According to the press release, they were planning a $50 million renovation of an old Seagram’s distillery building outside of Baltimore, which would include not only a visitor’s center, but production facilities for making Guinness Blonde.
Through a series of various conversations over the next few months between policy makers, brewers, distributors (and their lobbyists) and Diageo, as well as speeches by MD State Comptroller Peter Franchot, and an extensive letter-writing campaign by voters, House Bill 1283 was passed on April 10th.
This bill increased the number of barrels of beer to be sold on-site, which is what Diageo wanted all along. It wasn’t passed at the higher limit that all of the larger breweries wanted, but it did increase the limits from their previously laughable levels.
However, several other line items made their way into the bill that benefited distributors (like forcing breweries to sell their beer to distributors – once they reached the new limits above – who would then sell it back to the breweries for them to sell in their tap rooms). Additionally, it puts a limit on the operating hours of every new brewery that opens in Maryland.
Needless to say, we’ve been fielding questions on this for a while, but one of the recurring questions we get is, “Who’s going to drink all that Guinness Blonde?”
So we decided to give it a try.
Everyone knows Guinness Draught, a bitter, smooth stout from Ireland which, arguably, was most Americans’ first introduction to stout.
Guinness Blonde, on the other hand, is an American-style lager (think Yuengling) that really has nothing in common with its bitter older brother.
This pours a dark, amber color with good carbonation, and a par-for-the-course 5% ABV alcohol volume, so it’s quite drinkable.
Lagers are typically more mild in flavor, so this isn’t a bitter, hoppy beer. It has a bready aroma, and the taste is very malty-sweet, with what’s almost like a toffee flavor. It’s actually very similar to a German-style Bock in many regards, and I think it has more flavor than a typical American lager.
So was this scandalous blonde worth all the trouble it caused? I have to admit, it’s a pretty decent beer that I would recommend trying.
That being said, I honestly don’t see it as a big seller here in the States. With the amount of available lagers and pilsners, and the fact that most retailers (and consumers) aren’t considering it craft beer, Guinness Blonde has to share crowded cooler space with all the other mainstream beers, and try to compete with a higher price tag.
Time will tell how well the new Guinness tourist destination works out (they’re expecting 250,000 visitors in the first year).
As for the Maryland brewers, I feel confident they will see a strong future. There is some AMAZING beer being produced in the state, and a really great, supportive community that is already working hard to make the laws favorable to everyone.
After all, as the Hunter S. Thompson quote says, “Good people drink good beer.”