In letter to Diageo, Heavy Seas offers to brew Guinness’ Baltimore Blonde

Published 4/14/2023 3:01 p.m. EDT, Updated 4/14/2023 3:20 p.m. EDT

Hugh Sisson, founder of the Heavy Seas brewery in Halethorpe, wants to start brewing Baltimore Blonde.
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The effort to preserve the brewing of Baltimore Blonde in Maryland got another push Friday.

Clipper City Brewing and Heavy Seas founder and CEO Hugh Sisson wrote a letter to Diageo, the parent company of Guinness, saying he wants to keep “the Guinness Baltimore Blonde production line in Baltimore County.”

To make it happen, Sisson writes, he is interested in making Baltimore Blonde at the Heavy Seas facility in Halethorpe, which he calls “the only facility in Baltimore County who can undertake this level of production.” He expressed confidence “that our market will respond more favorably if Baltimore Blonde is brewed locally.”

In the letter dated Wednesday, but sent Friday, Sisson called the beer’s potential departure from the area “a blow to both our County and our regional craft beverage industry,” comparing it to “other brands that are symbolic of the region” but brewed elsewhere.

Diageo recently announced it would be shuttering its Relay manufacturing plant in June and laying off around 100 workers, while keeping its Open Gate tasting room and restaurant open. Up in the air is the future of Baltimore Blonde, the American lager brewed at the Relay plant and branded with the Maryland flag. Diageo previously said it is still deciding where to relocate production of the beer, while Baltimore County officials have said they want to keep it in the area.

An alternate possibility Sisson floated in the letter: acquiring the Relay production site. But reached for comment, Sisson clarified that he’s not hoping to purchase the plant, which sits near his own Halethorpe facility, though he would be open to leasing the space. “Maybe there’s a way we can figure out a synergy,” he said.

“Right now I just want to have a conversation with them,” he said, referring to Diageo. “If it goes anywhere, terrific.”

In a brief interview, Sisson mentioned that Heavy Seas also brews National Premium, a longtime Baltimore brew that was rescued from obscurity by Easton realtor Tim Miller. “There’s certain things, if it’s Baltimore-centric, it should be made in Baltimore,” Sisson said. “In this case, preferably Baltimore County.”

A local rep for Guinness did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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