The Significance of Guinness Opening a Chicago Taproom

Construction is set to start on the 15,000-square-foot facility in Chicago’s Fulton Market district this fall.

Guinness has always held a unique position in the beer world. When craft brewing emerged as a counterpoint to fizzy yellow lagers everywhere, Guinness had a valid retort: Sure, they’re one of the largest beer brands in the world, a part of the international drinks giant Diageo, but unlike the majority of top-selling beers, Guinness is a stout – a pretty impressive success story in its own right.

Still, as a massive Irish brand, Guinness wasn’t quite let into America’s craft beer club, so they adopted a new strategy: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. In 2018, Guinness opened its own American brewery and taproom, the Guinness Open Gate Brewery in Baltimore, as a way of “combining over 260 years of Irish brewing experience with American beer creativity.” The Irish classics like Guinness Draft are still brewed in Ireland and exported to the U.S., but instead, this American brewery focuses on beers for the U.S. market like Guinness Blonde.

Two pints of Guinness in a taproom
Credit: Artur Widak / NurPhoto / Getty Images


“The USA is probably the most dynamic and exciting beer market in the world right now, and, put simply, we’d like to be closer to the action,” the Baltimore brewery’s website states. “And it gives us the opportunity to welcome Guinness fans, old and new, to the first Guinness brewery on American soil in over 63 years.”

Apparently, that strategy has worked because Guinness has just announced a second American taproom in another major U.S. city: Chicago.

Scheduled to open by 2023 (hopefully in time for St. Patrick’s Day, per Guinness) the 15,000-square-foot facility – featuring a taproom, a 300-seat restaurant serving Irish pub food, and a small-scale brewery making small batch beers – will break ground in the city’s Fulton Market district this fall at the site of the old Pennsylvania Railroad Depot. Unlike the Baltimore location, which has capacity to produce beers for regional distribution, this Chicago brewery is slated to only have a 10-barrel system, implying most beers made there will be for onsite consumption.

“This isn’t trying to be a local neighborhood pub,” Jay Sethi, chief marketing officer of Diageo Beer Co., told the Chicago Tribune. “We recognize that we’re big, international beer. What we’re trying to do is create a special environment that has a little bit of a feel of Guinness and what you might expect from an Irish establishment, but at the same time also has some great local food and beer.”

He also added that Chicago is Guinness’s second biggest market nationally, making it a sensible spot to open its next location. “Our success in Baltimore made us think this is something we want to do more of,” Sethi continued. “Chicago is the next big bet for us.”