.

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An Expensive Barrel-Aging Program

Barrel-aging has long been a practice in the craft beer industry, with brewers utilizing oak barrels to age their beers in order to add an additional layer of flavor and complexity to the final product. Clipper City Brewing Co. recently launched a barrel-aging program that is quite expensive, with 550 firkins (31.5 gallon barrels) taking up most of the brewery’s space.

The barrels are filled with Clipper City’s flagship brews, such as the India pale ale and pilsner, then aged for six to eight weeks. During this time, the beers take on a unique flavor, thanks to the oak aging. The final product is a smoother, more complex beer that has a unique flavor profile that can’t be attained through traditional aging techniques.

The Growler Bill

This year, Sisson and Clipper City Brewing Co. have been at work on a “growler bill” in the Maryland state legislature. With the help of local breweries and taverns, Sisson

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