Guinness’ New U.S. Brewery Opens This Summer & It Was Well Worth The Wait
If you’ve always longed to visit the St. James’ Gate Brewery & Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, but, uh, haven’t actually been able to make it over to Ireland yet, I have some excellent news for you: Guinness is opening a brewery in the United States in just about a months’ time. Called the Guinness Open Gate Brewery and Barrel House, the brand-new facility will finally fling wide its doors on Aug. 3, reports Food and Wine — and if you happen to live in the Washington, D.C. or Baltimore, Md. area, you’re in luck: It’s practically in your backyard.
Incidentally, I happen to live in the Washington, D.C. area. I cannot tell you how ecstatic I am about my proximity to this place. I love Guinness. This is wonderful.
The new facility is located in Relay, Md., about 10 miles south of Baltimore and around 35 miles north of D.C. Like the St. James’ Gate brewery in Dublin, which has been in operation since 1759, it will function both as a beer-making facility and a sort of museum; according to Food and Wine, a visitor’s center, the opportunities to take both guided and self-guided tours, and the chance to see more than 100 items and artifacts on display which have come straight from the Dublin facility itself are all slated to be part of the programming. It sounds like a Guinness lover’s dream.
…By which I mean, it is my dream.
There will also be a taproom, of course; indeed, a “test taproom” actually opened in October of 2017 in preparation for the 2018 full opening. When the brewery opens fully in August, a 270-seat restaurant will also be part of the experience — and if the test taproom menu is anything to go by, there will be some excellent and creative brews available to try: According to the Open Gate Brewery’s website, the current menu features Guinness Milk Stout, Guinness Golden Series, Guinness Cherry Stout, and Guinness Guava Wit, among others. Heck, and yes.
This isn’t the first time Guinness has opened a brewery somewhere other than Ireland; it’s not even the first time the company opened a brewery in the United States: In 1949, the Arthur Guinness & Son Brewery opened its doors in the Long Island City area of Queens, New York. It was short lived, however, closing just a few years later in 1954. Guinness has had other breweries that have opened and closed over the year, as well; the Park Royal brewery formerly located in London, for example, opened in 1936, but closed in 2005 when production for all Guinness products in the UK and Ireland was shifted back to Ireland entirely. But the company brews in almost 50 countries worldwide right now, so perhaps it’s to be expected that they’d eventually come back to the United States.
Plans for the Maryland-based brewery were first announced in January of 2017. At the time, Guinness parent company Diageo noted in a statement according to Fortune that “the new brewery would be a home for new Guinness beers created for the U.S. market”; added Diago Beer Company USA President Tom Day, “Opening a Guinness brewery and visitor center in the United States will enable us to collaborate with fellow brewers and interact with the vibrant community of beer drinkers.”
The site chosen for the facility already belonged to another brand in Diageo’ portfolio; it had recently been used to store and age Captain Morgan rum. Its history goes back much further, though: Originally opened in 1933 as the Maryland Distillery — the state of Maryland’s first legal distillery following the end of Prohibition, according to the Baltimore Sun — it was bought not too long after by Joseph E. Seagram & Sons. Seagram produced their Calvert whiskey out of the facility; indeed, by 1988, all of Seagram’s Baltimore-area operations were run out of what had become known as the Calvert Distillery. The Calvert brand was sold off in 1991, though, and a decade later, Seagram itself was bought by Diageo. Bottling activities at the Relay plant ceased in 2015.
The end of bottling at the Calvert Distillery was deeply felt in the region; a lot of jobs were lost: The facility went from employing 103 people to just employing four, reported the Baltimore Sun. It’s not known whether the opening of the new Guinness brewery will help mitigate those losses, but it might, and that’s, as they say, not nothing.
According to the Open Gate Brewery’s website (whose address, hilariously, is newguinnessbrewery.com), there will be three brewhouses on site: A two-barrel pilot brewery, a 10 hectoliter system that will function as a sort of test kitchen (it will focus on experimental “small-batch and one-off brews” for the facility’s taproom), and a 100 hectoliter system that will take over production of Guinness Blonde American Lager. The Blonde American Lager has been made under contract by City Brewing in Latrobe, Pa. since 2014; now, though, production will move to the Open Gate Brewery for nationwide distribution. The hope is also to use the 100HL system “to brew new beers for the U.S. market for either regional or national release” eventually, too.
Important to note, however: The Open Gate Brewery will not produce any of Guinness’ iconic stouts. Longtime favorites like Guinness Draught Stout and Guinness Extra Stout will continue to be imported to the United States exclusively from Ireland — so, y’know, just… don’t go to the new brewery expecting to get a freshly-brewed pint of your old standby. I would argue that’s kind of exciting, actually; it means that what will be on tap likely won’t be available anywhere else (cherry stout? Yes please). But if you must have a classic stout, the taproom has several Irish imports available, too; the menu rotates, but you can check out what they’ve currently got available here.
The Open Gate Brewery and Barrel House will open to the public on Aug. 3, 2018. Head on over to its website for visitors’ information and more.