At the Guinness brewery, beer is on the move.
Kegs of beer are kept in cold storage, below the bar and its 92 taps. The bartender pulls a tap, and the beer is pumped from the keg through tubing to the tap, then to the glass.
Ryan Wagner, the “Guinness Brewery Ambassador,” pointed to a clear gauge attached to one of the kegs.
“See the Bubbles? That means the beer is being drawn through the tap,” Wagner told visitors during a recent tour.
Levi Haddock, who lives in Glen Burnie, was having a beer that made that trip. He said he has been to the new Guinness brewery several times in the year since it opened in Baltimore County. He said he likes the variety — “the concoctions, kind of like, the flavor combinations that you don’t get in a lot of places.”
Guinness’s Halethorpe site has two breweries: the big one brews Guinness Blond to be distributed nationally, and a much smaller brewery has produced about 80 different beers so far. Wagner said those beers are brewed in small batches and for the most part, are consumed in the Guinness taproom.
“At any given time, there may be two or three beers that are waiting to be kegged, five or six beers that are in fermentation getting ready to take the next step, and then they’ll be working on a recipe to brew as soon as there’s fermentation tanks available,” Wagner said.
The smaller brewery is a beer lab of sorts, and the customers are paying taste testers. One of those beers, a milk stout, has been so popular that Guinness plans to distribute it regionally.
In addition to the taproom, the site has a restaurant, and visitors can take a behind-the-scenes tour.
According to Guinness, about 400,000 people have come to the brewery this year, exceeding expectations. Guinness doesn’t have exact figures on this, but it believes 40 to 50% of those visitors are from out of state.
Now local officials want to take advantage of all of those people, to attract them to other places in Baltimore County, according to Will Anderson, the county’s economic development director.
“They got that facility up and running really fast,” Anderson said. “And they’re hitting their numbers really fast. And now they’re coming up for air to talk to their locals about ‘What do we do next?’”
Anderson said Guinness is a real economic driver. This month, the county and the company will begin strategizing how to work together, he said.
Daraius Irani, chief economist for the Regional Economic Studies Institute at Towson University, agreed that needs to happen.
“If we don’t market our other breweries, then Guinness won’t serve as a catalyst,” Irani said. “So there needs to be a strategy around how are we going to incorporate our other breweries into the Guinness effect.”
For example, according to Wagner, the county could advertise “beercation” tours. People are drawn to the area by the big keg on the block, Guinness, but then could be enticed to visit other local breweries, like nearby Heavy Seas or Union Craft in the city.
“We’re seeing people who are making Baltimore a destination, and that’s really a testament to the growth of the Baltimore — and Maryland, really — brewing community,” Wagner said.
Meanwhile, locals and visitors can design their own “beercation.” The Maryland Brewers Association lists more than 80 Maryland breweries on its website. And the Maryland Transit Administration plans to start offering bus service to Guinness in September.