American Craft Beer was recently invited to tour Guinness’ soon-to-open brewery in Maryland, their first to operate in the United States since leaving New York in 1954.
And although we are always interested in these kinds of things…we were totally unprepared for the scope, scale and ambition of what Guinness will soon be unveiling in Baltimore County.
Here’s the deal…
Their first brewery in more than 60 years, Guinness Open Gate Brewery & Barrel House hopes to replicate the success of its St James’s Gate Guinness Brewery in Dublin, which welcomes 1.5 million tourists each year.
Based just south of Baltimore Guinness’ new 62-acre brewing campus was once home to the Calvert Distillery a legendary post-Prohibition operator that that for decades produced the mid-Atlantic’s popular Lord Calvert Whisky brand.
But it’s now in the final stages of a transformation into a new platform for Guinness that’s a virtual Disneyland for brewing.
And although the site we toured was still very much a work in progress, the finished product promises to be a state-of-the-art beer destination with serious craft beer cred that taps into the company’s heritage and points to its future at the same time.
Guinness new $80m operation will be home three separate brewhouses– a small two barrel pilot brewery, a 10 barrel brewhouse dedicated to experimental beer, and a custom-designed 100 hectoliter brew hub as well as large and small-scale packaging lines.
It will also become the new home for the only widely distributed Guinness beer made only in America of Guinness Blonde American Lager, which is currently contract brewed at City Brewing in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.
And Guinness’ conceptual respect for what they’ll soon be opening in Baltimore County’s Relay neighborhood, perfectly mirrors their respect they afford their trademark beers…
Some of ground’s original “rickhouses” which once housed thousands of whiskey barrels are being lovingly transformed into a brewery experience that is anticipated to draw 250,000 its first year.
In additional to offering both self-guided and more detailed curated tours, Guinness Open Gate Brewery & Barrel House will feature two beer-centric restaurants with spectacular views of the grounds.
There’s also a large open courtyard lawn shaped like a Guinness pint glass that’s wired for concert sound to support touring musical talent that will be preforming there from time to time.
Guinness was just putting the finishing touches on their centerpiece taproom during our visit and it was striking.
It’s more than 40 working taps spit between two separate stations will showcase a full spectrum of experimental and barrel-aged creations overseen by brewing players like Peter Wiens who honed his skills at Stone Brewing in Escondido, Holly Stephenson, who also worked at Stone but more recently Highland Brewing.
They’ve also enlisted Sean Brennan formerly of Jolly Pumpkin to head their barrel-aging program, which speaks to Guinness’ serious commitment to exploring that direction.
Although Guinness Open Gate Brewery & Barrel House doesn’t officially until August 3rd, it looks to be one of the nation’s most exciting new brewing destinations…an awesome as well as ambitious endeavor that takes the historic brewery in exciting and undeniably experimental directions.