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On the trip from small brewery to statewide staple, Heavy Seas has only had one stop — 4615 Hollins Ferry Road in Halethorpe, where the company has brewed beer for 20 years.

Why Halethorpe? Founder Hugh Sisson originally wanted to brew in Baltimore City but ran into zoning issues. Halethorpe offered easy access for shipments and a building with tall ceilings.

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Today the brewery employs 45 people, according to Sisson, and about a half-dozen of them are from the Catonsville, Arbutus or Halethorpe areas.

"I think anytime you have a success stories in a community, that raises the bar for the community," Sisson says.

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A quick tour around the brewery finds employees living within about 10 miles of work in every stage of manufacturing, making sure the machines work, making sure supplies come in and making sure beer goes out.

On a recent winter morning, Kenneth Biles of Halethorpe is standing by a workbench talking with employees just after his break. He's been with the company since mid-November.

He was previously working in environmental remediation, fixing things considered dangerous to people's health. He wanted to get away from those hazardous chemicals. He landed a job on the brewery's maintenance team.

At his last job he enjoyed working with automation — he now uses those skills to make sure the brewery's machines run smoothly.

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Biles, who lives in Halethorpe, rides his bike to work.

"It's shortened my commute," he says.

Chris Schultz

Past the workbench is a large open space filled wall to wall with fermentation vessels. Each shiny metal vessel has a capacity of 200 barrels, nearly stretching to the 27-foot ceiling.

Chris Schultz of Catonsville is crouched in brown rain boots under some silver piping, cleaning filters under one of the containers. Hops are smashed into the wet floors around him — the air smells like citrus.

Schultz has worked for Heavy Seas just under five years, starting as assistant brewer and moving up to his current position as brewing team lead.

"I have the weirdest job in the brewery, I think," Schultz says.

He is responsible for making sure brewers have everything they need to get their job done, from ingredients to knowledge. He is also one of the people on call should the line break down during the brewery's 24-hour, five-day-a-week schedule, so it's good that he lives nearby.

Schultz is originally from Catonsville, he attended Mount Saint Joseph High School and went to college at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County before attending brewing school. When he returned he traveled about 300 miles looking for a job before he was hired on the spot at Heavy Seas, his hometown brewery.

"I had to turn down another job offer to stay here and build up the Baltimore beer scene — that's what I wanted," he says. "Heavy Seas kind of defined Baltimore beer. We still do."

When Schultz started, fewer people knew about Heavy Seas' brewery in Halethorpe, he says. Now people are drawn to it.

"We have locals come into the tasting room, and others who made a trip," he says.

Chris Franks

Three years ago Heavy Seas made a major expansion into the adjacent units in its industrial park, according to Sisson. The tasting room was moved to make way for the brewery, and the warehouse went from a storage facility down the street to an in-house operation.

Walking through the facility, Sisson notes a change with every step. Where there was nothing before there is now a tasting room with barrel tables. Where the old tasting room was is now an expanded brewery, growing bigger all the time — three new 200-barrel fermentation tanks are going in Dec. 10, growing the company's brewing capacity by 16 percent.

A huge doorway in a wall, wide enough for a pallet carrying hundreds of beers, connects the brewery with the warehouse.

Warehouse manager Chris Franks says when he first started at Heavy Seas 51/2 years ago as a keg filler, that door wasn't there.

"This hole in the wall wasn't a hole in the wall, it was a full wall," he says.

Instead moving beer, bottles and boxes through a wall, he was loading them onto trucks and moving them down the street, from their former off-site warehouse. Everything is under one roof now.

In an effort to promote Maryland's craft beer industry, which has more than 50 breweries operating and more to come, Gov. Larry Hogan has proclaimed this month "FeBREWary."

Franks, originally from southern New Jersey, attributes his coming to the company as pure luck. He was working in a supermarket, had experience with inventory and warehouses, and loved craft beer. He loved Loose Cannon, the company's flagship American-style IPA, asked about a job and was hired to fill up kegs. Then about six months later as the company was growing, he was promoted.

"A lot of my job is making sure everything flows properly," he says.

He sets up shipments and ensures they're prepared for pickup.

"You can see the business we bring in," he says.

And, he can go to his local liquor store and pick up the beer he works to distribute.

John Eugeni

Another employee who makes sure things run smoothly is Catonsville resident John Eugeni, production manager. Eugeni has been at Heavy Seas for 10 years.

While Schultz and Franks work hands-on with the beer, Eugeni works in spreadsheets, spread out over two computer screens.

He is in charge of making sure everything is purchased for production, from hops and grains to bottles and packaging. He monitors what beer is being made in each vessel, so he knows exactly when to get more supplies.

"I live in spreadsheets," he says.

He came to Heavy Seas from a job as a supervisor at UPS, he says. He previously worked on the bottling line, but with time delved more into the logistics of running a brewery.

"I was a homebrewer back then. I loved beer, I loved brewing," he says. "I was lucky to end up here."

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