Stillwater Artisanal, like Mikkeller, is a brewer without a brewery... a gypsy brewer. The idea is that Stillwater and Mikkeller rent time on another brewery's system when that production brewery has capacity. Stillwater seems to brew most of their beers at Dog Brewing in Westminster, MD. The brews that come from Dog Brewing are Stillwater's year-round beers like this bottle of Stateside Saison. Stillwater may have several other bottles on the shelf, but if you look closely you'll see a number of them are collaborations, brewed somewhere other than Dog Brewing. It's an interesting business model to say the least.
I know next to nothing about DuClaw Brewing Company. I saw a few DuClaw bottles at a liquor store in Maryland a couple weeks ago and figured I'd give them a try. I opted for the black bottle with a menacing red "MISERY" scratched on the label. This beer is a Wheat Wine, a style not too many breweries produce. The Wheat Wines I have had before have been all over the board. Some Wheat Wines were very similar to Barleywines and others have been more closely compared to sweet white wine. I'm anxious to try this DuClaw Misery out and see where it falls.
Heavy Seas is an interesting brand. I haven't bothered to do my research into why Clipper City markets these beers as a brand apart from their namesake Clipper City beers... This bottle of Siren Noire seemed particularly interesting because it's not only labeled with the Clipper City name and the Heavy Seas name but it's also part of the "Mutiny Fleet" ...whatever that means. As far as I can tell, that just means it's a bomber rather than a 12 oz bottle, possibily a limited release. Either way, the text on the label that sold me on this beer was the part where it says "Imperial Chocolate Stout".
Heavy Seas beers have really impressed me. I was hesitant to try these pirate themed beers from Baltimore at first because, well... they have cartoony pirates on the label. After having four or five different Heavy Seas beers I trust that the other brands are going to be pretty enjoyable too. Last week I picked up a bottle of Loose Cannon, Heavy Seas' IPA. I'd heard a lot of good things about this IPA and I've been looking forward to sitting down with a bottle and trying it for myself. This bottle has a purchase by date of May 2011, so I'm still well within the freshness window. I say that because this beer turned out to smell and taste incredibly old...
I've had a handful of Heavy Seas beers now and I'm pretty much smitten. Well, smitten may be a bit strong, but I've really liked what I've had. I picked up this 2009 bottle of Below Decks Barleywine about six months ago. I didn't really intend on keeping it in the basement until its one year birthday, but that's how it worked out. Part of the reason I haven't opened this beer yet is because, well... I haven't had that many Barleywines that I've genuinely enjoyed. Sure, I've had a few that have been be good, but nothing that's changed my opinion on the style as a whole. I've got high hopes for this Heavy Seas Below Decks, it has a great pedigree and might just be the Barleywine I've been looking for.
"Hang Loose, Matey!" That's the tagline next to the cartoony peg-legged pirate on the label of this Clipper City Weizen Doppelbock. The official name of this beer is Hang Ten and it's part of the Heavy Seas line of Clipper City beers. I had the Heavy Seas Pale Ale several months back and really enjoyed it, something I can't say for too many Pale Ales. I was excited to try more beers from this Baltimore based brewery but, sadly, they aren't distributed in my area. I spotted a 4 pack of bottles recently while on vacation and leapt at the chance to bring it home with me.
I tend to prejudge beer by their label, it's a bad habit of mine. Hey, we all of our flaws. When I first saw this bottle of Heavy Seas Pale Ale I thought of Johnny Depp... well, actually I thought of Captain Jack Sparrow. Clipper City put a big cartoony skull and cross bones with an eyepatch and a pirate hat. It just comes off as being too full of itself. These guys want you to think they're "hip" and "with it," tapping into the "underground chic" of pirates... Packaging like this makes me assume the beer inside couldn't be sold without tricking the Ed Hardy crowd into buying a six pack because it seemed a little more extreme than Miller High Life.