Guinness Just Opened a Huge Taproom in the U.S. & It’s Got Way More Than Stouts
There are few things more Irish than Guinness. However, the iconic brand is about to get an American twist. On August 3, Guinness opened the Open Gate Brewery and Barrel House in Halethorpe, Maryland, its first U.S. brewery since the '50s. It's also the iconic brand's first U.S. taproom.
On the surface, the move seems strange. Why Baltimore County? Why now? Why Guinness? Brewery Ambassador Ryan Wagner tells Thrillist a number of factors coalesced to make this the right time. First of all Diageo, Guinness's parent company, owned a former Seagrams bottling plant on a 62-acre lot. Guinness is also looking to tap into the growing craft beer market in the US.
Bringing over a bunch of stouts isn't necessarily likely to do that, but the brewery isn't going to be like the St. James's Gate Brewery in Dublin, Wagner says. The stouts will still be produced in Dublin, though you'll certainly find them on tap in Maryland. The new brewery is looking to make its own mark with beers brewed on-site that you can't get anywhere else, including one-off experiments the team can test on its 10-barrel system. Additionally, the brewery is going to be barrel-aging beers, which makes sense considering Diageo's portfolio of spirits. Most of the beers will only be available in the taproom, though some may be canned and distributed in the immediate area.
The operation is led by brewmaster Peter Weins, formerly of Stone Brewing; head brewer Hollie Stephenson, formerly of Stone and Highland Brewing; and senior brewer Sean Brennan, formerly of Stone Brewing and Jolly Pumpkin.
Some local breweries have expressed dismay at the arrival of a brewery owned by a multinational corporation. But others don't see a problem. "I believe the arrival of Guinness strengthens the local beer community," Hugh Sisson, founder of Baltimore's Heavy Sea Beer, tells Thrillist. "Thus far they have been good neighbors, and I see no evidence of that changing. Adding an iconic international beer brand to the Maryland market can do nothing but raise the bar, which is good.
"From a consumer standpoint, I don’t think Guinness is perceived as competing with the local craft brewers, but rather complementing what we do. I suppose that could change, but I don’t think that is likely."
Ty Kreis, Director of Sales at Hysteria Brewing, felt similarly. "It's made Maryland even more of a destination for craft beer lovers and people who aren't necessarily craft beer drinkers but know the name of Guinness. I mean, it's Guinness! One of the OG's in our backyard. I feel like that if people come to see them, they're going to want to see what else we have going on beer-wise," he said. "Obviously, not every brewery is happy with a huge corporation like them coming here. But I'm in the mindset that a rising tide lifts all ships."
The new space will have a taproom, a restaurant (operated by Aramark), and tours. Wagner, who grew up in the area, also says that it'll have a feel that will be uniquely Baltimore. The brewery expects to attract around 300,000 visitors in its opening years. But Wagner says the brewery is built to be a destination that hopefully attracts far more visitors than that. in the not too distant future.