MARYLAND: Guinness, the Diageo-owned stout brand, has opened a brewery and taproom in Relay Maryland, in order to bring US consumers the Dublin experience, while also extending its events capacity.

The brand’s new US brewery is the first for 60 years (in 1954, the company opened and then quickly closed one on Long Island) and is expected to host 300,000 visitors every year. Visitors are able to walk around the site, explore exhibits that tell the beer-making story, with guided tours available on Labor Day, CNBC reported.

The site “will be a home for new Guinness beers created for the US market, including Guinness Blonde American Lager, as well as creations by the brewers here,” Alix Dunn, a Diageo spokeswoman, told the Washington Post.

Similar to Guinness’s St James’s Gate brewery in Dublin, the site is as much a factory as it is a theme park, an experiential offer that illustrates where drinks brands must also play. In March, WARC covered Guinness’s innovation philosophy, in which the brand discussed the creation of the Open Gate brewery in 2015. This initiative allowed young brewers into the brewery to test out new ideas, and, crucially, “put brewing ahead of branding for the first time”.

“It’s important to have that experiential connection to beer,” Bart Watson, Chief Economist of the Brewers Association, told USA Today. In 2014, Sierra Nevada kicked off this trend in earnest with the creation of a $100m ‘destination’ brewery in North Carolina to bring its West Coast product and experience to the East.

At the same time, Guinness maintains that the exercise is part of a feedback loop bringing the people developing new products closer to drinkers. Speaking to Draft Magazine, Hollie Stephenson, head brewer at the new Maryland facility, explained: “The more people that stop by early on, the more chance we’ll have to get some feedback on our beers in the taproom.

“Don’t be surprised if you see me in there asking people what they tried today and what they thought,” she added.

Sourced from CNBC/USA Today, Washington Post, Draft Magazine, WARC