Call it the luck of the Irish: Of all the towns in all the cities in all the land, Guinness decided to open its first U.S. brewery in more than 60 years in Relay, Maryland. Even locals need some help finding it on a map—the 400-home town is right between Hanover and Halethorpe, a stone’s throw over the Patapsco River to BWI Airport.
“This location is perfect,” says Andrew Beebe, head of Guinness’ new Open Gate Brewery & Barrel House, which opened a test taproom last month, with the full campus coming in 2018. “We’re right off 95, and coming at a time when craft beer is on the rise in Baltimore.”
It makes sense that Guinness would want to land here, but what do neighbors think about the behemoth 62-acre campus landing in their backyard? “We generally try to keep [Relay] a secret,” says Bill Hermann, who has lived there with his wife, Faith, for 40 years. “The [Guinness] site is a big piece of property and we were afraid it would end up overdeveloped. But we really like that they’re keeping it a manufacturing site and hardly changing the existing buildings.”
In fact, the site has been used for manufacturing booze since 1933, when it started out as Calvert Distillery and then Seagram’s before Diageo (Guinness’ parent company) bought it in 2000. The new site is adding 70-plus jobs to the region and projected to host some 250,000 annual tourists.
“The people here were thrilled about jobs,” says Faith. “But the biggest issues were traffic, tourism, and whether we’ll need new stoplights. We’re asking for a traffic study, and they have been very approachable. They haven’t left themselves up in ivory towers.”
Diageo representatives have frequently met with the Relay and Arbutus improvement associations, as well as communicated with the Patapsco Valley Heritage Area.
“We see Guinness as an economic catalyst,” says Mary Catherine Cochran, the Heritage Area’s executive director. “We hope to engage visitors in the rich, local history of the valley. The Patapsco isn’t quite the River Liffey, but it’s fun to share Guinness with that great Irish river town of Dublin.”