Maryland Brewers Protest Special License For Guinness Brewery

In a legislative effort that reflects issues affecting the U.S. beer industry nationwide, Maryland brewers are seeking the same advantages as a new Guinness brewery in their state.

Global drinks giant Diageo announced last month its intention to construct a Guinness brewery, visitor center and taproom at the company’s existing Relay, Maryland site. It’d be the first Guinness brewery in America in nearly 60 years. Total investment would be $50 million.

One catch: the project necessitates that Maryland politicians grant Diageo a special liquor license.

The taproom would sell a ton of beer, no doubt. But state law forbids breweries from selling more than 500 barrels of beer a year in onsite taprooms. So Diageo has requested a special license that allows them up to 5,000 barrels annually.

With Maryland legislators understandably in support of the overall project, this license is likely to receive approval.

But state brewers have protested Guinness receiving the license, as reported by the Baltimore Sun, because that would grant the new brewery too great an advantage over its littler local competitors. And it ignores the struggles of other Maryland breweries, especially larger ones like Heavy Seas, which have been forced into scheduling tricks to avoid surpassing that 500-barrel cap.

So the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association has backed a newly proposed state bill that would allow a 4,000-barrel maximum for everyone — not just Guinness. Diageo has supported this legislation, but remains committed to its request for the special license, should the bill fail.

Maryland’s General Assembly is considering the bill. The legislative outcome will be another important step in shaping future relations between U.S. microbreweries and their corporate counterparts.

Kyle Swartz is managing editor of Cheers magazine. Reach him at kswartz@epgmediallc.com or on Twitter @kswartzz.

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