Guinness Is Good For U.S., Opening First American Brewery Since 1950s

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Guinness US first brewery Baltimore brew masters

Guinness owner Diageo confirmed this week that August 3rd will be the opening date for its first U.S. brewery, which is opening in Baltimore, MD. Guinness last made its iconic dark stout on U.S. soil in the 1950s, some 64 years ago. Now it’s hoping that its new American brewery and visitor experience will prove as popular as its flagship brewery in Dublin.

Guinness US Open Gate Brewery

“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,” said Baltimore County councilman Tom Quirk to the Baltimore Sun.

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 Guinness representative Ryan Wagner at a press preview this week.

Baltimore's Guinness Open Gate Brewery & Barrel House will open in August

Guinness announced plans for the brewery in 2017 and in January welcomed a female head brewer, Hollie Stephenson, to its brewery team. Last October it opened a test taproom—offering Guinness Blonde Lager and Guinness Cherry Stout on draft—on the property to give visitors a preview of what to expect when the brewery opens.

Oliver Gray, the brewery’s marketing manager, said the property (which Diageo already owned) will employ about 150 people at its brewery, restaurant and taproom (with 92 taps on site) and 50 more in its supply and packaging operation.

Guinness US Open Gate Brewery

More details from the FAQ on the brewery’s website:

Why are you building a Guinness brewery in America?

Although Arthur Guinness signed a lease on a brewery in Dublin, Ireland in 1759, brewing in other countries has long been a part of our story. We opened our first non-Irish brewery in London in 1936, and currently brew in 49 countries.

The USA is probably the most dynamic and exciting beer market in the world right now, and, put simply, we’d like to be closer to the action. Having a brewery in the USA will help us understand and respond to trends more quickly, as well as brew smaller batches and get them to market faster.

The new brewery will also be the home for Guinness Blonde American Lager, the only Guinness beer currently made in America, by our friends at City Brewing in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

And it gives us the opportunity to welcome Guinness fans, old and new, to the first Guinness brewery on American soil in over 63 [editor’s note: now 64] years (we briefly owned a brewery in Long Island City, New York, from 1949-1954) and offer some Irish hospitality!

Why did you choose the site in Maryland?

The Guinness Open Gate Brewery & Barrel House will be on the site of the historic Calvert distillery in Baltimore County, 10 miles from downtown Baltimore and 30 miles northeast of Washington DC.

The distillery, originally called the Maryland Distilling Company, was the first opened after prohibition in Maryland, in 1933. For decades it distilled, barrel-aged and bottled several spirits brands, notably the Lord Calvert Whisky brand. In 2001 the site was acquired by Diageo as part of the purchase of Seagram, and spirits aging and bottling continued at scale until 2015 (and actually continues to this day as a live production site).

Guinness Baltimore brewery

The site itself is almost 62 acres in size and is adjacent to Route 1, is minutes from the I95, 195 and 895 freeways, and is 4 miles from BWI International Airport. It has a long history, integral to the local area, just off the Civil War trail and even has a protected pre-Civil War graveyard on its grounds.

Geographically, the site is fantastically situated, with several large cities within a 300-mile radius of the brewery and excellent transport links, by air, rail, sea and road. It’s also a large brownfield site with wonderful history and heritage and enormous potential to be redeveloped.

But also, we love the area. Baltimore is an amazing city with respect for the past combined a sense of dynamism and excitement for the future. The brewing industry in Maryland is growing fast with several notable breweries making a name for themselves locally and nationally. We hope we can help the industry prosper and achieve the recognition we think it deserves. We also believe there is huge potential for increased tourism in the area. We look forward to working in concert with local partners to bring about a significant impact from increased visitors who will be able not just to experience what we hope is a best-in-class brewery visit, but everything else Maryland has to offer.

What brewing systems will you have? What will be brewed there?

We will have three brewhouses on site. A small 2 barrel pilot brewery, a 10 hectoliter brewhouse built by DME Brewing Solutions and a custom-designed 100 hectoliter brewhouse built by GEA. All three systems will be set up to brew and ferment various styles. There will also be large and small-scale packaging lines capable of filling various formats.

The 10 HL system will initially brew small-batch and one-off brews for the taproom onsite. Our brewing teams will have a remit to explore and experiment with what Guinness beers can be. At this point we don’t know what we’ll come up with, so watch this space.

The 100 HL system will initially brew Guinness Blonde American Lager for national distribution. In time, our aim is to brew new beers for the US market for either regional or national release on this system. It is one sixth the size of our world-class Brewhouse 4 at St James’s Gate, so it will enable us to brew at a smaller scale.

None of our iconic stouts – such as Guinness Draught Stout and Guinness Extra Stout – will be brewed in Maryland. They will continue to be imported from Ireland.

Will it be open to visitors?

The brewery will indeed be open to the public, with a full visitor center and experience. We plan on providing taprooms to taste the full range of Guinness beers, including new brewery-only releases, as well as places to learn about the Guinness story, the story of the Relay site, to learn about our brewing processes and just to enjoy spending time in a relaxing setting. We will also offer tours of the brewery with Guinness beer specialists and the opportunity to buy Guinness merchandise, some of which will be brewery-only limited edition. The exact layout of the facility is to be confirmed, but we hope that, pending demand, we will be able to cater to drop in visitors.

Will there still be beers imported from Ireland?

Guinness Blonde American Lager, our golden lager, is currently brewed under contract at City Brewing in Latrobe PA. We plan to brew Guinness Blonde at the new brewery for national distribution.

None of our iconic stouts – including Guinness Draught Stout, the world’s first nitro beer, and Guinness Extra Stout – will be brewed at the new site. They will continue to be brewed at St James’s Gate and imported to the US.

What are you doing to support the local community?

We are excited to play an active role in the community around the brewery, and will take every opportunity to help support and grow the local economy. We are actively looking at appropriate and productive partnerships right now. Naturally we cannot support everything, so we’re working proactively to ensure we make the greatest impact with our resources.

Guinness Open Gate Brewery in Dublin Ireland

Why is the brewery named the Guinness Open Gate Brewery & Barrel House?

In 2015 we opened the longstanding pilot brewery at St James’s Gate [in Dublin] to the public. We literally opened the gate to the place in which innovative brewers have long been working to explore new beers for Guinness, so we called it the Open Gate Brewery.

Our new brewery in Baltimore will share the spirit of exploration and discovery of its sister brewery in Dublin, hence the name. However, the new brewery will also be a center of exploration and innovation in barrel-aging, as a nod not only to the site’s heritage as a distillery (the visitor center is being built in an old barrel rick house), but also to the long tradition Guinness has of aging beer in wood.

We know that it will take some time, but we’re hopeful that the Open Gate Brewery & Barrel House will become a leading destination for unique barrel-aged beers.

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