By Wynne Kirchner
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
The Guinness brewery set to open in the Baltimore area next fall is drawing support not only from local and state government officials but also from smaller brew houses that hope the new facility will attract tourist and beer drinkers to their establishments.
Diageo Beer Co. USA, the parent company of Guinness, announced in late January that it would be developing a full-fledged Guinness brewery in an old distillery that closed in 2015 at 5001 Washington Blvd. in Relay, a suburb of Baltimore.
The facility would brew and sell beer on-site, as well as bottle, package, and distribute beer from the plant. The front of the building would have a taproom where beer and other merchandise would be sold, with the brewing and bottling taking place in the back, said Kevin Atticks, executive director for the Maryland Brewer’s Association.
This will be the first time in 63 years that Guinness will be operating in the United States. Diageo estimates that the facility will bring about 70 jobs to the area.
The Baltimore County Economic and Workforce Development office did not know the exact size of the building but estimated it will be about 100,000 square feet.
Atticks said that Guinness’s new facility will add to the beer community in the Baltimore region.
“The brewer’s association is excited to have Guinness join the Maryland brewing scene,” he said.
While there has been excitement over the facility, there has also been concerns over how the laws relating to selling beer on premise will change.
Current Maryland law allows a brewery to produce a maximum of 500 barrels per year for the taproom. Guinness wants to be able to produce 5,000 barrels per year, Atticks said.
To help clear the way for the Guinness proposal, the General Assembly is considering two bills this year that would increase the amount of beer that can be brewed in the state.
House Bill 1391 would allow Guinness to produce 5,000 barrels while House Bill 1420 would allow all breweries in Maryland to produce up to 4,000 barrels, Atticks said.
“While we understand the wish for Guinness to produce that volume, we need to make sure that every brewery in Maryland will be legally allowed to also produce that much beer,” Atticks said.
One brewery that would benefit greatly by HB-1420 is Clipper City Brewing Co., the creator of Heavy Seas beer.
The Clipper City brewery is located less than two miles from the planned Guinness site, which excites the company.
“We feel that the presence of a company like Guinness will bring a lot of tourists into the area to visit our brewery after they visit Guinness,” said Cory Dauses, a sales manager for Heavy Seas. “They will be a welcome addition to the community.”
When the brewery was first announced, Diageo said it did not plan to make its famous Irish stout in the brewery.
Instead, Guinness plans to use the site to produce Guinness Blonde, an American-style lager beer, as well as make experimental craft beers that would be sold in the taproom, Atticks said.
The lack of stout production is something that Jack Milani, owner of Monaghan’s Pub in the Gwynn Oak area of Baltimore and the legislative chairman for the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association, is not thrilled about.
“We would like to see the Guinness stout production….come down here because that’s really meaningful brewery jobs,” Milani said. He estimates that producing the stout would double the number of jobs due to the demand for the product.
Milani also said that the Guinness stout is a mainstay at his pub and was hoping that he could start selling Guinness stout made in Maryland by local people, which he says would also lower distribution costs.
Milani said that when he talked to a North American representative for Guinness, there were no plans to begin production of the stout at a later date.
Milani, however, is encouraged to hear that the brewery plans to focus on its tasting room and offering tours, instead of functioning like a regular bar.
The brewery plans to open in the fall and hopes to have 250,000 visitors a year, according to Milani.