Before the new Guinness brewery opened Friday in Baltimore County, friends Dwayne Jenkins and Ryan Foley worried that the line was so long they might not make it in.
Then the gates opened, and hundreds came pouring in. Within an hour, 1,000 people had entered.
They had good reason: Guinness was opening its only brewery in the United States, and the legendary Irish brewer had picked the Baltimore region to call home.
“It’s an honor to be here on the first day,” said Foley, 34, of Westminster. “There’s been so much negative publicity about Baltimore and it’s such a great place to live. It’s so awesome to have this here to show the world what Baltimore is all about.”
Known as the Guinness Open Gate Brewery & Barrel House, the $90 million project opened just over the city line in the southwest Baltimore County town of Relay — not far from the Heavy Seas brewery.
Outside the facility fly Maryland, American and Irish flags.
Inside, the site brews Guinness Blonde American Lager, but also a variety of smaller-batch beers, including a cherry stout and a guava wheat beer. A 250-person taproom — and 92 total taps — are pouring Guinness products from one-off brews to the standard stout, most of which are made at the facility. On Friday, guests enjoyed a strong barley wine, for instance.
Not all of Guinness’ styles will be brewed in Maryland. The famous Guinness Draught Stout and Guinness Extra Stout will continue to be imported from St. James’s Gate in Ireland.
A 270-seat restaurant is expected to open within weeks.
“It’s a part of history,” said Jenkins, 42, of Glen Burnie, who met Foley about 10 years ago in Federal Hill. “A good brewery brings people together.”
The new Guinness brewery is located at 5001 Washington Blvd., the site of the former Calvert distillery, which has served many functions over the decades before the recent renovation by Diageo, the company that owns Guinness.
The facility is open to the public from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and noon to 9 p.m. on weekends.
Brewery officials said the facility will employ approximately about 200.
The opening drew people from around the region.
Tejas Patel, 28, of Canton bumped into a friend from his neighborhood.
“Opening up a Guinness brewery in Maryland is awesome, especially in this area,” Patel said. “I love the museum setup, the outdoor patio, the live band playing. The beers on tap are great. We have a lot of craft brewery places here, it’s great to have Guinness here too.”
Jason Black, 43, also of Canton, said he was surprised at the size of the crowd.
“I got here 15 minutes after they opened and there were 500 people in front of me,” he said. “This is a big deal. Everyone wants to check this place out.”
The brewery is expected to host more than 300,000 visitors in its first year of operation. Gov. Larry Hogan kicked off the opening festivities with a speech Thursday in which he joked of his personal enthusiasm for Guinness.
“I try to do everything I can to support this company and this industry, one beer at a time,” he said.
Maria Senter of Linthicum described the scene as “fantastic.”
“I think it’s a great thing for Baltimore,” she said. Asked what made her want to come out to the opening, she replied succinctly: “It’s delicious.”