Relay, Something’s Brewing

Something’s Doin’ … It’s a Revolution…

Further to our earlier posts on Guinness, including on draft and bottled/canned beer, we should mention Guinness has been building a brewery in Relay, Maryland.

The site is a former distillery, Calvert, owned by Diageo, label owner of Guinness. The property was there, the alcohol history was there. The penny finally dropped and the American Blonde brand and presumably other beer will gush from Guinness fermenters on American soil later this year.

Guinness had owned a brewery in Long Island City, NY back in the early 1950s. It was an outgrowth of the Burke ale and stout brewery built by a longstanding Guinness importer. There were also experiments to brew Guinness elsewhere in the U.S. (in the southwest, for example) in the same period.

The idea didn’t take, but it’s time has come. Today, even for a storied brand as Guinness, the idea that local manufacture has an unassailable integrity is ever more tenuous. Brewing is so sophisticated today that any kind of beer can be brewed anywhere, virtually. All it takes is the will.

In any case Guinness has long had plants or license arrangements in Nigeria, in Caribbean, nay in Toronto. This is just the next step, and long overdue in fact.

Pending opening the permanent visitor centre and taprooms (there will be several) at Relay, a temporary taproom opened a few months ago. It is located in Halethorpe, a mile from Relay and site of one of the Calvert whiskey warehouses. Baltimore is only about 10 miles away.

A two-barrel system has been installed and a bar is open from Thursday-Sunday. The Guinness-brand stouts are brought in from Dublin, but experimental beers are being made and sold from the pilot operation.

The following beers are being offered at date of writing according to the website:


Guinness Draught Stout

Guinness Blonde Lager

Guinness Foreign Extra Stout

Guinness Antwerpen Stout

Guinness 200th Anniversary Export Stout (bottles)

Guinness Crosslands Pale Ale (Featuring Dark Cloud Malthouse and Black Locust Hops)

Guinness Black IPA #1

Guinness Golden Series #7

Guinness Golden Series #8

Guinness Mild Ale #1

Guinness IPA #2

Not a bad list.

One of the two brewers is a former Stone Brewery employee, Peter Wiens, an impressive pedigree. They have been quoted that they have a free hand to brew the beers they like. The above list shows some interesting ones, especially the Black IPA. There have been some collaborations as well with local microbrewers including Heavy Seas (Clipper City), long-established in the locality.

Noteworthy is the offering on draft of the strong Guinness Foreign Extra Stout and Antwerp (aka Special Export) Stout, to date only available bottled and not easy to find.

One wonders if these are pasteurized, presumably the regular draft is. Even if FES and SES are too it is probably by a less intrusive process than bottled and canned beer typically get. It should be a good drop at the bar, either way.

This development follows upon a pilot facility installed a few years ago at St. James Gate, the Open Gate Brewery. The American facility will be similarly named.

The Dublin Open Gate has focused, or when we last looked, on saison and other trendy craft styles. But hopefully Guinness stout and porter as made in the 19th century will emerge, or rather re-emerge, and see dawn of day in America too.

Hence we see modest signs that Guinness, after sticking to its knitting with pasteurised, “widget” (nitrogen-dispense) stout for decades, is turning the ship around. It looks to join the craft brewing trend that after all is its own history and heritage, one almost invisible at St. James Gate, so long has industrial brewing been ideé reçue.

If Relay and the Dublin Open Gates offer finally cask-conditioned stout and porter brewed to 19th century standards including from all-malt, the circle will be completed.  If you want to see how cask-conditioned Guinness was served in one pub in Dublin, The Long Hall, look here in the first minute. It’s shown with remarkable colour fidelity, the film is from about 1960.

It’s a documentary from British Pathé memorializing, or in retrospect it does, the “old way” for Guinness. Later in the film in another pub, you see Guinness drawn from an early small metal font: that provided the mix of carbon dioxide and nitrogen gas current today.

The old way served the beer (often, not invariably) from tall gleaming hand-pulls, unpressurised pumps used to dispense ale and porter since the early 1800s.

Will it soon be 1960 and The Long Hall Pub all over again?


Obs. We see no reason not to have an Open Gate in Toronto, Guinness. All in due time, we trust.



1 thought on “Relay, Something’s Brewing”

  1. There was this as well, I recalled it after from a discussion on Beer Advocate or Ratebeer (the forums):

    Certainly looks good but nothing anyone interested in Guinness is ever likely to have a chance to try.

    At the risk of repetition, I advocate a naturally conditioned porter and stout (different gravities) being available at the Open Gates, on draft in specialty beer bars around the world, with bottle-conditioned versions for sale as well. Also, these should be brewed to 1800s standards meaning all-malt. The 1798, worthy as it looks, wasn’t quite that as it used some roasted (unmalted) barley. Also, these beers should employ lots of hops, and in some cases priming with unfermented wort (heading as it’s called).


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