About Guilford Hall

Located in the original 1898 Crown, Cork, and Seal building in Station North, our brewery and brewpub features hand-crafted lagers and ales after European brewing tradition. Our secret beer garden and boisterous beer hall are the perfect spots to relax while having a drink and a bite.

History & Building

The three-part, five story building that occupies 1515 to 1611 Guilford Avenue was constructed in 1897 to house the rapidly expanding industry of Crown, Cork and Seal. Founded in 1892 by William Painter, creator of the modern beer bottle cap, Crown, Cork and Seal needed a large space in the heart of Baltimore where it could easily bottle the local brews. The company took off, as Painter’s “crown cork” bottling method was much more efficient and successful than previous cork sealing methods. In 1904, Crown, Cork and Seal opened its first branch plant in Highlandtown, another neighborhood in Baltimore. The new plant took over crown cork manufacturing, while the Guilford location manufactured bottling machines and equipment. The company merged with the New Process Cork Company in 1927, which sparked an expansion of facilities and increased production. As of 1980, the company employed over 5,000 people in Baltimore at different plants, but the original location was taken over by various light manufacturing firms.
One of the buildings of the original plant has been turned into the CopyCat apartment building, owned and renovated by Charles Lankford. He bought the building in 1983 for $225,000, and spent 12 years renovating the space to accommodate artists looking for studios in which they could live as well as create. In an article by Jacques Kelly for the Baltimore Sun, Lankford said, “I made the money to support this investment with a computer business I founded and took public decades ago. There is no way the rents could have financed this. I view this as my legacy to Baltimore.” 

Crown Cork & Seal Factory

Guilford Hall is located in what used to be part of the Crown, Cork and Seal factory in Baltimore, on Guilford Avenue.  In 1892, William Painter, an inventor and the owner of Crown, Cork and Seal, created the crown cork, what we know as the modern beer bottle cap, as a way to revolutionize the beer bottling industry. Beer and soda had previously been sealed with cork stoppers, but the bottles had to be stored on their sides so that the cork would not dry out and pop open. This made transportation and storage much more difficult. Furthermore, cork-sealed bottles required extensive sanitation and were more labor-intensive to seal. The crown cork was comprised of a metal cap with a crimped edge and a cork liner, allowing for a more mechanized approach. Operators could fill and seal 24 bottles a minute, which was incredibly fast at the time.
Another one of the Crown, Cork and Seal factory buildings has been renovated by Charles Lankford, who spent 12 years converting the space into livable studios for artists. Now called the CopyCat building, Lankford rents to a few hundred people who enjoy the building’s large studio spaces and natural lighting. The CopyCat building is just a few steps from Guilford Hall. The Crown, Cork and Seal empire expanded and moved headquarters from Baltimore to Philadelphia in 1958. Now known as Crown Holdings, the company is publicly traded and ranked number 272 on the Fortune 500 list.

Historical Brewing

Baltimore is, and has always been, a beer city. Its first manufacturing industry started with a brewery on Hanover street in 1748, opened by German immigrant, John Leonard Barnitz. Previously, beer was brewed by women in their homes, in batches just enough for their own households. However, during the Revolutionary War, commercial brewing picked up as soldiers were promised daily beer rations as incentive. The city was a prime spot for beer production because of its large supply of clean water and access to railroads supplying grain. Brewing beer was a very different process back then, and was fully run by hand. Production was a slow process compared to today, yet Baltimoreans drank with the same gusto. 
Early breweries included the Thomas Peters and Company Brewery, opened in 1784. This was the largest brewery in the nation at the time, later named the Baltimore Strong Beer Brewery. A few owners later, in the summer of 1813, Mary Pickersgill sewed the massive 30 by 42-foot American flag (that inspired Francis Scott Key’s Star-Spangled Banner) on the floor of the brewery, as it provided more space than her home. 
Baltimore’s population grew from 80,000 in 1830 to 225,000 in just 33 years. The number and production of its breweries increased as well, many of which were located along Jones Falls, an 18-mile stream running through Baltimore. Back then, breweries enjoyed the convenience of dumping their waste into the stream. Today, Union Craft Brewing, Waverly Brewing Company and Nepenthe Brewing Co. are the last breweries left standing along the stream, now with much more environmentally friendly waste removal practices.

German Influence

Baltimore brewing wouldn’t be what it is today without the influence of German immigrants and their lagers. Germans who wanted to escape war and compulsory military service left their homeland for America, landing in Baltimore’s Locust Point on the Patapsco River. Many Germans did not venture any further, making Baltimore their new home. German families dominated the Baltimore brewing industry before prohibition, starting with John Leonard Barnitz who opened the first brewery in the city. Other families included the Bauernschmidts, Wiessners, and Brehms. Two areas in the city, Brewers Row and Brewers Hill, gained reputations as “brewery neighborhoods.”
In the 1870s and 1880s, “Schuetzen Parks,” maintained by the Schuetzen Society, hosted German picnics where families enjoyed outdoor activities and beer gardens where the lagers flowed. 
Today, you can enjoy European-style house-brewed beers, as well as bratwurst, pretzels, and more at Guilford Hall’s brewpub, beer hall, and tucked-away beer garden. Treat the event like a German picnic, and party like it’s 1875!

Station North

Station North, less commonly known as North Central Historic District, is a triangular-shaped, 25-block area north of downtown Baltimore. The district is described as “edgy” and “artistic,” home to exhibit spaces, live music venues, murals, and the iconic Club Charles cocktail bar. The area is bordered by North Avenue, Greenmount Avenue, and Falls Road, which runs along Jones Falls, a stream that empties into Baltimore Inner Harbor. John Wilkes Booth, stage actor and President Abraham Lincoln’s assassin, is buried in Green Mount Cemetery, which borders the east side of Station North.
The 630 buildings in the area are mostly 2-4 storied row houses, with the exception of an apartment complex, several industrial warehouse structures, and a few historic commercial buildings. The building styles vary from Romanesque to Spanish Revival to Commercial and Modern; the residential areas range from traditional Baltimore row house style to “highly embellished eclectic designs,” yet maintain their historic character, despite the intrusion of a few modern commercial additions. Station North was the first area in Baltimore to receive the State designation as an Arts & Entertainment District in 2002. Many African-American artists thrive in the area, producing fantastic art that enhances the area’s vibrant culture.

Prohibition

Evening Sun journalist H.L. Mencken described prohibition as “a horror,” and many beer-loving Baltimoreans agreed. Some even pretended that the alcohol ban did not apply to them, brewing in their homes for family and friends. Speakeasies became popular as proprietors regularly donated “disabled policemen” funds in exchange for legal impunity. The “Free State” moniker given to the state stemmed from Maryland legislators’ refusal to pass laws enforcing prohibition, and the name stuck. H.L. Mencken even wrote to F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Baltimore is knee-deep in excellent beer. I begin to believe in prayer.”
However, Baltimore eventually caught up with the rest of the country, and prohibition became a real law in the city. Nonalcoholic beer became the new product of the city’s many breweries. A local favorite called Arrow Special was brewed by Globe Brewing Company, a brewery with lineage tracing back to John Leonard Barnitz, the owner of Baltimore’s first brewery back in 1748. Of course, this 0.5 percent ABV beer was not as popular, and hundreds of brewery workers lost their jobs during this time.
When prohibition was lifted in 1933, Globe Brewing Company was one of the first to start production of “real beer” again, reviving Baltimore’s once illustrious brewing industry. Another popular brewery, National Brewing Company, rose to the top of the industry with its popular brews, National Premium and National Bohemian. You can still see Mr. Boh, the company’s one-eyed mustachioed mascot, atop of the National Brewing Company building today.