Like seemingly every city inhabited by people who love beer—which is to say just about every city everywhere—Baltimore is in the midst of a brewery boom. The newest addition to the lager lineup, Guilford Hall Brewery in Station North, opened in May, hoping to add a traditional European flavor to the scene.
Housed in the old Crown Cork & Seal building, the brewery is a sprawling space that includes a bar, beer hall, and outdoor beer garden. Co-owner Richard Craft and his business partners Stefan Popescu and Karl Nunn have owned the 19th-century building since 2014. While showing it to prospective buyers, more than one discussed opening a brewery there. In the end, they decided to tap that idea themselves (pun intended) and spent several years renovating it. After a national search, they hired brew master Martin Coad, formerly of Greenstar Brewing in Chicago. He’s created a core of beers inspired by European brewing traditions.
“We wanted to pull from the different specialties around Europe so you can have that cultural experience, because Baltimore is a cultural melting pot,” Craft says. “We import hops from Europe so we can stick by the traditional taste and styles and get back to the roots of why beer was made by monks in the first place.”
In contrast to many of the city’s other breweries, which gravitate toward hoppier varieties like West Coast and hazy IPAs, most of Guilford’s offerings are on the lighter side. The Guilford Lager is a refreshing, easy-drinking German helles. Also routinely available: a marzen, hefeweizen, Vienna lager, Czech-style pilsner, British pale ale, Irish stout, and a Belgian golden ale. Rotating seasonals and a weekly gravity cask offering round out the menu.
On a recent visit, we tried the English session ale, dry-hopped with East Kent Goldings hops, which hit the spot. A flight of six samplers costs $12 and is a great way to drink your way around Europe (without leaving Station North). The food menu sticks with the European theme, offering classic pub fare like fish and chips, bangers and mash, and schnitzels. Some of the eats, like a giant pretzel with beer cheese, the deviled eggs topped with bacon, and a juicy, clearly made-to-order burger, work better than others. (The flatbreads we tried fell flat.)
Like so many businesses in the hospitality sector, Guilford has struggled with its staffing, and that sometimes shows in disorganized service. But even amid these minor struggles, every server we encountered was friendly and determined to correct a mistake.
Craft has big plans for the brewery, which include staging live music and hosting private and community events. For now, there’s a daily happy hour, a weekend brunch, and, most importantly, plenty of good beer.
In Baltimore, we can’t seem to get enough of that.