Guinness Open Gate Brewery:
MICRO MATIC & GUINNESS, GROWING TOGETHER
HOW MICRO MATIC HELPS ENSURE PERFECT POURS AT THE GUINNESS OPEN GATE BREWERY
Today it’s known as one of the finest beers in the world, though Guinness has much more humble beginnings. The Guinness brand got its start in 1759 in Dublin, Ireland, when Arthur Guinness leased a small, dilapidated property in the St. James’s Gate area and began to brew ale. It began to gain popularity, but it would be ten years before the first export—six-and-a-half barrels of beer on a ship bound for England, and now, the acclaimed beer is sold in over 150 countries.
Although Guinness didn’t reach American shores until 1817, it’s now being brewed in Maryland, ten miles from downtown Baltimore (one of only 49 countries with a Guinness brewery). It’s the first to open in America in 63 years after one was briefly opened on Long Island City, New York, in 1949. The new venue, named the Guinness Open Gate Brewery as a nod to the original St. James’s Gate location, offers tours and experiences, a wide variety of foods, and of course, freshly-brewed, high-quality beer.
GUINNESS BREWERY AMBASSADORS
Because the Guinness brand is dedicated to quality and has such a rich history, the company knew it wanted to provide customers with equally rich experiences, so they hired Guinness Brewery Ambassadors (GBAs) to cover various territories throughout the United States. Ryan Wagner, covering five states, had to pivot to direct his attention to the new $90 million brewery in his own backyard. “As a Guinness Brewery Ambassador, it’s my job to understand and protect the brand,” explains Ryan. “But I also consider myself a storyteller–engaging, entertaining, and educating others. It’s a special job, and I consider myself very lucky.”
With the development of the brewery, of course, Ryan’s responsibilities also expanded. “I now handle training for our entire internal staff and have taken the lead on the brewery’s beer quality program.”
If all this sounds a bit daunting for just one man to take on, Ryan has had a bit of help. Enter Micro Matic, a leading global supplier of draft beer and other drink dispense systems for breweries and retailers for over 50 years. “With my role changing so significantly, I’ve been fortunate to work closely with Micro Matic, the preferred equipment supplier of Guinness,” Ryan says.
DESIGN AND INSTALLATION BEGINS
The Guinness Open Gate Brewery’s location was originally called the Maryland Distilling Company. It opened following prohibition in 1933 and was used for distilling and housing barrel-aged and bottled spirits. So, working within the confines of a small 80+ year old building, Micro Matic had their work cut out for them from the beginning. “It was amazing what they did given the small environment they had to work with,” says Ryan.
After months of consultation with the building architects and the team at Guinness, Micro Matic installed a variety of custom towers—two towers in the main event room and a third 20-tap tower on the third floor of the brewery’s restaurant, resulting in an incredible 82 taps. Micro Matic made many of the lines on all three towers draw from a single keg, meaning that the brewery wouldn’t need as much cold room space since they’d be drawing from single kegs. More importantly, they wouldn’t be sitting on beer for any length of time. “The restaurant is only open four days a week, for example,” says Ryan. “So if we were pulling from individual kegs, the restaurant’s beer would have been sitting there for four days. By doing it the way they did, Micro Matic helped assure our customers would only get the freshest, highest-quality beer.”
THE MICRO MATIC AND GBA RELATIONSHIP
Micro Matic played a significant role in Ryan’s onboarding into the world of Guinness. “The workshops that Micro Matic does at its locations around the country are very immersive. They provide a clear understanding of draft systems and draft components and beer quality.”
This knowledge has proven invaluable, because as Ryan puts it, Guinness is one of the most finicky beers in the world. “We’re constantly looking for ways to improve our delivery system, and there can be challenges. The guys from Micro Matic have all been rock stars at troubleshooting and diagnosing problems. They’re incredible partners—they’ve visited multiple times, and they’re incredibly responsive to questions or concerns.”
To highlight just how extensive Micro Matic’s knowledge of beverage dispense systems is, he recalls a time when a representative pointed out that a location’s height above sea level could affect draft draw systems. “Something as seemingly innocuous as that...” he laughs. “I was struck by how vast their knowledge is.”
STAFF TRAINING AND THE NEXT GBA
A lot of what Ryan learns from Micro Matic can be incorporated into his own training that he now does within the brewery. “Some of the stories I’m really proud of are how we’ve been able to develop members of our staff, like our barbacks. A lot of these guys had minimal experience but have ascended to the level of bartender because they showed the initiative during training.”
One success story is Amelia Youhn, who began as a tour guide shortly after the brewery opened and is currently in the GBA program. “It’s a beautiful—and intense—program, but that just shows how passionate everyone is about the company’s heritage and the beer’s quality,” says Amelia.
David Green, a trainer with the Micro Matic Dispense Institute, was also on hand to pass on some Micro Matic equipment knowledge to the trainees. “I already knew what everything was, what it was called, what it did, and if something was wrong,” Amelia says. “But if something was wrong, I didn’t know how to fix it. He was instrumental in bridging that gap.”
Amelia is also quick to share another story that highlights the overlapping philosophies of Guinness and Micro Matic. “During training, I noticed at Micro Matic that there is a sign that hangs in their Custom Tower Design Center that says, ‘If you can dream it, we can build it.’ And at Guinness, there’s a mural on the keg room wall that says ‘Anything you can dream up, we get to brew up.’ I think it speaks to how both companies are aligned culturally, dedicated to creativity and quality...you can hand Micro Matic the most difficult working environment. They are going to give you a creative, quality system every time.”
“I don’t think it’s an accident that a lot of the senior executives at Micro Matic are former Guinness guys,” adds Ryan.
"YOU CAN HAND MICRO MATIC THE MOST DIFFICULT WORKING ENVIRONMENT, AND THEY ARE GOING TO GIVE YOU A CREATIVE, QUALITY SYSTEM EVERY TIME.”
Guinness Brand Ambassador, Guinness USA
MICRO MATIC AND GUINNESS: GROWING TOGETHER
In its first year of business, the Guinness Open Gate Brewery has served more than 400,000 visitors, including Baltimore County Councilman Tom Quirk, who recently told the Baltimore Sun that every time he’s been there to visit, parking hasn’t been easy—a sign of the brewery’s popularity.
As the brewery continues to grow in popularity, Micro Matic will continue to be a part of it. “At the end of the day, we are two companies seeking to create the highest quality beer—and beer quality is something that is an ever-evolving discipline. That’s why it’s great to have a partner like Micro Matic.”
Ryan says that as a Baltimore native, the brewery is very special to him. By offering personal and authentic experiences, along with the freshest beer, he’s sure customers will keep on coming back. “The best beers in the world are the ones that come with a story,” he says. “It’s great to put a new American chapter in a book that’s already 260 years old.”
EVERYTHING ON TAP
For over 60 years, Micro Matic has been recognized as one of the world’s leading suppliers of draft beverage equipment. Specializing in keg-to-glass technology, we offer a total solution for meeting beverage equipment needs. Our dedication to customer service is supported by four regional sales and distribution centers, the Micro Matic Dispense Institute for training and education, and a Certified Installer Network for installations. Want to speak with a “perfect pour” expert? Contact Micro Matic today.