Shot across the bow: Heavy Seas Beer may be taking stand against National Bohemian

heavy seas beer pyrate shirt

natty boh logo(Baltimore, MD) – The “pyrates” at Heavy Seas Beer fired a shot across the bow this week with a new t-shirt taking aim at a crosstown rival. It reads, “Actually brewed in Baltimore.”

And with an ode to a Baltimore one-eyed icon, that crosstown rival appears to be National Bohemian Beer.

National Bohemian Beer, also known affectionately as Natty Boh’s, is a heritage brand that was originally rooted in Baltimore but not any longer. Stroh Brewery bought the brand in 1996 and Pabst bought it a few years later. After letting the brand sag for more than a decade, Pabst decided to kickstart the brand and bring it back on tap in 2012.

As of last year, the beer was being brewed under contract at the MillerCoors brewing facilities in North Carolina and Georgia, according to a Baltimore Sun report.

That fact is likely what Heavy Seas is contending with as the Natty Boh’s brand heavily bills itself as a Baltimore brand in its marketing and promotional efforts. To illustrate, its main Twitter handle is @BohinBaltimore. That same Sun piece notes that 90% of brand sales, approximately 10,000 barrels in 2012, comes in the Baltimore market.

For its part, Heavy Seas was originally known as Clipper City Brewing and is brewed in Halethorpe (a Baltimore suburb). 6/7 Update: Heavy Seas cans are actually produced in Utica, New York, at Matt Brewing Company, according to TTB filings.

Beginning to live up to a brand known for swashbuckling mischief, Heavy Seas’ founder, Hugh Sisson, took a stand last year against brands that don’t have “skin in the game.”

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14 thoughts on “Shot across the bow: Heavy Seas Beer may be taking stand against National Bohemian

  1. Never had a Natty Boh, but I’ve had enough Heavy Seas brews to know that it doesn’t matter where it’s brewed. What matters is whether or not it’s good, and most Heavy Seas offerings leave a lot to be desired.

  2. Ha. Heavy is pretending to be brewed in Baltimore too. Union Craft is brewed in the city and actually strive to be a community brewery. Shame on both Boh and Heavy seas!

  3. National Bohemian Beer doesn’t claim to be brewed in Baltimore these days. Look at the bottle can or what’s printed on the can, you’ll see a different city listed. There’s no false advertising going on with Natty Boh.

    What you do get with Natty Boh is a beer with a long tradition in Baltimore that has tremendous historical local ties and a place in the heart of many of a Baltimorean. For a while, back in the day, it was the only beer sold at Orioles games, and, of course, it used to be brewed in Baltimore and have an operational that drawfed the size of what Heavy Seas does.

    I’ll also tell you another area where Natty Boh beats Heavy Seas- price. A 6-pack of bottles of Natty Boh is $4.99 and a 6-pack of Loose Cannon is $9.99. Arrgghhh, I just feel like a pirate plundered my wallet. 😉 And that’s comparing bottles to bottles and six packs to six packs- you can get *30 cans* of Natty Boh for $14.99 easy. Even Heavy Seas’ “Classic Lager” that’s supposed to compete with your more run of the bill beer is $8.99.

    It’s also worth noting that Heavy Seas was once called Clipper City and changed it’s name to de-emphasis it’s connection with Baltimore. Now they are taking direction aim at a Baltimore icon. Oops.

    Heavy Seas’ founder looked at acquiring the National Premium brand (National Bohemian’s upscale cousin formerly brewed at the same brewery by the same company) and decided against it. Some random guy bought it, brought the brand back to life, and is selling it- and it’s a pretty good beer. But Heavy Seas took a pass and it stayed dead many years as a result. Does Heavy Seas really care about Baltimore tradition?

    You know what? I like Heavy Seas. Loose Cannon is delicious (Albeit a bit overpriced, but I buy it when it’s on sale). I’m glad there’s a brewery like that in the Baltimore area. But taking aim at Natty Boh so directly is a bad strategic mistake on their part. That brand is beloved in Baltimore and a deep part of the fabric of the community. You loose a lot of good will by attacking it. And if you’re going to attack them, at least have the decency to offer a beer in that price category that really competes- don’t directly target something that provides a decent beer at a great price with something that costs double.

  4. Omg people ^^^^^^^^. Let it go!!!!!!!! It’s beer we’re talking about!!! Not world peace. Heavy Seas is a great craft beer and should be priced a bit higher. Natty Boh does good for what it needs to do.

  5. I recently got to work alongside and chat beer with Hugh – he is a PRO. Old-school, business minded, understands the whole beverage industry in and out. We’re talking about a guy who can sell new legislation to Annapolis as well as he can sell his seasonal to a passer-by at a tasting.

    With that said, his personality sticks out a bit in the beer biz. He’s not your laid-back NorCal type, he’s classicly east coast and high-strung. Sometimes he makes statements like this… I don’t necessarily agree with them, but I understand where he’s coming from and I still respect the heck out of the guy.

    As far as his product is concerned, I was never the biggest Loose Cannon fan. But they are doing some real cool barrel treatments and I don’t see them slowing down on it.

  6. I’m pretty sure they mean “Actually Brewed in Baltimore, When Not Being Brewed in New York at FX Matt”, but I can see why they didn’t go with that. Not as catchy.

  7. @Royald What makes you think that they are going after a brewery whose beer is made at FX Matt? This appears to be a pretty specific target.

  8. @Adam, Royald is referring to Heavy Seas contracting with FX Matt to produce all their canned brands.

  9. He’s referring to the fact that heavy seas contracts all their cans and some other beers at FX Matt.

  10. @Adam – I think he’s referring to the fact that they contract part of their production (cans, if I’m not mistaken) out of FX Matt.

  11. Pingback: Heavy Seas calls Natty Boh a bunch of posers | Brewtastic

  12. Natty Boh is the Indianapolis Colts of the Maryland beer scene. Both left town years ago!

    Cheers to Heavy Seas for helping to make more people aware of a brand that falsely parades itself around Baltimore as the hometown favorite, solely in pursuit of sales without any of the economic support of actually being a local manufacturer.

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