Pair of Baltimore Brewpubs
Change and Mature

Lew Bryson

Ale Street News, Aug/Sep 2001
links updated 2007, Thomas Cizauskas
"Chris, hon, these brewpubs is great!"

Bawlmer (that's Baltimore to non-residents of Charm City) has some exceptional brewpubs that are well-supported and well-loved. Two are within walking distance of the ball park at Camden Yards. The Wharf Rat is chugging away in its prime location across from Camden Yards, while the city's oldest brewpub (and Maryland's oldest, too), Sisson's, recently got a complete makeover and new owners.

One of those new owners is Tom Cizauskas, who returns to the area after long exile in Philly, Cleveland, and DC. Tom used to brew Oxford Class at Oxford Brewing in Linthicum, MD.

When I visited recently, he was getting ready to fire up the kettle at Sisson's, pending ATF approval. "There's a nice circularity going," he laughed. "Back in 1994, I was brewing Oxford Class at Oxford Brewing and Hugh Sisson was brewing here. Now Hugh's brewing Oxford Class at his Clipper City brewery, and I'm brewing at Sisson's.

Cizauskas and partners Craig Stuart-Paul (Tom's old boss at Oxford) and Paul Morrissey have changed the whole floor plan at Sisson's. Gone is the bar stretching from the door, replaced by a more open space with a bar in back. A central double row of brick arches, cleared of interior walls, is artfully lit with small spots to create what Tom called "the tunnel of love." A comfortable back 'snug' and an upstairs dining area complete the new Sisson's.

Tom has another partner: his new wife Kathryn Cizauskas, is Sisson's front-of-the house manager. Kathryn will keep things moving smoothly, along with Scott Carberry, an 'old' Sisson's alum who is the bar manager. Carberry and Ken Andreasen man a bar that will always feature high-end guest beers (a seven-week run of British casks imported by B. United is currently underway) and a beer engine for cask house beers.

Someone say house beers? Look for P.O.B. (Pride of, hon!) Sparkling Ale, Hop Cat American Pale Ale with big American hops ("to get the grapefruit out of our system," Tom said), Firkin Best (an English-style best bitter on draft and cask), and Edgar Allan Porter, a toasted oatmeal porter.

"I'll finally be able to brew 100% my way," said Tom with satisfaction. "I like beers that are full-flavored but drinkable. A grist of greater percentage of crystal malts, fermented drier, yields a lower level of residual sugar, requiring less bittering hops to achieve a good effect. The beers are still full-flavored but with less palate-fatigue for the drinker, allowing the full-bore specials and seasonals to appear even more distinctive."

Bill Rothwell has returned as chef. "Bill came in a couple months ago," Tom recalled. "He wanted to borrow a fryer. He brought it back in a week or so, and said, 'I want to use it again... Here!' We were happy to have him."

Rothwell has left Sisson's Cajun cuisine behind ("It's good, but it's limiting," he said.) and created a steakhouse menu that features topnotch beef from the Flying A Ranch in Iowa.

"I went back and looked up the old steakhouse stuff," Bill said. "You know, big green salads with plenty of iceberg lettuce, seafood cocktails served in goblets. All the steakhouses in town were either very high-priced or the Outback. We wanted to serve great steaks but at reasonable prices."

Bill did fight to include seafood on the menu, and you'll find plenty of the town favorite crabmeat tucked into dishes.

Sisson's old bane, parking, should be cured by a new parking garage going up nearby. Meanwhile, as a quick walk of the neighborhood proved, it's plenty easy to find parking within two blocks. You'll need to walk off those steaks anyway, hon.

Initial press in Baltimore Sun

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