In 2014, Diageo challenged us with a question: In a world of craft beer, how can Guinness create new beers while reinvigorating their iconic classics.
Our solution was to build a craft brewery inside the legendary St. James’s Gate brewery walls. During our research at St. James’s Gate, we discovered the “Pilot Plant,” an already-existing Guinness experimental brewery with roots going back to 1904. So, we built a tap room in the middle of the fermentation floor, turned the parking lot into a courtyard and re-christened it “The Open Gate Brewery.”
The site functions as a consumer experience, storytelling platform and as the hub of Guinness’s Western European innovation pipeline. The initiative has been a smashing success. Overall, Western European sales are up 5% (including the brand’s core beers!). One of our first releases, Hop House 13, has become one of the fastest-growing brands in the Diageo portfolio.
Which is why Diageo asked us to do the same thing in America, only bigger. Located in Baltimore County, Maryland, the $90 million Guinness Open Gate Brewery & Barrel House includes an experimental brewery, a 250-person taproom, full-service restaurant, visitors center, 100-hectolitre production brewery, beer garden and giant pint-shaped lawn. The idea is to see what’s possible by “combining 250+ years of Guinness brewing experience with American beer creativity.”
As in Western Europe, the American Open Gate Brewery and Barrel House becomes the center of the brand’s U.S. innovation pipeline. Beers from the experimental brewery and barrel house will be served in the taproom, where patrons’ feedback can inform the brewers’ creative process. Favorites will go on tap in area bars — and from there, key beers will be brewed at the production brewery for distribution across the USA.
Quaker City Mercantile was Diageo’s key strategic partner on the project. As the site’s creative director, we worked with the Guinness team and architects to develop the building plan, interior design, guiding principles, overall storytelling and tour scripts. As well, we created the tour and brand signage, displays and merchandise and we continue to consult on new innovations and bringing them to market.