If you’ve lived in Baltimore for awhile, you’ve no doubt sampled Heavy Seas beers, most likely the Loose Cannon, a hoppy IPA that has become a potent and popular fixture at local bars and restaurants.
While Heavy Seas beer is made at Clipper City Brewing in Halethorpe, a little bit of Heavy Seas resides in the city at the brewing company’s nautical restaurant outpost, Heavy Seas Ale House (1300 Bank St.; 410-522-0850), on the cusp of Little Italy and Harbor East.
Located in the old Holland Tack Factory Building, the ale house melds industrial features of the historic space with a relaxed and family-friendly (but not goofy) pirate ship feel. It makes great use of the expansive space, with a large front bar and casual booths up front, as well as semi-private rooms and an outdoor beer garden that will debut this summer.
The ale house, which opened in February of 2012, is owned by Executive Chef Matt Seeber and two other partners.
Hugh Sisson, a leader in local beer making who opened the state’s first brew pub, is a partner in Clipper City Brewing, which makes Heavy Seas beer, but not the ale house itself.
Seeber says that while beer is an integral part of the food at Heavy Seas, he doesn’t necessarily “cook” with beer. Beer, he says, is often used to finish the dishes.
Take for instance the 24-Hour Beef Short Rib ($25), which is braised with Peg Leg Imperial Stout and served with polenta, peppers, and onion confit, or the Spice-Roasted Duck Breast ($22) with chard, vegetable quinoa and Kreik-marinated cherries.
The menu is large and leans to the hearty side (it’s an ale house, after all) and has beer pairing suggestions for every entree and sandwich, but is full of surprises that you won’t find elsewhere in downtown Baltimore.
Where else could you sip an ice cream float made with Peg Leg Imperial Stout, or a Belgian Lambic float for two? Even the bar snacks, such as the Old Bay caramel popcorn or house-made potato chips with tart green mango powder are both worth stopping by for in their own right.
The restaurant also features a raw bar, which features clams, ceviche, and oysters from Rappahannock River Oyster in Topping, Va.
Seeber says he tries to use local and regional food sources when possible. Big City Farms in Federal Hill is one of his favorites for lettuce, and Roma Sausage, a well-known Baltimore sausage company, makes the Ale House’s proprietary pork sausage—it has Uber Pils and Old Bay—used in their Grilled Sausage Sliders ($7).
One thing that sets Heavy Seas apart from other restaurants in its Harbor East-Little Italy enclave is its commitment to teaching customers more about food and beer and being part of the larger food and beer scene in Baltimore city.
Weekly events give diners the opportunity to expand their knowledge and cultivate an appreciation for different kinds of beer. Every Friday is Firkin Friday, when a new cask of ale is tapped. Beer poured straight from the cask, or firkin, has less carbonation and a smoother mouth feel. Fridays are also growler-fill days, where growlers can get filled for $14.
Chef’s dinners, where guest chefs are invited in from restaurants like Woodberry Kitchen, are scheduled quarterly, and affordable cooking classes and beer-cocktail making classes are a fixture on the restaurant’s substantial event calendar.
Rebecca Steen, Heavy Seas manager, says that the new open air beer garden will host several of these events—including an upcoming grilling class—in the summer. Find more information at HeavySeasAleHouse.com.
by Danielle Sweeney