Heavy Seas to Grow Production Capacity 250 Percent

Add Heavy Seas Beer to the neverending list of craft breweries that are expanding production capabilities.

The Baltimore, Md.-based beer company has secured $6 million in bank financing to install a new 60-barrel, 5-vessel brewhouse and ultimately grow its production capacity by 250 percent. According to a press release, the expansion project — which will be finished by September — will increase potential brewing capacity to 175,000 barrels.

The brewery, which is currently on pace to produce approximately 45,000 barrels this year, is projecting sales of 60,000 barrels in 2015 and the expansion will help Heavy Seas increase production of beers like Loose Cannon IPA and Peg Leg Imperial Stout.

But production of year-round offerings won’t be the only piece of the business that grows thanks to the new brewhouse, according to Hugh Sisson, the company’s founder. He said the company’s nationally-recognized cask beer program will also see a boost as well.

Although Heavy Seas’ cask beers account for a tiny part of the company’s overall revenue, it’s an important point of difference that helps the company earn attention from retailers and consumers alike, since most craft brewers aren’t focusing their attention on such a niche market.

“The on-premise retailer base is beginning to finally figure out that cask is not a four-letter word, that there actually is merit to doing this,” he said. “More and more of them are actually willing to make the investment. Some are making the investment in separate refrigerating systems.”

Heavy Seas is shipping up to 200 firkins in a “good month,” said Sisson, and the program is growing at a clip of about 20 to 25 percent annually. And while casks are admittedly “a labor of love” that isn’t driving huge profits to the bottom line, Sisson said he’s hopeful the program will continue to grow.

In addition to expanding its cask beer production, Heavy Seas will also look to create new bottled and kegged products, hire additional employees, and grow its distribution footprint for the first time in six years.

“Because of having wiggle room in our production cycle, now we can start digging back and adding some products to the portfolio, add a few sexy tweaks,” said Sisson. “If you can’t do what’s new because you’re still trying to fill your Loose Cannon Orders — being able to add that extra arrow to our quiver is very exciting.”

To start, Sisson said the company will likely venture out into the “session IPA waters.”

“There definitely seems to be a trend toward knocking down the ABV, and we actually think that’s great,” he said. “So we’re looking forward to playing in that arena.”

Heavy Seas is currently in the process of bringing on a sales representative to cover Ohio and Western Pennsylvania, two of the company’s existing markets.

And although nothing is official, expansions into South Carolina and Florida could be on the horizon, Sisson said.

Nonetheless, while Heavy Seas could expand into multiple new markets as a result of the increased production capabilities, Sisson prefers to take a more slow and steady approach with growth.

“In today’s craft beer environment, I could probably pick up the phone tomorrow and make a bunch of phone calls and add 15 states,” he said. “And we’d have this massive spike in sales, and I think that would be an enormous mistake. I think that the more important thing would be to try to focus on getting good, strong, organic growth in your existing footprint. Try to take off a small bite at a time.”