For Best Fest Buddy Tom and I, though, to paraphrase Earth, Wind & Fire
(and keep things Chicago), we will remember the 26th night of September
That’s when we attended a preview night for the spacious West Loop digs. The former rail depot, located at 901 W. Kenzie St., now holds a 10-barrel brewhouse, taproom, restaurant, a room for private events and a bakery that is Guinness’ first, globally.
A Metra line runs past the south windows, perhaps tempting commuters coming and going to work downtown.
There’s also a dog-friendly patio - provided the dogs are friendly and on leashes. This being Guinness, there’s swag to be had, too. All sorts of Guinness-related gifts are available, as are jarred vegetables and brown bread, along with growlers of beer to take home.
I wore Guinness colors for the occasion. My cream shirt, black pants and black/brown cap and shoes blended in nicely with the decor.
According to a news release for the “OGB,” Guinness first arrived in Chicago by rail in 1910, and architects married new and old into the design.
The brewhouse features a hand-painted mural with a bubbly amber sculptural light fixture meant to reflect the surge of nitrogen within a fresh pint of Guinness. A 5-ton harp sculpture hangs above the big main bar, a nod to the symbol of Ireland and the Guinness harp trademark, which dates back to 1876.
The private event space, the Barrel Room, offers a bottle art installation and old empty wooden barrels positioned way above the room’s bar.
Ryan Wagner, National Guinness Ambassador and Head of Marketing, Guinness OGB Chicago, said opening in Chicago allows Guinness to be a part of one of the most exciting, historic brew cultures in the United States.
Wagner comes to Chicago from his hometown of Baltimore. He worked for Guiness there for about six-and-a-half years as a brand ambassador.
His backstory also includes a short career in musical theater, working as one of two original co-hosts for Major League Baseball’s foray into digital content and a 10-year stint as the
public address announcer at Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Storytelling is essentially what OGB and Guinness are about, Wagner said.
OGB Chicago’s story opens with a tap list featuring four beers noted as being brewed in Chicago and four made at the OGB in Baltimore.
Guests eventually can expect 12-16 rotating experimental draughts, alongside Guinness Draught Stout, Guinness Extra Stout and Guinness Foreign Extra Stout, which, of course, come straight from Dublin, and Guinness 0 for those not imbibing.
Wagner said he expects there typically will be beers from OGB Baltimore to be offered in Chicago, and vice versa. Patrons stopping by every two weeks or so will find something new on the tap list, Wagner said.
For now, Guinness Open Gate Brewery’s choice of adult beverages is limited to beer or beer-based mixed drinks made without any other types of alcohol.
The food menu draws inspiration from the brand’s Irish roots and global footprint, alongside reimagined Chicago classics, according to the news release.
Wednesday night, that included raw oysters, a take on chopped salad, delicately breaded cod sliders, crab cakes with corn chowder, shrimp, cookies and suya - spicy Nigerian chicken skewers. Nigeria
, after all, is one of Guinness’ biggest markets. Of course, there was brewers (brown) bread, the taste of which Tom likened to fruitcake, but in a good way.
As for the brews beyond the proper pint, Tom enjoyed a mango chile ale he felt would pair nicely with pork. He also liked the pineapple coconut porter. The big guy found that to be a nice blend, with no particular flavor overpowering the taste.
A responsible sort, Tom eventually switched to Guinness 0, the brand’s non-alcoholic draught.
For now, OGB will offer morning bakery and café service daily, with an all-day restaurant menu available Wednesday through Sunday and brunch on weekends.
The bakery and café will feature offerings from Chicago's own Intelligentsia Coffee and Aya Pastry, alongside bread and treats baked daily onsite. Other local food partners include Milky Milky Ice Cream and Pour Souls.
Guinness OGB Chicago intends to donate 10,000 loaves of brewers bread per year to the Greater Chicago Food Depository
. It's also partnering with Choose Chicago and the Choose Chicago Foundation
to offer on-the-job experience to those from historically underrepresented communities.
OGB is also presenting sponsor for the Chicago Brewseum
Beer Culture Summit, which takes place Oct. 18 through 21. The conference's closing night festivities are happening at the brewery.
The brewery will be working with the YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago
on Learning for Life
, a complimentary global program started by Guinness’s owner, Diageo. The program teaches business and hospitality skills to those seeking employment in the hospitality industry.
As for involvement with Chicago’s Irish American community, Wagner said OGB would certainly be open to such opportunities, should they authentically speak to the brand’s mission.
NOTES: Guinness Open Gate Brewery is cashless. It only takes all major forms of electronic payment, including debit, credit cards and Apple Pay.
Parking is very tight in the West Loop, so OGB offers valet parking on a first come, first-served basis. It’s $20, cash only.
The OGB does take reservations.
For more information on Guinness Open Gate Brewery Chicago, follow @GuinnessBreweryChi on Facebook and Instagram or see www.guinnessbrewerychicago.com