A buddy of mine recently visited the original Guinness facility in Dublin, and while he’s not the type of guy to be wowed by any “here’s our factory!” type of tour, he came back as a Guinness-branded pod person, spouting facts about bubbles in the foam and the precise roasting of ingredients. The Guinness craftsmanship was too impressive for him to resist. It sounded cool, and I was jealous. Only time will tell how much of that coolness transports overseas, but over the weekend, the ribbon was officially cut on the new home of Guinness in America.
Located just 10 miles from downtown Baltimore and 30 miles northeast of Washington, D.C., the Open Gate Brewery & Barrel House is conveniently located and part of an exciting and growing brewing scene in Maryland. It will be the home of Guinness Blonde, along with new Guinness beers created for the U.S. market.
“This brewery has long been a dream for Guinness, and an incredible amount of hard work has gone into getting these doors open,” said Diageo Beer Co. USA Chairman and Diageo Global Chief Sales Officer Tom Day. “I can’t wait to see people enjoying the fantastic beer our brewers have made in this historic and beautiful building. I’m proud that we have created something special and quintessentially Guinness here in Maryland.”
The creation of a brewery, barrel house and visitor center and development of packaging and warehousing operations has generated more than 200 jobs and represents an investment by Diageo of approximately $90 million in the Maryland project.
Adding some history
The first part of the brewery’s name takes inspiration from the Guinness Open Gate Brewery in Dublin — where the company has experimented in beer for more than a century. The second part of the name, “Barrel House,” is a nod to the long history of Guinness brewers maturing beer in wood barrels, a tradition this new brewery intends to continue. In addition, the space was once home to a historic whiskey distillery, so the site already boasts a venerable heritage of barrel-aging.
“Our administration is proud of Maryland’s robust and growing brewing industry, and we are excited to welcome a legendary brewer like Guinness to our great state,” said Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. “In addition to more than 200 new jobs, this new facility’s full-time brewing and hospitality operations will bring a new source of tourism to Baltimore County and to Maryland. We remain committed to supporting companies that invest in our communities and our citizens, and Guinness opening its doors today is yet another example that Maryland is open for business.”
Leveraging a pre-existing structure for the project, as opposed to starting from scratch with a green field development, was a priority for Guinness to maintain parent company Diageo’s commitment to environmental sustainability. Guinness has also implemented measures to reduce the overall electric consumption and water usage at the site, while utilizing recycled elements for the build, along with low volatile organic compound (VOC) materials and paints, to accent the building.
“A lot more than hops goes into building a brewery,” said Baltimore County Executive Don Mohler. “We partnered with Diageo from permits to passing legislation, all to be sure these historic buildings would become a world-class destination for Baltimore County and the region.”
The Open Gate Brewery and Barrel House is the first Guinness brewing operation on U.S. soil in more than 60 years and is home to two custom-built brewhouses: a 10-bbl brewhouse and a 100-hl brewhouse, both of which are set up to brew and ferment different styles. The 10-bbl system is the small-batch experimental brewery, while the 100-hl system will initially brew Guinness Blonde for national distribution.
Led by Brewmaster Peter Wiens and Head Brewer Hollie Stephenson, the Maryland brewing team has already begun producing beers for the on-site taproom. While the majority of beers will be available exclusively in the taproom, a few brews will make their way to the greater D.C., Maryland and Virginia areas, with some even rolling out nationally.
Visitors can tour the 10-bbl brewery and try the beers made on site. The initial lineup will include: Guinness IPA, a hit in the Test Taproom, and Crosslands Pale Ale, a beer made entirely with Maryland-grown malted barley and hops.
While many Guinness classic stouts, including Guinness Draught, Extra Stout and Foreign Extra Stout, will continue to be brewed at St. James’s Gate in Dublin, guests can enjoy them responsibly alongside the new American innovation beers in the brewery’s taproom. The exact number of beers on tap will vary, but there will typically be more than 15 beers available at one time. All beer sales and sampling will be limited to guests 21 years of age and over, but the destination will offer fun for people of all ages.
Restaurant on the way
The brewery’s restaurant, led by Executive Chef Sam Anderson, is slated to open later this summer, and the menu will take inspiration from popular local dishes and Guinness’ unmistakable Irish heritage. Leading up to the restaurant’s debut — and even after it opens — guests can order casual bar fare in the taproom or enjoy some of Maryland’s finest food trucks, which will often be stationed on the brewery grounds. The Open Gate Brewery and Barrel House also includes a performance area for future concerts and local community events.
Starting opening weekend, Guinness partner Lyft will set up a permanent pickup lane at the brewery to facilitate convenient and responsible rides home as a part of Diageo’s commitment to responsible drinking and Lyft’s Ride Smart initiative.
Upon opening to the public, the brewery will offer free self-guided tours, and later this summer will also begin to feature guided tours with beer tastings for $10. Taproom entry and access to the restaurant and outdoor grounds will be free of charge. Once guided tours begin, tickets will be available for purchase on site, but Guinness recommends buying them ahead of time. At the outset, Open Gate Brewery and Barrel House operating hours will be Monday-Friday, 3-9 p.m. ET, and Saturday-Sunday, 12-9 p.m. ET.