February 27, 2017 – It’s never simple when it comes to alcoholic beverages. As we reported on February 17, Diageo, which owns Guinness, plans to convert the old Calvert distillery in Relay, (Baltimore County) Maryland, into a bre
wery with a U.S. version of its famous Open Gate visitor center in Dublin. The project will cost $50 million and create 70 jobs.
The new facility will include a taproom where visitors can sample experimental beers. It will provide market research on which products should be developed for general distribution via the three tier system to distributors then to retailers. It is 63 years since Guinness has operated a brewery in the United States and this year marks the 200th anniversary of Guinness being imported into this country. It is also expected that it will become the site for brewing Guinness Blonde, which is currently brewed under contract in Pennsylvania.
Diageo, the biggest drinks company in the world, anticipates 250,000 visitors the first year and clearly, the brewery will be the biggest tourist attraction in the county. However, the law allows breweries to sell just 500 barrels of beer to consumers, which would mean about one pint each for just half the visitors or 125,000 people. Diageo is requesting a license to sell 5,000 barrels of beer to consumers.
The Brewers Association of Maryland is in agreement with this as long as it applies to all brewers. A carve out for an international giant does not sit well, nor should it. The Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association, representing owners of bars, restaurants and liquor stores, supports the brewing operation but regards the taproom as competition for existing bars, restaurants and retail stores.
So Diageo has a bill before the General Assembly asking for a license to sell 5,000 barrels of beer to consumers; the Brewers Association of Maryland has a bill asking for all brewers to be allowed to sell 4,000 barrels of beer; and the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association has a bill limiting hours and tastings at breweries.