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Guinness brewery 'test taproom' to open Friday in Baltimore County

As Guinness continues to build its first U.S. brewing operation since the 1950s in Relay, the famous beer-maker will open a nearby temporary taproom to the public on Friday.

Located inside an old warehouse at 5001 Washington Blvd., the “test taproom” will be open Fridays (3 p.m.-8 p.m.), Saturdays (11 a.m.-8 p.m.) and Sundays (11 a.m.-5 p.m.), said Ryan Wagner, Guinness brewery ambassador. The goal of the nearly 2,700-square-foot taproom is to raise awareness that the new facility, known as the Guinness Open Gate Brewery & Barrel House, is on track to open next year and to preview the types of beers they’ll brew there, he said.

“It’s a way to get us through the construction phase while still bringing people down and serving some beer and telling the story a little bit more,” Wagner said.

Though the test taproom serves it, Guinness’ most famous beer — the near-black stout Guinness Draught — will not be brewed in Maryland.

But visitors will be able to try experimental beers made by on-site brewers Peter Wiens (formerly of California’s Stone Brewing Co.) and Hollie Stephenson (formerly of Highland Brewing in Asheville, N.C.). Patrons can also expect to see Guinness Blonde Lager, Guinness Extra Stout and other varieties from the Diageo-owned company.

To Wagner, the test taproom and the Relay project overall are ways to remind consumers Guinness does more than stouts.

“This is an opportunity for us to stretch those legs a bit, and work on beers that we might not have otherwise had the chance to work on,” he said.

With an open concept and concrete floors, the test taproom offers a preview of the “industrial feel” the larger facility will have, Wagner said. Unlike the larger facility, which will have its own restaurant, the test taproom does not serve food, though the plan is to have a local food truck on-site each weekend, according to Wagner.

Wagner said the tentative plan is to keep the temporary space open as long as possible before the estimated $50 million production facility opens a short walk away. The path to opening the Open Gate Brewery & Barrel House was not easy, as it played out during the General Assembly session through protracted debate and compromise. But since Guinness’ owner Diageo received permission to move forward with the project, progress has gone smoothly, Wagner said.

“No setbacks,” Wagner said of the facility’s construction process. “A good bet [to open] would be April, May, June — somewhere in that timeframe.”

wesley.case@baltsun.com

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