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Guinness brewery announces summer plans, unveils eco-friendly packaging

Guinness brewery announces summer plans, unveils eco-friendly packaging
Hollie Stephenson, head brewer at the Guinness brewery in Arbutus, stands in the experimental brewing room with one of the sustainably produced can holders. (Cody Boteler / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Environmentally conscious customers of beer from the Guinness Open Gate Brewery in Halethorpe can feel a bit better about some of their purchases of to-go packs as the local destination rolls out compostable and biodegradable packaging.

Six- and four-packs of select beers sold from the brewery will be joined together with biodegradable material rather than traditional plastic rings. The packaging rings are “sustainably sourced,” and made from “by-product waste and other compostable materials,” according to officials from Diageo, Guinness’ parent company.

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“It’s a small volume right now, but every little bit helps,” said Hollie Stephenson, head brewer at the location in Baltimore.

The sustainable ring packaging is not available for all Guinness products sold at the brewery, just monthly experimental brews, but the company has already removed plastic — which lingers in the environment and can be difficult to recycle properly — from packs of its beers.

The latest batch of beers with biodegradable rings have already sold out. They will be used next on batch of a Guinness IPA, exclusively sold at the brewery in four packs of 16-ounce cans.

The brewery has so far released six experimental brews in location-exclusive cans. Its Spring Pilsner release, which sold out in a matter of weeks, was the first to use the new sustainable carriers.

Stephenson, who’s been brewing for 10 years — in Asheville, North Carolina, and in California before joining Guinness — said she’d like to see the program expand in the future. As an example, she said spent agave fibers from some of Diageo’s other liquor businesses could be used to make the packaging rings.

She also said she was proud that the brewery has incorporated so many old barrels — from the 20th century when the building belonged to Baltimore Whiskey Company — as decoration and accent material throughout the brewery. The brewery has taken other small steps, like eschewing plastic straws, Stephenson said.

It is of the “utmost importance to do what we can” to be sustainable, Stephenson said.

The brewery is gearing up for its first full summer since opening in early August last year. Guinness Brand Ambassador Ryan Wagner said the brewery staff “learned a lot” in dealing with crowds and high demand last year, but added that “May, June and July are a completely different animal” compared to later in the summer, fall and winter.

The outside space at the brewery, coming in at 65,000 square feet, features an outdoor bar and a large, wide lawn for sitting or for children to run around on that “has become really popular,” Wagner said.

The inside space, capping out at 30,000 square feet, includes there are tours, tasting and a restaurant that’s open on weekends.

“We wanted to make sure this was a brewery for everybody,” Wagner said — beer aficionados, snobs, Guinness newbies, families and everyone in between.

Starting Memorial Day weekend and running until June 30, customers can get a free, engraved glass at the brewery with any purchase if they sign up for an email list.

For Father’s Day, the brewery has a ticketed, price-fixed menu featuring grilled steaks from noon to 7 p.m. June 16 and 17.

And all summer long, the outdoor bar will be open and lawn games will be out for people to use. There’s ample outdoor seating and plenty of space in the air conditioning inside, too.

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No plans are finalized, but Wagner said the brewery also plans to have events for Independence Day and for the brewery’s “birthday” on Aug. 3.

“We’re hoping for good weather,” Wagner said. “We can give an experience to anyone who comes here.”

This story has been updated.

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