500+ dollars seems like a lot to pay for a beer, even if it comes with an experience. Pretty soon, though, you can leave airfare out of the equation when taking a trip to Ireland’s most famous brewery. Guinness has recently announced plans to open a brewhouse in Relay, Maryland, just outside of Baltimore City.
Exciting stuff, though I’m sure many beer drinkers will be upset after hearing the following news: The brewery will not be making its classic stout to serve stateside! Guinness’ move to the United States, however, is a great development in other ways.
The Open Gate Brewery is, amongst other things, a craft brew operation under the huge international umbrella of Guinness. To move this operation to America will give the antique Irish brand an opportunity to show off its technical chops, which will likely surprise a ton of craft beer fans. The Dublin beermaker has since produced an imperial German-style wheat beer, numerous hoppy pilsners, and historical recreations of early Guinness recipes.
Popular Mechanics reports that beers from the original Open Gate have already started trickling into the U.S. market, which makes for interesting drinking for those interested in a preview of what’s to come. Currently, you can pick up the Brewers Project Pack, a mixed case with three beers from the Open Gate. The highlight of the pack is the Milk Stout. It’s just as dark as the classic but sweeter and smoother.
None of this will make Guinness a “craft beer” maker if you want to get technical about it. A craft brewery, as defined by the trade group the Brewers Association, must be independent, small, and traditional. Guinness isn’t owned by megabrewer AB InBev, but it is run by multi-national beverage company Diageo (also the world’s largest whiskey producer), so scratch independence. It’s also not small, which per the Brewers Association means making less that 6 million barrels (186 million gallons) annually—a mark Guinness easily exceeds.
But really it’s the last requirement that’s the most important. Being “traditional” means a brewer makes quality beer devoid of cheap shortcuts. Guinness checks that box, and so whatever the brewmasters in Baltimore dream up, it’s bound to be good.
Guinness says the new Open Gate will open along with a “mid-size” (probably still very large) brewery and a Guinness visitor experience, essentially a history lesson with beer). The whole operation will be built on Diageo’s existing bottling and production facility in Relay, Maryland, and the company hopes to begin construction this spring.
These plans are still not finalized, though there are hopes to start construction this spring and open in fall 2017 timed to the 200th anniversary of Guinness imports to the U.S.
According to the company, the new facility will bring 40 jobs in brewing, warehousing, and an agile packaging operation, which may include canning, bottling and kegging. The new Guinness visitor experience will also create about 30 jobs.