Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Guinness adds an Irish twist to American craft brewing

Guinness adds an Irish twist to American craft brewing

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Samples of locally produced beer are seen at the Guinness Open Gate Brewery in Baltimore. AFP

Guinness adds an Irish twist to American craft brewing

The coronavirus has canceled most St Patrick’s Day festivities, but as the luck of the Irish would have it, Americans can still drown their sorrows with a beer produced in the first US Guinness brewery to operate since the 1950s.

The company’s Baltimore location, which opened in the summer of 2018 in a failing distillery, is helping cement the brand in a notoriously beer-loving country.

A green, white and orange flag flutters over its beer garden, and a gilded harp hangs above the entrance. U2 plays softly in the background. It’s almost possible to believe you’re in Ireland but a helpful, east-pointing sign reminds visitors that “Dublin is [5,394km] away.”

More than 60 years after a brief stint near New York, Guinness chose to make its big US comeback in Baltimore, which actually shares a few similarities with the “dirty old town” of Dublin.

“Two industrial cities with a reputation to be a bit rough around the edges,” summed up Ryan Wagner, the brewery’s “ambassador”.

“The US is probably the most dynamic and exciting beer market in the world right now, and, put simply, we’d like to be closer to the action,” Guinness, which is owned by alcohol giant Diageo, says on its website.

In order to adapt its image for Americans, the Irish company decided to position itself in the same niche as the trendy craft breweries popping up all over the United States.

The Baltimore brewery imports the iconic Guinness stout – black and creamy with a thick, white head, for serving to patrons, but in-house it produces a variety of more experimental beers: IPAs, blondes, fruity beers and beers aged in bourbon barrels.

“People don’t think about Guinness as a brewery, but as a beer,” said Wagner. “We want to change people’s mind and be legitimate amongst a vibrant but diverse beer scene.

“But we’ll never be mistaken with a small brewery.”

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Brewery ‘ambassador’ Ryan Wagner pours a glass of local Stout at the Guinness Open Gate Brewery in Baltimore. AFP

Irish heritage

The Guinness Open Gate Brewery in Baltimore wants to play in the same league as its craft peers, but it’s using much finer-tuned weapons.

The parent company invested $90 million in the layout of the new site which covers more than 25ha in total. And it recruited several of the best local specialists in order to capitalise on a globally renowned name.

Strategically situated near an international airport and in a major population hub (New York, Philadelphia and Washington are each less than a four-hour drive away), the brewery attracted 400,000 people in its first year of business, surpassing the company’s expectations.

Many Americans, particularly on the East Coast, are descended from the Irish immigrants who fled en masse in the 19th century from the poverty and famine ravaging their island, under the yoke of British occupation.

But others, like Alex Ward, who has no known Irish heritage, simply likes being able to drink a good beer in an environment that is “very different, but in many ways very similar” to the original brewery in Dublin.

“There, it’s more of a downtown, European, almost industrial feel,” said the 31-year-old, who visited the Dublin brewery.

“Here, you’ve got the space, you can wander around and relax. And obviously, I can drive to it. Would be a bit of a longer drive to Ireland,” he added.

Ward and his girlfriend both opted for beers made in-house instead of the classic stout. Imported directly from Dublin, the stout is the best-selling beer at the Baltimore location, though legend has it that the beer loses its quality the farther it is from the Irish capital.

“It’s true of any beer,” said Wagner, smiling through his thick beard. When not talking up Guinness, he also works as an announcer for the Baltimore Orioles baseball team.

“I suppose if you’re on vacation traveling from the States, sitting in a 900-year-old pub, being served a perfect pint by a guy who’s been working there since the place opened, there’s banjo music playing and a sheep walks by, your Guinness will taste a little different,” he admitted.

“But I’m very proud to say that the pint of Guinness draft we have here in this brewery absolutely lives up to that standard they’ve set in Dublin.”

It would seem the Emerald Isle isn’t so far away after all.


  • Wing Bank opens new branch in front of Orkide The Royal along Street 2004

    Wing Bank celebrates first anniversary as commercial bank with launch of brand-new branch. One year since officially launching with a commercial banking licence, Wing Bank on March 14 launched a new branch in front of Orkide The Royal along Street 2004. The launch was presided over by

  • Girl from Stung Meanchey dump now college grad living in Australia

    After finishing her foundational studies at Trinity College and earning a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Melbourne in 2022, Ron Sophy, a girl who once lived at the Stung Meanchey garbage dump and scavenged for things to sell, is now working at a private

  • Ministry using ChatGPT AI to ‘ease workload’; Khmer version planned

    The Digital Government Committee is planning to make a Khmer language version of popular artificial intelligence (AI) technology ChatGPT available to the public in the near future, following extensive testing. On March 9, the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications revealed that it has been using the

  • Rare plant fetches high prices from Thai, Chinese

    Many types of plants found in Cambodia are used as traditional herbs to treat various diseases, such as giloy or guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia) or aromatic/sand ginger (Kaempferia galangal) or rough cocklebur (Xanthium Strumartium). There is also a plant called coral, which is rarely grown

  • Wat Phnom hornbills attract tourists, locals

    Thanks to the arrival of a friendly flock of great hornbills, Hour Rithy, a former aviculturist – or raiser of birds – in Kratie province turned Phnom Penh tuk tuk driver, has seen a partial return to his former profession. He has become something of a guide

  • PM urges end to ‘baseless’ international Ream base accusations

    Prime Minister Hun Sen urges an end to “baseless” foreign accusations surrounding the development of the Kingdom’s Ream Naval Base, as the US has consistently suggested that the base is being expanded to accommodate a Chinese military presence. Hun Sen renewed his calls while