Heavy Seas Brewery is Getting a New CEO in May

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Dan Kopman, photo via Heavy Seas

A longtime St. Louis brewer will soon take over as CEO at Baltimore craft brewery Heavy Seas.

The 22-year-old brewery announced yesterday that Dan Kopman, co-founder and former CEO of Schlafly Beer in St. Louis, will become its new CEO on May 1. He’ll step in for Heavy Seas founder and current CEO Hugh Sisson, who will remain a managing partner in the business.

Kopman’s arrival coincides will the impending departure of Heavy Seas general manager Patrick Helsel, who is moving to California at the end of May.

Sisson, 63, said in an interview that he had been considering stepping back for some time, though he hadn’t pinned down exactly when. Then, shortly after Kopman left his position as co-board chairman of Schlafly in December, Helsel informed Sisson he was planning to move to California.

“It’s not easy to come up with somebody that you think is gonna be the right person,” Sisson said, later adding, “All of a sudden, the stars line up and you say, ‘OK this is the time to do this.'”

Sisson and Kopman aren’t strangers. The former said he first met Kopman 30 years ago, when he was working for his family’s namesake brewpub, Sisson’s, in Federal Hill. Kopman was working for London-based Young’s Brewery, and Sisson’s happened to be one of their early customers.

Sisson went on to found Heavy Seas (then known as Clipper City Brewing Company) in 1995. The company eventually rebranded to its current name in 2010. The Halethorpe-based brewery today is best known for its Loose Cannon IPA and sells its nine year-round craft beers, plus additional seasonals and special editions, in 18 states plus D.C.

Kopman opened the Schlafly Taproom with his former business partner, Tom Schlafly, in 1991 and co-founded Schlafly Bottleworks in 2004. The brand, like Heavy Seas, has become a premier name in craft brewing. Its success also helped to revitalize two neighborhood of Kopman’s home city, according to a release.

Kopman and Schlafly both sold their majority stake in the company to local investors in 2012, though Kopman remained a co-chairman on the company’s board of directors for the next five years.

He’ll soon be relocating from St. Louis to Baltimore.

“Heavy Seas is an iconic Baltimore favorite and a great brand that is well positioned for future success throughout the Eastern US and beyond,” Kopman said in a statement. “The brewery has established a commitment to quality, and a passionate culture built around both a love for great craft beer and their community.”

Sisson said he expects to “be around for at least a couple more years” as Kopman settles into his new role at Heavy Seas. That time, he says, should ensure a “seamless” transition.

Ethan McLeod
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