Chris Hayden was first through the door when the Guinness Open Gate Brewery and Barrel House opened in Halethorpe a year ago, and he was first in line again when the plant celebrated its first birthday Aug. 3.
The Guinness superfan said he couldn’t miss the celebration. And, even though it meant traveling to Baltimore County from a small town in New York, it’s definitely not the farthest he’s traveled for a pint.
“I travel to Dublin at least once a year,” Hayden said while sitting at the bar. He said he loves the company, the history and, of course, the beer itself.
“I plan to sample it all,” he said.
About 4,000 people turned out on Saturday to drink beer, sample from among 3,000 custom-made cupcakes from Charm City Cakes and dance and sing along with a free Frankie Ballard concert. While the brewery has hosted live music before, Ballard’s was the first performance on a temporary stage built on the lawn.
The Guinness Open Gate Brewery and Barrel House opened last Aug. 3, and since then has served more than 400,000 visitors and employed about 250 full-time employees, said Ryan Wagner, a “brewery ambassador.”
A year ago when the team was preparing for its grand opening, Wagner said there was “an air of panic," just as there might be for any live performance or opening day. Wagner said he had to hop behind the bar on day one, because so many customers rushed in quickly.
“It’s much more celebratory today,” Wagner said.
A boon for area
County Councilman Tom Quirk, who represents the area where the Guinness Brewery is located, said that every time he’s been there to visit, parking hasn’t been easy to come by, a sign of the location’s popularity.
“You have people traveling from all over the country to come to Guinness. I think it’s going to be only natural” that some visit nearby restaurants and shops in Arbutus, she said.
The brewery is a member of GABA, listed as a “sponsorship plus member,” which according to the business association’s website, means they’ve paid a fee of at least $550 to the organization. Tebo said Guinness also sponsored a beer garden during the last Arbutus Arts Festival.
“Through their membership they’ve been able to support a lot of our projects,” she said.
Wagner said he’s glad the brewery is in Baltimore County. The location has been everything the company had hoped it would be, and the “success” of Guinness might “change the narrative” of Baltimore a bit, he said.
The Baltimore County site is the only Guinness Brewery stateside, and its largest production focus is on the brand’s blonde lager, not the classic stout. The county brewery is also home to dozens of experimental, smaller-batch brews. Wagner said about 80 varieties of beer have been brewed in Halethorpe, and about 80 percent of what’s sold at the bar is brewed locally rather than in Dublin.
The Halethorpe site, formerly the home of Calvert Distillery, was renovated by Diageo, Guinness’ parent company, in a project running about $90 million. Diageo already owned the property; it acquired it when it purchased the Seagram Co. in 2001.
Amanda Garrido, a bartender at the brewery since it opened last year, said she’s glad to work where she does.