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The only Guinness brewery in the United States plans to open in early August.
The only Guinness brewery in the United States plans to open in early August. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

A tri-county region is expected to get a heady economic development boost when Guinness opens its first U.S. brewing operation since the 1950s on Aug. 3 in Baltimore County.

Baltimore County Councilman Tom Quirk, who represents the Relay area where the brewery is, said Guinness will be “a wonderful economic engine for the community.”

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“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 Democrat. “It’s an over $80 million investment. 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.”

Located on a 62-acre former Seagram’s bottling plant, the Guinness Open Gate Brewery & Barrel House will employ about 200 people and be 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 this week.

Known for its stout, a near-ubiquitous presence on tap at bars 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.

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot and state lawmakers clashed at a hearing over beer regulations Friday in Annapolis.

Will Anderson, Baltimore County’s economic development director, said he expects the project to contribute to revitalization in an area that includes Arbutus, Catonsville, Halethorpe and Lansdowne.

“There is a huge multiplier from these 300,000 expected visitors who will come into Relay every year,” Anderson said.

The brewery also is expected to have a spillover effect into nearby Elkridge in Howard County and Linthicum in Anne Arundel County.

Anderson said Baltimore County and its neighboring counties have been working with Guinness on recruitment and hiring. He said the brewing company hired a local firm, Plano Coudon, as its lead building contractor and has been involving itself in community affairs.

“They are doing an exceptional job of investing locally,” he said.

Oliver Gray, the brewery’s marketing manager, said the brewery, restaurant and taproom will employ about 150 people and another 50 will work in supply and packaging.

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.

Vernon Thompson, executive vice president of the Howard County Economic Development Authority, said the project will bring regional benefits.

“We think it’s good for Howard County,” especially Elkridge, he said.

Thompson said it ties in with the county’s efforts to revitalize the U.S. 1 corridor from Elkridge to Laurel.

While Guinness 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. The stout will be served as well.

The taproom has beers such as Guinness Blonde Lager and Guinness Cherry Stout on draft.

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A House of Delegates bill calls for limiting the amount of beer Maryland's small breweries can serve on their premises while allowing large breweries, such as the one being built in Baltimore County by Guinness, to maintain existing amounts.

Led by brewers Peter Wiens and Hollie Stephenson, the Relay facility also will focus on its barrel-aging program, which allows beers to age in barrels previously used in the production of other spirits and then impart those flavors into the beer. They won’t have to look hard for barrels — Guinness is owned by Diageo, a wine, beer and spirits conglomerate that owns other brands like Ciroc and Captain Morgan.

One of the most asked questions at the new brewery is “Why would Guinness choose Baltimore County?” Wagner noted Diageo already owned the property, using it for bottling and aging Captain Morgan rum products, so it was a practical decision.

Wagner added that Dublin and Baltimore share a blue-collar, hard-working attitude, which also made it a fine fit.

The 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.

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.

Baltimore Sun reporter Pamela Wood contributed to this article.

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