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What Glitters is Gold at Heavy Seas Beer

Posted by on in March 2015 Editions
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When this journalist suggested to Joe Gold that he was a "beer nerd," the Sales Manager at Heavy Seas Beer in Halethorpe chuckled and replied, "Yeah, I guess I am."  Then, he thought for a moment and proudly declared, "Actually, I'm more of a 'beer explorer.'  I go on beer hunts.  What I do is I keep a beer journal, and I travel the globe looking for fun things to visit beer-wise -- taverns, brewpubs, historic sites.  I tend to plan my trips around beer.  For instance, when I'm on the road for work, I'll do some research as to what's happening that weekend with beer.  If there's a festival or some sort of pub I've never heard of, I'll stay over the weekend just to check it out."

Sorry, Joe.  That pretty much qualifies you for "beer nerdom."  Not that there's anything wrong with that!  After all, how many people get to turn their life's passion into a full-time job.  Gold earned his first paycheck in the brewing business in 1986, working for Young & Co.'s Brewery in London.  His younger days as a lacrosse player had moved him from Baltimore to England three years earlier.  When it came time to get a job, the beverage business there beckoned.

"So much has changed from when I first got involved," he stated.  "I used to walk into taverns in the '80s and say, 'I have this phenomenal beer. It's fantastic. We just came out with it.' And the buyer would say, 'I've never heard of it, and nobody's ever asked for it. Get out of here!' I go in today and tell the buyer, 'Hey, we came up with this new batch of beer. It's fresh off the line.' And the buyer says to me, 'I've never heard of it, and nobody's ever asked for it. I'll take three kegs!' It's the weirdest professional shift I've ever lived through!"

Gold has found a kindred spirit in the products he sells today.  "Heavy Seas is in our 20th year," he noted. "The branding of the pirate theme, the popularity of the Loose Cannon brand, and now with our year-round CrossBones beer, it all speaks to adventure. What people look for in a craft beer is to identify with a theme. It has more to do with your heart than your head. When you try a craft beer, it needs to resonate with you."

He continued, "What sets us apart is we do a lot of traditional things. We give it all a Heavy Seas spin, but we stay within some boundaries. We sell balanced beer. We're not looking for the odd or quirky. We're looking for quality."

In addition to his job at Heavy Seas, Gold is the founder and one of the driving forces of Baltimore Beer Week.  He is already hard at work planning the 2015 event, which will be celebrating its seventh year this October.  

He says the tradition is just one of the things that makes Maryland such a great "beer state."  He elaborates, "The breweries and the beer drinkers in our state are as diverse as anywhere on the planet. We happen to also possess a port that allows anything from anywhere to get to us quickly. So, honestly, our beer drinking scene offers the consumer more choices than any other market in the U.S., I believe. I would also say that the consumer in Maryland probably has a little less loyalty to any particular brand, because there is such a plethora of things to enjoy. If you go to places like the Pacific Northwest or New England, those brands that are made in those neighborhoods get the lion's share of sales. Here, we have as diverse a portfolio as anywhere, and it makes it challenging to become a staple."

While the Old Line State has embraced craft beers, the same can't be said for the rest of the country.  He notes that craft beers still account for just under 10 percent of the total market share.  "The fact that 90 percent of the beer that's drunk in the United States isn't even made by one of the 3,000 craft brewers, that's a shame.  And not in the business sense, but more in the 'Why would you drink that?!' sense."

For Gold, though, the uphill battles are still the ones worth fighting.  And he believes Heavy Seas will continue to push forward with new and exciting products.  He concluded,  "I've met a lot of passionate people along the way in my career.  From them, I've learned that if you keep your passion and your focus, you're going to move the needle."

FAVORITE MOVIE: "Chariots of Fire"

GO-TO RESTAURANT:  Akbar on Charles Street in Baltimore ("I'm an Indian food fan!")

HOBBIES--SPECIAL INTERESTS: "Travel, coaching lacrosse, and keeping up with my 13-year-old son"

FAVORITE WINE: "I am a fan of port.  I don't drink a lot of it.  But, every once in a while, I love a good glass of port."


Teddy is a graduate of UMBC. In additional to his Beverage Journal writing duties, he is an entertainment reviewer.