Even if you aren’t a craft beer nerd, chances are you’ve heard of Guinness. 

Arthur Guinness founded the Ireland-based brewery in 1759. The actual name is the St. James’s Gate Brewery, and it has been located in the St. James’s Gate of Dublin ever since Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease for the property on December 31, 1759.

Having been in business for over 250 years, the brewery has an extensive history.  Its first export occurred in 1769 when six and a half barrels were shipped to Britain. Its growth continued thanks to its new export business, and by 1833, it became Ireland’s largest brewery. By 1873, the company doubled in size and became the largest brewery in the world in 1886.

As the company moved through the 20th century, it expanded its brewing operations outside of Ireland and the U.K. Malaysia became the first country to brew its own Guinness, and the international expansions continued from there. Today, Guinness is brewed in almost 50 countries around the world.

One of the unique brewing operations expansions put together by Guinness & Co. was to the United States. The company considers the United States to be “the most dynamic and exciting beer market in the world” and wanted to have operations right where the action is. This new location was named the Guinness Open Gate Brewery. 

Situated in the Baltimore area, the Open Gate Brewery and Barrel House opened in 2017, “promising a ‘Guinness visitor experience.’” The facility includes a comprehensive production brewery, restaurant, tours, retail space, and a taproom mirroring its Open Gate location in Dublin.

The Baltimore location offers several beers from the original Guinness location, including Guinness Draught, but also serves small-batch, experimental beers right on the premises.

One of the beers produced exclusively at Open Gate Brewery in Baltimore is its Stock Ale. It was released on November 15, 2019, in 4-packs of 11.2 oz. bottles.

This Old Ale has a 10 percent ABV and is composed of a blend of 60 percent Guinness Imperial Stout and 40 percent Guinness Barleywine. Both beers were aged in barrels that previously held Bulleit bourbon, which is also owned by Guinness’ parent Diageo, for eight months before blending

Poured from an 11.2 oz bottle, whose label features the iconic orange Bulleit banner design, the color is jet black and opaque. Head retention is excellent with a lovely creamy, tan color. Carbonation is low to moderate, accurate for the style, and lacing is mild as well.

Immediately after pouring, a strong bourbon aroma fills the air. Even sitting back from the glass, I can still easily pick up the Bulleit barrels’ influence. Closer to the glass, I also pick up heavy notes of plum, raisin, and stone fruit along with a touch of chocolate.

Presenting with that signature creamy Guinness mouthfeel, Stock Ale is surprisingly light in bourbon flavor despite the aroma. The bourbon notes linger ever so slightly on the tongue as more robust coffee and chocolate notes come into play. There is also a slight sweetness to the flavor. As the beer warms, the mouthfeel thickens significantly.

The body is light to medium and not too chewy as some old ales can be. While neither of the blended beers’ styles is too distinguishable, I find that the barleywine portion influences the final product more based on the mouthfeel and body.  My favorite aspect of this beer is the finish. It is full of chocolate and plum and carries through. The bourbon comes out more on the finish, along with a touch of alcohol burn. With a beer of this style, it is hard to determine if it has dropped off after a year in the bottle. However, I did not find any aspects that suffered from aging.

Guinness Stock Ale
BREWERY: Guinness Open Gate Brewery
LOCATION: Halethorpe, Md
STYLE: Old Ale
ABV: 10 Percent
IBU: n/a
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASE DATE: Nov. 15, 2019
AVAILABLE IN: 11.2-ounce bottles
BEERS POURED: One
Initially, the strong bourbon aroma was off-putting. However, I was very impressed with this beer. The bourbon barrels' influence dropped off significantly in the body, making for a gratifying experience. The mouthfeel was smooth and drinkable, yet the body carried enough weight to support the carefully curated flavors. It was well-balanced with its complex flavor profile. 60 percent of the beer is an imperial stout, and I would have liked to have seen more influence from it to add a bit more to the body. However, the resulting blend was delightful.
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