A fair number of “foreign” cars are assembled in the U.S., and there are iconic American consumer products brands that have shipped their manufacturing overseas. Conversely, Diageo’s Guinness brand has just opened its first brewery in the U.S. in more than 60 years, a $90-million facility repurposed from a distillery in Relay, MD, north of Baltimore—but in a way, it’s not really a Guinness brewery.
That’s because the company’s signature product, the world-renowned Guinness stout that has been made in Dublin since Arthur Guinness set up shop in 1759, won’t be brewed at the Maryland facility.
“Guinness stout is such an iconic stout, it has such strong links back to Dublin and back to Ireland, that it would feel wrong to take it away from Ireland and to brew it over here,” Guinnesss’ Peter Simpson told NPR. “So it is always going to still be brewed back in Dublin.”
That wasn’t the company’s thinking when Guinness opened its first U.S. brewery, following the Second World War. The company made a bet that servicemen returning from overseas would have brought a taste for stout ale with them, but lost the bet and closed the facility in 1954. In those days before craft breweries and IPAs, Americans still preferred German-style lagers.
In 2018, though, even as Guinness stout is widely available in U.S. liquor stores, the Relay facility will produce Blonde American Lager and more experimental beers, although imported Guinness stout will be available on tap. It has opened at a time when beer drinkers have never had more choices—and are drinking marginally less beer.
Therefore, in order to attract beer-drinking visitors—and Guinness is expecting about 300,000 visitors to the Maryland facility in the first year—breweries need to offer an “experience,” the Brewers Association’s Bart Watson told NPR.
“It’s certainly something now that we see being important to beer lovers, going and experiencing the brewery, learning about the beers, taking a tour—and also something that drives purchase decisions,” he said.
For comments, questions or concerns, please contact Paul Bubny
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