Two breweries are opening to the public in the Baltimore area, one Friday and the other several weeks ago.
One company, an international giant, is opening in Southeast Baltimore County. The other is a relatively small operation, born and bred in Woodberry in Baltimore City.
But despite their differences, both have similar plans on how to get you to buy their beer. And one of them, Dublin-based Guinness, wants you to think of it as a local beer.
Adam Benesch is giving a tour of the new home of Union Craft Brewing. He and his partners started the business six years ago. But they outgrew their home on Union Avenue in the city. In the past month they’ve opened a new brewery in an old Sears warehouse along the Jones Falls Expressway. Now they have room to brew more beer. They also have a bigger tap room and a beer garden. Benesch said they are creating an expanded experience for people who come to the brewery.
“They can take a tour,” Benesch said. “Meet the people that make it. And then end up here in the tap room and enjoy a brewery-fresh pint right at the site where it’s made.”
Union Craft also brews small batches of experimental beers for people to try.
The brewery is part of the Union Collective, a half dozen local businesses in the warehouse that will make and sell their products in the same place, from ice cream, to coffee to hot sauce.
Meanwhile, about 10 miles south of Union Craft, Guinness cut the ribbon Thursday on its new brewery in Relay in Baltimore County, its only brewery in the United States. The governor and other state and local officials were on hand.
Guinness dwarfs the small craft brewer like Union, but it’s going after that same local vibe. Guinness Blond will be brewed there for national distribution, but Brewmaster Peter Wiens said experimental beers, only available in the tap room, will be brewed as well.
“If it’s successful here, we can take it to the next step or maybe the next two steps, do something like that to see how well performs on the regional level,” Wiens said.
One reason for creating this beer experience is to reach millennials, people generally in their 20s and 30s. According to the Brewers Association, millennials in 2016 made up 57 percent of the country’s weekly craft beer drinkers. Daraius Irani, chief economist for the Regional Economic Studies Institute at Towson University, said overall, beer sales to millennials are flat.
“And I think millennials are looking for much more of a unique smaller batch type of a brew rather than the mass marketing brews,” Irani said.
Benesch said he fully supports Guinness, saying it’s causing a lot of excitement. But Benesch wonders if the parent company Diageo, which is in more than 180 countries, will try to create the perception that Guinness is a local beer.
“For me as a local business owner I spend a lot of time and thought on how I spend my dollars in my community and I like to support personally other businesses where I know those dollars will continue to get reinvested in the local community and I think more and more people feel the same way,” Benesch said.
Ryan Wagner, whose job title at Guinness is Brewery ambassador, said you will see the company involved in the community. And the brewery is creating around 200 jobs.
“We live here,” Wagner said. “We sweat and bleed and own homes and go to work in these communities. So while we represent a brand that is much bigger than any of us, this is our portion of that brand. So yeah, we are local.”
Guinness hopes as many as 300,000 people will visit the brewery this coming year for a tour and a pint.