Since its opening last August, there’s been much fanfare surrounding Guinness Open Gate Brewery & Barrel House (5001 Washington Blvd.). For starters, it’s the first Guinness brewery to open in the United States in over 60 years. Plus, with its location in Halethorpe, it’s just a 15-minute drive from downtown Baltimore. But mostly, it’s generating a lot of buzz because it’s a place to try really good beer. And it’s not just the beloved Guinness Draught—or Irish dry stout—that’s imported from Dublin. Hollie Stephenson, Peter Wiens, and the rest of the Guinness brew crew produce some impressive, outside-of-the-box styles.
At 22,000 square feet, the brewery space itself is massive, and you can even see the beaming white letters spelling “Guinness” from the highway. Once you walk through the double-gated entrance, you know you’re visiting something special. The facility acts more or less like a museum for the brand, providing informational timelines, photos, and mile markers denoting how far you are from Dublin (3,352 miles, to be precise). The outside space features Adirondack chairs, picnic tables, a garden the brewers use for growing ingredients, and even a vintage Studebaker beer truck. There’s also plenty of places to enjoy a cold one. You can get a pint at the outdoor bar, up on one of the balconies, or inside the taproom.
The space can feel a little Disney-esque, especially the closer you veer toward the gift shop. But once you start sampling beer at the indoor bar, the warm Irish pub vibes help you feel at home. Flight boards are a good deal—nearly seven-ounce samples for $4 each that give you a pretty good overview of the brewery portfolio. Consider comparing some Guinness U.S. mainstays like Blonde (crisp and citrus-accented) or Milk Stout (creamy and sweet) with experimental varieties. Get weird with a super-earthy Black Currant Stout or the Tart Apricot Ale, Guinness’ delicious take on the ever-popular kettle sour.
The food in the taproom is a little lackluster. (You’d have better luck dining at the upstairs 1817 Restaurant.) Our Irish version of “nachos” was basically potato chips smothered with cubes of corned beef and beer cheese. Still, they provided the necessary fuel for us to sip our generously poured flight as we sat on a balcony overlooking the lush lawn. It may not be the Emerald Isle, but it’s pretty darn close.