In the fifth century, St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland. In the 21st century, you can drive out to the Guinness Open Gate Brewery in Baltimore County. Opened in August of last year, the Halethorpe establishment marks the first American brewery for the iconic Irish brand. And to celebrate the first St. Patrick’s Day since the brewery’s opening, the most Irish of beers is hosting a month-long bonanza of beer in the lead-up to the most Irish of days.
“In Baltimore,” said Ryan Wagner, the brewery’s brand ambassador, “we’re writing a new chapter in a book that’s 260 years long already, but we don’t want to turn our back on our heritage and a big part of that is St. Patrick’s Day.”
While the preamble to the preamble to St. Paddy’s began on February 17, the event truly kicks into gear on March 7. Namely, the brewery will be dressed to the nines (cóirithe do na nithe for the Gaelic-speaking set). Beyond the themed decorations, there will also be live music performed by a variety of both local artists and traditional Irish acts. Plus, the merchandise area will be filled with St Patrick’s Day-themed hats, shirts, magnets, and glassware. Still, the true piece de resistance is what Guinness staffers describe as an “immersive green Irish phone booth with surprise interactions that bring the Guinness tradition to life.” To translate, it’ll be solid content for the ‘gram.
While the event is eminently photogenic and sure to provide clout for you and yours, the focus will ultimately be the beer. Beyond the array of Guinness varietals, other prominent Irish beers—Smithwick’s, Harp, and Kilkenny, to name a few—will be on tap, as well as several Baltimore brews. Lest you unwisely drink on an empty stomach, food options will be available to accompany the seemingly bottomless fount of beer. A Guinness-branded food truck will make its debut, and the brewery’s on-site restaurant 1817 is unveiling a special menu of Irish recipes on March 17—including the famous Guinness & Beef Stew that is served at the flagship Dublin location.
More than anything, though, the most essentially Irish element of the whole shebang is the warmth and kinship that, even amongst strangers, can only be engendered over Guinness pint glasses.
“Pubs in Ireland are centers for their community,” said Wagner. “Everyone is family when you’re at the pub.”
Despite its status as a major capital-B Brand, the Guinness Brewery still evinces an ethos that feels true to Baltimore and makes the whole enterprise feel natural in our East Coast, blue collar town.
“Similar to Dublin, there’s this incredible brewing community in Baltimore with places like Union or our good friends at Diamondback,” Wagner said. “When you visit a taproom in Baltimore, there’s the expectation that you’re going to feel welcome. We want to work with our fellow brewers to further build this special culture.”
Moreover, the Guinness Brewery is using its considerable resources to support the local area. A portion of the proceeds from this event will be donated to the Maryland Food Bank, the Oyster Recovery Partnership, and the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts.
The celebrations will come to a head on St Patrick’s Day weekend (March 16 and 17). Admittance is free for the bulk of the celebration, but tickets for St. Patrick’s Day weekend are $15 for a five-hour drinking session (the first from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., for the brave souls who want to get an early start; the second from 5-10 p.m., aka more conventional drinking hours) and can be bought on the brewery’s website. Make sure to buy your tickets before the jig, perhaps literally, is up.