At the only stateside Guinness brewery, the first in the U.S. in more than 60 years, visitors are invited to take a tour of the beer-making facilities, including a pilot brewery where small-batch experimental beers are made, combining centuries of Irish expertise with American creativity. Head to the taproom to sample these one-of-a-kind brews and let the bartender know what you think – your opinion could help keep it on the menu. The brewery has already crafted more than 200 recipes in just under a year of operation. And, you can take a little bit of Guinness home with you with 4- or 6-packs sold on site. Join the brewery on August 3 to celebrate one year in Baltimore with live music and a special anniversary brew.
Also available in the taproom are the classic drafts Guinness lovers will expect: Guinness Blonde, Guinness IPA and Guinness Milk Stout (all brewed in Baltimore), and Guinness Draught, Guinness 200th Anniversary Export Stout and Guinness Foreign Extra Stout (always brewed in Dublin and exported to Baltimore). Check the brewery’s Facebook and Instagram pages for weekly What’s On Tap posts.
Beyond the Beer
The brewery has its own on-site restaurant called 1817 to commemorate the first year that Guinness beer was sent from Ireland to America. The restaurant offers a globally inspired menu representative of the regions where Guinness is available, with nods to Maryland cuisine as well.
The lawn is perfect for families in the warmer weather with plenty of seating and a food truck for a quick bite. Check the event schedule for outdoor concerts and festivals.
Keeping it Local
Guinness chose Baltimore as its American headquarters because of our strong craft beer scene. The Guinness team regularly collaborates with local craft brewers like Heavy Seas and Diamondback Brewing and has sourced ingredients from local purveyors, including honey from Apex Bee Company and coffee from Vent Coffee Roasters.
The brewery has also embraced Maryland pride in the form of apparel, stickers, drinkware and more featuring our iconic gold, red, black and white flag. Guinness Blonde, the brewery’s flagship beer, comes in cans emblazoned with the Maryland flag and the words “Brewed in Baltimore.” It’s the first fusion beer from the brewer, combining the best European techniques with the finest American ingredients and a dose of Baltimore charm.
The launch of the Guinness Open Gate & Barrel House marks the first time a statewide Guinness brewery has existed since 1954, giving guests the chance to enjoy innovative, experimental and barrel-aged beers. During the free brewery tour guests can learn all about Guinness history, including the creation of John Gilroy’s iconic zoo animal ads, the scientific development of nitro kegs and the story of Guinness’s 9,000-year lease in Dublin. For a small fee, sample the latest drafts at the end of your tour.
The site of the only American Guinness factory is as historic as it is remarkable, as it lies directly on Washington Boulevard where Maryland’s first legal distillery after Prohibition flourished for decades. The Maryland Distilling Company opened in 1933 and was eventually bought by Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, a distiller of Canadian whiskey that was once the largest owner of alcoholic beverage lines in the world.
In 2001, Diageo, a British alcohol producer, took over and made the plant its own. While the beverages made and served have changed to beer, the memories of past distillers still remain in the form of leftover barrels and swabs that brewers can use for experimentation.
Get to Know Head Brewer Hollie Stephenson
Head Brewer Hollie Stephenson is a rarity in her field—in 2014, according to a Stanford University study of 1,700 breweries, only four percent had a female head brewer or brewmaster. She joined Guinness Open Gate Brewery and Barrel House when it opened in 2018 after stints at Stone in San Diego and Highland in Asheville. Here, she’s able to experiment with new recipes and ingredients to create beers that Guinness drinkers have never seen before, and many that are only available at the brewery’s taproom. Recent releases dreamed up by Stephenson include a blonde lager, a coffee stout made with Baltimore-based Vent Coffee Roasters coffee, and a Saison Blanc, which is made using Sauvignon Blanc grape must (fittingly, it was brewed on March 8, International Women’s Day).
1. You came to Baltimore from Asheville, a popular craft beer destination with the most breweries per capita in the U.S. What drew you to Baltimore to work for Guinness?
I lived in Washington, D.C. for 10 years in my first career so I knew Baltimore well, and I knew I loved it already. So when this opportunity came up it wasn’t a huge risk because it was a place that was familiar. I always loved South Baltimore and being by the harbor, and Mount Vernon, Fell’s Point too. There was always just such an artsy and easygoing community vibe in the neighborhoods I used to hang out in. Funny enough, I used to come to city regularly to go to Max’s Taproom in Fell’s Point. Before I even went to brewing school I was just fangirling over the bottle list at Max’s. They’re like pioneers in what they do, offering so many imported and craft beers in one place.
2. Diageo has said before that they picked Baltimore because of our fast-growing craft beer scene, but why do you think Baltimore is the perfect place for Guinness’ only American brewery?
There are obvious synergies if you look at Guinness roots. I mean, there is a Baltimore in Ireland. Between being on the coast in Ireland and being on the water here, and this being an oyster and crab and seafood town – Guinness has always been into beer and seafood, so there were just some natural synergies there.
And something I didn’t know about at first was the heritage of brewing in Baltimore. There used to be massive breweries here – like millions of barrels. And I try to imagine what that was like. There’s just such a cool historical piece around brewing in Baltimore and I connect that to Guinness’ history. For me personally it just makes a lot of sense, like Baltimore deserves beer.
3. What does this specific location, originally the home of Maryland Distilling Company, opened in 1933, and then Seagram, offer to Guinness?
People might not realize [it] but this site is very similar in size and acreage to St. James Gate in Dublin. What we’ve done here is keep as much of the old structure as we possibly can. We put a lot of time and money and effort into keeping it structurally sound rather than build in a field somewhere. It’s a very Guinness thing to respect history and to make sure people remember it, but also build on it. Evolving while still valuing the history that came before.
4. You've already worked with a few local breweries and purveyors. Can we expect to see more of that in the future?
Absolutely. We have a Crosslands series where at least quarterly we’ll put on a beer that either features a Maryland ingredient prominently or is made of all Maryland ingredients. The Crosslands Honey Ale is made with raw, local wildflower honey from Apex Bee Company who has hives just 1.5 miles from the brewery.
5. What are your goals for the brewery?
We want to continue to be the home of Guinness blonde which is made right here on site. But beyond that, the pilot brewery is the testing ground for what might move to the production hall next so I keep thinking, ‘what will the first Baltimore-born Guinness beer be that makes it nationally?’ Half of what we make will never have a chance at being scaled up to production, but that’s where we really get to play and do stuff we wouldn’t normally get to do.
Barrel-aging is another big piece of what we do. We’re doing a beer for our one-year anniversary [on August 3]. We brewed an imperial stout and we put it into Bulleit bourbon barrels and then we brewed a Belgian golden ale and put it into old rum barrels from this site and we’ll blend them together as the grand cru for our anniversary party. It’s a blend of our partners within Diageo and a wink to the history of aging barrels on this site.
6. You were named the 2019 beer person of the year by Imbibe and you’re one of very few female leading brewers. Do you feel any responsibility with that?
Absolutely. It’s not something where I just look forward to the day where I don’t have to talk about it anymore. I support the Pink Boots Society which is an organization that devotes nearly all its money to scholarships for women in beer. That’s really important to me. Ensuring representation and diversity in hiring processes – just bringing other women along with me and involving them. And it’s not just brewers, it’s involving women in every stage along the way. One of my favorite partnerships in Baltimore has been with Sarah at Vent Coffee Roasters to create our coffee stout.
7. For International Women’s Day this year, the brewery sold a saison blanc with 50% of the proceeds benefitting Pink Boots Society. Why was that special to you?
I manage the brewing department but there is a huge department of people who work in packaging, warehousing, office functions, on the hospitality side, and we opened it up to all of them to come for that brew day and it ended up about 80% of the people who came were women. So we were able to spend the day not just standing around brewing, but we made it a fully educational grain to glass day. It was so cool to see people light up when there were opportunities to participate. But I’ve also probably never had a group of people who have asked such good and engaged questions. It was incredible to involve all the women from all the departments here and in the end make a beer that they were really proud of and sad to see go away.
8. What are some of your favorite spots in Baltimore? Where do you recommend a visitor go?
Most of my favorite things to do in Baltimore have to do with eating and drinking. I love the 23rd Street corridor in Remington with Fadensonnen, Clavel and W.C. Harlan. I like all of Cindy Wolf’s restaurants. I love Little Italy. I’m super stoked for Cross Street Market to be back open. I love Mount Vernon Marketplace and I’ve been going to Broadway Market. Barfly’s is an absolute go to for salad and pizza. Cocina Luchadores is my favorite, favorite for tacos. I also love the American Visionary Art Museum because they’re all self-taught or amateur artists, and reading their stories about what they’ve gone through is incredible. Take a Water Taxi to get there!