By Day Bracey
Pittsburgh Current Craft Beer Writer
June 20, 9 a.m.: Guinness Open Gate Brewery and Barrelhouse, Baltimore. It’s a large campus with multiple buildings for brewing, drinking, and admiring history. I drove down last night because Guinness is sponsoring Fresh Fest and wants me to meet some people? Seriously, don’t know what’s going on, but they paid for the hotel and I’ll take any excuse to eat fresh crab cakes. I’m going to ramble for the next 600 or so words about beer and other inconsequential BS, but I want everyone reading this to know this one thing about Baltimore. The city owns all of the parking. So, you will likely have to pay to park in your hotel. My bill was $30/day. Lifehack: You can easily avoid this charge by valeting your car for $40/day. You’re welcome.
Shannon Harris, The Brew Brotha, a gypsy brewer out of Texas, is also in town. We shared a few heavy stouts at a popular bar last night, so our hangover is well earned. I learned that Firestone is a respected brewery, and “Parabola” means, “Hope you got nothing to do tomorrow,” in Hebrew. Or should I say Shebrew, as we meet up with brewmaster Hollie Stephenson. She used to brew at some hole in the wall place called Stone, before making a name for herself here. She informs us that they’re brewing a lemongrass IPA for the festival. I’m giddy with excitement.
June 20, 9:30 a.m.: Beard nets, hairnets, crossing guard jackets, and steel-toed boots. We’re ready to brew beer, or build a new addition to this campus. Not really qualified for either. The first room we go into is the microbrewery. Everything is clean and has a proper place. They have all kinds of shit that does shit. Shannon and Hollie are geeking it up with the brew lingo, and I can’t help but think how amazing a brewery can be with near limitless funds.
June 20, 10 a.m.: So, typically when I’m invited to brew beer, they really mean just pour carefully measured ingredients into a tank for photo ops before getting shithoused. This was no exception. When you try the IPA at the festival, know that I was the guy that poured the white powder in that bitch. Pretty sure it was significant.
June 20, 10:30 a.m.: We’re in the barrelhouse. Did you know Guinness has a barrel-aging program? I’m not even 100% sure I’m allowed to tell you that. Good thing no one reads this column. They pop a few of the barrels full of barley wine for a little preview of the remix. Not going to lie, I expected to come down here and drink 13 versions of stout. I was not expecting what’s in my mouth right now.
June 20, 11 a.m.: We’re in the canning facility and it smells sickeningly sweet. Like that perfume lotion that the girls used to wear back in the day from Bath and Body Works? White Chinese Cherry Blossom Lotus? You know the one. The “dorm room loving” lotion? Anywho, there is no loving going on in this facility. Just Smirnoff products being infused with fragrant corn syrups, likely on their way to dorm rooms for some cherry lotus libating.
June 20, 12:30 p.m.: We’re on a lunch break and Hollie suggested this place with great food and drinks. “Get the Orange Crush,” she said. “It’s a Baltimore favorite.” It’s Sprite with Tang and maybe some vodka? I guess every brewer has a guilty pleasure. Crab cakes smack though.
June 20, 2 p.m.: We meet back up with Ryan Wagner, Chief Guy That Knows A Lot of History About Guinness. Apparently, this site used to be a distillery back in the day. They made Seagram’s amongst other things. They kept as much of the original place as possible and shipped over some pretty significant pieces of history from the original Guinness in Dublin. He shows us old barrels, elevator shafts, fermenters, and other items of interest. My favorite was the beer. I’ve never had the Foreign Extra Stout before. It’s much more buttery, richer, and heavier at 7%. Apparently, this is what they drink in the Caribbean. They also have 14 more styles on tap. Some brewed in Dublin, most brewed in house, most not available elsewhere: IPAs, porters, pilsners. I’m mightily impressed by the lineup and the food. Not something I thought I’d ever say about a macro brewery. Good thing this isn’t that.
June 21, 9 a.m.: I head to the hotel dining hall for some complimentary continental breakfast. They inform me that it is a $23 complimentary breakfast. Did you know McDonald’s has the same dollar menu in Baltimore? You’re welcome…