Baltimore County’s new Guinness brewery — the company’s first brewing operation in the U.S. since the 1950s — will open Aug. 3. (Kerl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun video)
Baltimore County’s new Guinness brewery — the company’s first brewing operation in the U.S. since the 1950s — will open Aug. 3.
Located on a 62-acre property in Relay, the Guinness Open Gate Brewery & Barrel House will open to the public for tours, taproom tastings and dining in a 270-seat restaurant, said Ryan Wagner, a brand ambassador for the beer-maker during a media tour on Wednesday.
Known for its stout, a near-ubiquitous presence on bar taps around the world, Guinness first announced plans for the brewery in early 2017. In October, it opened a test taproom on the property to give visitors an early taste of what to expect when the brewery opens.
Guinness used barley and hops from Maryland in its latest beer, the Crosslands Pale Ale. The name is a nod to the Crossland family crest, which constitutes the red and white portion of the Maryland flag.
While the stout will continue to be produced at the original brewery in Dublin, Ireland, the Baltimore County facility will brew different styles and flavors — an attempt to tap into the growing American market for craft beer, Wagner said. (Don’t fret, Guinness loyalists: The stout will be served as well.)
“I think what people will be more excited to see are the [India pale ales], the Belgian-inspired beers, sours, barrel-aged beers,” Wagner said. “There’s no limit to the creativity. If we can dream it, we can do it.”
One of the most asked questions since the brewery plans were announced, Wagner said, has been “Why would Guinness choose Baltimore County?” The property in Relay, which is south of Arbutus, was already owned by Guinness parent company Diageo, which had used it most recently for bottling and aging Captain Morgan rum products until 2015. The decision of where to build Guinness’ first U.S. brewery in decades was a practical one.
Wagner said that Dublin and Baltimore share a blue-collar, hard-working attitude, which also made it a fine fit.
The goal in the first year is to attract 300,000 visitors, Wagner said. Once they arrive, they’ll be able to pay for a guided tour, or take their own self-guided tour, he said.
On Wednesday, the taproom had beers like Guinness Blonde Lager and Guinness Cherry Stout on draft. Led by brewers Peter Wiens and Hollie Stephenson, the Relay facility will also focus on its barrel-aging program, which allows beers to age in barrels previously used in the production of other spirits and then imparts flavors into the beer. They won’t have to look hard for barrels — Diageo owns other alcohol companies like Ciroc and Captain Morgan.
A year after the Maryland General Assembly passed regulatory reforms intended to help craft breweries grow, a debate over beer is set to be renewed on Friday. But while last year's discussions were focused on Guinness' plans for a Baltimore County brewery, this time, the goal is less clear.
The $80 million brewery project is designed in large part to be a beer fan’s destination, with 92 taps on site, all serving Guinness-brewed beers, Wagner said. It will create approximately 200 hospitality jobs, said Oliver Gray, the brewery’s marketing manager, who co-hosted the tour with Wagner.
Baltimore County Councilman Tom Quirk said the brewery will be “a wonderful economic engine for the community.”
“It’s absolutely one of the best things we have going, not only in southwest Baltimore County, but in the entire county,” said Quirk, an Oella Democat. “It’s going to bring over 300,000 people to our community, who will hopefully not only spend money at Guinness, but also at surrounding businesses.”
The brewery is located on the first floor, while the taproom is on the second and the restaurant — which will be operated by food-service company Aramark — is on the third. The building, which is handicap accessible, will not have TVs in an effort to promote conversation, Gray said.
With more than 100 artifacts from the Dublin brewery, the Guinness facility in Relay aims to educate visitors on the brand’s history, Wagner said.
So far, the test taproom averages approximately 1,000 visitors each weekend, Wagner said. The hope is to quickly build on that success with a much larger and more engaging experience at the new brewery.
“We want you to show up, feel welcome from the minute you walk in, get a bit of an education, have a beer or two and then come back the next time,” Wagner said. “More than anything else, we want people to come here and experience all of our culture.”