It has been a while folks, thanks for bearing with me! Last night after 8 straight hours of demolition work (yes swinging away with a sledge hammer) exhausted, thirsty, and owing our dear friend some beer for his assistance we trekked over to the new Guinness brewery. It happens to be 10 minutes from my house and on the way to the airport- to which my friend was headed.
I knew what to expect having seen the drawings, but conceptualizing it and seeing it in reality was something different. For anyone that has travelled to Dublin, Ireland to the original St. James Gate Brewery there was a certain level of expectation. The Open Gate Brewery can handle the comparison as there are similarities, particularly the grand scale and the grasp of the brewery’s long history. The Open Gate Brewery has a very ‘new world’ feel- as it should. It was crisp and modern yet gently cradled nuances of the old world Dublin original. It was a beautiful meld of both traditions on an expansive campus. In the upcoming months more will be completed to add to the experience- and that is exactly what it was.
As a band played on the terrace, I chose air conditioning. I was pleased to see the usual suspects on tap- Guinness Stout, Foreign Extra Stout, and the like. What I chose to partake of was the Crosslands Pale Ale made with local ingredients- specifically Dark Cloud Malthouse malt, and Black Locust hops. It was exactly what I hoped it would be- refreshing, delicious, and well- crafted. Although the restaurant was not yet open, small plates were offered at the bar, along with copious refills of much needed water. My only disappointment was in not being able to partake of any Golden Ale series (experimental beers) that had been available in the temporary taproom.
I was also happy to see quite a few of my craft beer connoisseur friends- some now happily employed at Open Gate Brewery. Although I was a bit mind-muddled from the day, I was able to recognize a few things that I wanted to share with all of you. First and foremost I am very aware of the controversy surrounding the entry of the new Guinness Brewery into Maryland. I want to put that aside for now as all of you know I will NEVER stop fighting for our craft breweries here in Maryland and a proper change to the archaic laws that bind them. I want to offer another perspective today.
The Open Gate Brewery was extremely well run and organized. The staff was incredibly diligent, genuinely smiling and kind- despite the volume of folks near closing. Yes, I can absolutely see people flying into BWI airport to experience the Guinness Brewery without having to cross the pond- although if you get the chance to travel to Ireland always take it! I personally do not think this is a bad thing. Beer tourism absolutely brings people into your brewery- large or small. This country is filled with craft beer travelers and our fine Maryland breweries already consistently lure beercationers year after year. I believe this brewery will add to those numbers- not only at the Guinness Brewery- but at each and every Maryland Brewery. With the availability of beer bus tours one merely has to step off of the airplane, drop their luggage at the hotel, and hop on a bus to sample more than 80 delicious Maryland breweries. It is ideal really, and everyone wins.
The other observation that I feel VERY strongly about is this: Crosslands Pale Ale is really good for Maryland. It brings national attention to the quality of both the hops grown and the malt made here in the Free State. I think this is outstanding. I could not be more proud of our local farmers and maltsters, and excited at the doors this may open for them. Even folks that don’t regularly drink craft beer will get a chance to sample the quality of our local ingredients. Not only will this urge them on to sample more from our diverse breweries, it will inspire more investment in planting malting grains (that save the Chesapeake Bay) and expansive malting operations to supply our breweries.
Sure I could go on about jobs, and the boost to the economy at this point… but I know you already have that figured out. Whatever your feelings, I respect them. I wanted you to know I am rooting for our Maryland breweries, farmers, and maltsters-each and every one of them.