By Phil Galewitz
Here’s a reason to look forward to the New Year: Heavy Seas Brewing in Halethorpe, MD in January releases Siren Noir Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Chocolate Stout. This 9.5% beer is only around for a short time during the winter months, but it will warm you up with subtly sweet chocolate flavor on the coldest days. Heavy Seas used three pounds of Belgian coco nibs per barrel. Its been aged for five weeks in bourbon barrels with vanilla beans added in. Also in January, Heavy Seas will release its AmeriCannon Double Dry Hopped American Pale. The 5.7% ale is intensely flavorful having been double dry hopped with Centennial hops and Simcoe lupulin hop powder. Heavy Seas is one of the oldest craft breweries in the Mid-Atlantic, with Founder Hugh Sissons having started operations in 1995.
About two miles from Heavy Seas’ home, one of the world’s oldest breweries is opening a new outpost in Relay, MD: Guinness. In a refurbished factory just south of Baltimore, Guinness is building a $50 million brewery that will make brews to be sold across the Mid-Atlantic region and across the United States.
Guinness Open Gate Brewery & Barrel House will bring some American flavor to the brewery that been brewing beer in Dublin, Ireland since 1759. “We have the pedigree and history to brew amazing beer,” said Oliver Gray, marketing manager of Guinness’ new Maryland brewery.
Even with its Irish heritage, the new brewery will be making more American-style craft brews. Its brewmaster, Peter Wiens, was formerly director of beer operations at Stone Brewing in Escondido, CA and head brewer Hollie Stephenson was most recently at Highland Brewing in Asheville, NC.
While the full brewery will not be finished until next summer, Guinness has recently opened a temporary industrial-style tap house on site to help build buzz about its new US facility. The brewery features several beers made on a small pilot system in an adjacent red brick building as well as Guinness American Blonde Lager made at a facility in Latrobe, PA, and, of course, Guinness Draught from Ireland. When the Maryland brewery gets up and running Guinness American Blonde will be made here for national distribution instead of Pennsylvania.
Guinness will be experimenting with different drafts at the Relay, MD facility – much in the same way small craft brewers have been doing in the United States. Guinness will not make any of its famed Guinness Draught in Maryland. That will still come only from Ireland. Guinness previously owned a US brewery in Long Island City, New York, from 1949-1954. Guinness chose the site south of Baltimore as its new US manufacturing site because its parent company, Diageo, the international liquor company, owned the 62-acre site. The company still uses the site to age Captain Morgan rum that’s distilled in the Virgin Islands.
As an extra incentive to visit, the taproom has Guinness Foreign Extra Stout — the only place outside of St. James’s Gate in Dublin to find Guinness’ bolder brother on tap. It has a richer, maltier body, a cherry note in the slightly bitter finish, and it’s 7.5%, almost twice that of Guinness Draught.
Because of the small batch size, some draft options will rotate every week. While no restaurant is available yet, there are food trucks on weekends and a few picnic tables for when the weather warms up this spring.
Guinness and Heavy Seas already have become good neighbors. The two breweries have collaborated on two Belgian strong ales — Guinness’ The Longest Way Round and Heavy Seas’ The Shortest Way Home. Guinness added a dark sugar and dark malt to give it “a little Guinness character,” Gray said. The Heavy Seas’ version features Pale and Munich malts, and was dry-hopped with Simcoe hops for a slightly sweet, slightly hazy 8.6% beer. The limited-run beers will only be available on draft in their respective taprooms.
Starr Hill Brewing is launching Beers with Benefits in January — a program that will donate a quarter for each case of its flagship beers sold in Virginia. This includes Northern Lights IPA, Grateful Pale Ale and The Love Wheat Beer. A different charity will get the proceeds for the Crozet, VA brewery every three months. The first charity to benefit will be Mended Little Hearts of Virginia, which helps children with congestive heart failure.
Port City Brewing in Alexandria, VA is also showing its charitable side. Starting Jan. 1, one dollar from every pint of beer sold at Port City’s Tasting Room will go to helping bring the historic ship the Providence to Alexandria’s waterfront. Once it’s arrived at Alexandria’s Waterfront Park in the spring of 2019, the Providence will serve as a floating classroom for the Alexandria Seaport Foundation and local schools, a dockside visitor attraction, and a private event venue. The tall ship will also sail to Washington, DC and Mount Vernon daily.
“Our hometown has a long history as an important port city,” says fourth generation Alexandrian and Port City founder Bill Butcher. “We’re excited to be a part of this initiative to bring that history to life and we want our customers to have a stake in this project,” says Butcher. “The Providence will be an asset for the city and the people of Alexandria for years to come.”
The Providence is a full-size, historically accurate replica of a tall ship that played an important role in American history. The colonial-era ship, commissioned into the newly created Navy of the Continental Congress in January 1775, was deployed by George Washington during the Revolution and served as the first command of John Paul Jones, father of the US Navy. Ahoy!
To celebrate its 7th anniversary in February, Port City is releasing COLOSSAL, a copper-hued Scotch Ale with a rich, pervasive maltiness that evokes raisin bread and chewy caramels. The limited-edition beer will be available on draft and in bottles, debuting at the release party on Saturday, Feb. 3.
In Washington, 3 Stars Brewing is offering membership in its two beer clubs —The Illuminati and the Funkerdome society. Each program costs $118 a year. With The Illuminati, members get five releases of special experimental beers where brewers explore new beer styles, aging processes and conditioning ingredients. Funkerdome members get five releases from 3 Stars’ growing sour program.
New District Brewing in Arlington, VA is releasing an Abbey Dubbel 750-ml bottle for its second anniversary Jan.6.
Legend Brewing in Richmond, VA in January releases the first of four small batch variation of its Brown Ale, a Cherry Brown Ale.