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(Ale) Trailblazing Across The Country: Part 3 - All Ale Trails Great and Small

Previous Ale Trail Blogposts
Part 1 - Beer Tourism and The Ale Trail (with a focus on the Columbus Ale Trail)
Part 2 - Brewery/Ale Trail Comparisons with similarly-sized metro areas to Columbus

Part 3 of this mini-series of blog posts covers the ale trails that I located offering a similar passport/stamp system as the Columbus Ale Trail (detailed in Part 1 of this series, as noted above.)

I will say that while I tried to make this as wide-ranging an incentive-laden ale trail list as possible, this is by no means a comprehensive list. With that said, I would like to hear of others that exist if you got 'em to share. Perhaps with enough feedback, I could be persuaded to do a followup post in the near future.

Also, I found that the Columbus Ale Trail card deck for this year's edition of their trail is pretty unique in terms of ale trail giveaways. The closest most unusual swag that I could find on other ale trail concepts was sunglasses on the Kalamazoo Ale Trail as well as a discounted homebrewing kit for the Santa Cruz Beer Trail (more details on both below.)

Boatyard Brewing, a member of the Kalamazoo "Give a Craft" Beer Trail
(Photo courtesy of DiscoverKalamazoo.com)

I would like pay special note to an interesting concept that would've qualified for the Pay-to-Play-ers section below. The Georgia-oriented Peach State Ale Trail, started in 2014, had a unique three-tiered passport system (Citizen, Diplomat and Ambassador.) Basically, the more you spent on the passport, more lucrative the discounts and rewards, including so-called special "Black Koozie" events with the highest "Ambassador" level passport.

As this blog post was being crafted, however, the founders of this ale trail announced "with heavy heart" that this rendition of the ale trail concept was going on hiatus for the near future. However, the website does remain active as a resource for all who are seeking out craft beer in Georgia.

Now, without further adieu, here is my compilation of the country's ale trails (the locale and the year founded are indicated on the first line of each featured ale trail)

THE QUICK AND TASTY JAUNTS
Jacksonville, FL (2014)
visitjacksonville.com/jax-ale-trail   Participating Breweries: 8
Four Stamps - Koozie; All Stamps: T-shirt
Bloomington, IN (2015)
bloomingtonaletrail.com   Participating Breweries: 5
All Stamps: Pint glass

These two cities probably couldn't be more different (a beachside Northern Florida city of 1.45 million people versus a Midwest college town of 175,000) but they both provide visitors and residents a fairly straightforward and easily doable ale trail experience for some swag.

Jacksonville's eight participating breweries include Veterans United and Aardwolf, which took home medals at the 2016 Best Florida Beer Competition.  Meanwhile, Bloomington's breweries are anchored by Upland Brewing, which announced this year that their highly regarded sour beer program was undergoing a significant expansion.


THE WELL-REGARDED & MYSTERIOUS
Maine (2009)
mainebrewersguild.org/maine-beer-trail Participating Breweries: Over 70
19 Stamps: hat    20+ Stamps: T-Shirt    All Stamps - Special prize pack
New Hampshire (2015)
granitestatebrewersassociation.org/nh-beer-trail   Participating Breweries: 40
10 Stamps: Sticker pack    20 Stamps: Bottle Opener    All Stamps: Special Prize Pack

Maine and New Hampshire are more or less the same construct, with more than enough incentive to offer to both the visitor and the local resident to go beyond big boys like Maine's Allagash and The Granite State's Smuttynose Brewing. Both states offer the mysterious "special prize pack" for finishing their respective circuits. As for what that pack includes, the FAQ for the Maine Beer Trail states it best - "You’ll have to visit all breweries and mail it in to find out!"

Maine Beer Trail FAQ page, including the mysterious "What's In The Prize Pack? response?
Kalamazoo, MI (2015)
discoverkalamazoo.com/drink/beer/give-a-craft-beer-trail   Participating Breweries: 12
All non-Bell's Breweries Stamps: Bottle Opener     Both Bell's Stamps: Bell's Brewery Shades

Meanwhile, Kalamazoo's mystery lies with the headliner brewery on their 12-member ale trail in Bell's Brewery. In one of the more unique ale trail offerings, visiting both of Bell's Breweries locations in K-zoo gives you a way to explore your mysterious side via a pair of shades (while it's not specified, my educated guess is they are similar to these sunglasses.) Meanwhile, dropping by the other 10 member breweries on the trail earns you a bottle opener.


STRAIGHT FROM THE SOURCE
Raleigh, NC (2016)
visitraleigh.com/raleighbeertrail   Participating Breweries: 23
5 Stamps: Credit Card Bottle Opener    10 Stamps: Pint Glass Beer Hugger    15 Stamps: T-Shirt

Raleigh is part of a fairly robust craft brewing scene in the Tar Heel State. While Asheville has been grabbing many of the headlines, with recent high profile arrivals like Sierra Nevada and New Belgium Brewing adding to an already highly-regarded locally-based brewery scene, Raleigh has been making its own noise with its brew scene, such as Lynnwood Brewing, which took home medals for its brews this year U.S. Open Beer Championship held in Oxford, Ohio in July 2016, as well the granddaddy of all beer competitions, GABF, later in October.

Folks take it all in at Lonerider Brewing, participating member of the
Raleigh Beer Trail (Photo courtesy of GRCVB/VisitRaleigh.com)
This type of news makes Derek Allman, Senior Marketing Manager for the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau/visitRaleigh.com, even more excited for the area's ale trail promotion, which is in its first year of operation.

Via my e-mail inquiry, Allman stated that while this first year has involved working out of logistical kinks for a longer-term paper/stamp program, "all has been going pretty smoothly so far and people seem to be loving the trail (including the 23 brewers in the Raleigh area/Wake County.)"

Allman further added that while his organization doesn't have definitive numbers of participants in yet, they have received a lot of positive feedback through their visitRaleigh social media sites, and the trail will definitely be running through 2017.

Fayetteville, AR (2013)
fayettevillealetrail.com Participating Breweries: 10
Silipint available for purchase ($10)     All Stamps: Decal and Keychain


Home page for the Fayetteville Ale Trail, which gave craft beer
seekers to the area a pathway since 2013
One may not think of the home of the University of Arkansas as a craft beer destination, but folks like Hazel Hernandez, Director of Marketing and Communications at the Fayetteville Visitors Bureau, would love to spread the word.

This northeast Arkansas town of close to 80,000 people has ten breweries on their trail, including two breweries in the Ozark Beer Company and Core Brewing that have received recognition from Men's Journal in their 2015 "101 Best Beers in America" article.

Hernandez said via e-mail that the trail has been going strongly this year, with about 3,000 passports completed for this year. "Our intent is to enhance the ale trail," Hernandez added, stating that the planning for the 2017 year is well under way, including possible additional incentives.


THE ROADS LESS TRAVELED BY
Eugene/Cascades Coast, OR (2014)
eugenecascadescoast.org/eugene-ale-trail    Participating Breweries: 18
8 Stamps - 64 oz. Growler    9 Stamps (Brewers Union 180) - stainless steel cup    All - Pint Glass

Compared to neighboring Beaver State cities like Bend and Portland, Eugene's and the Cascade Coast might be a little lacking in terms of craft beer drawing power. However, Eugene's version of the ale trail might have some of the better swag around, especially in terms of the first reward level (a 64 oz. growler after only 8 visits.)

Similar to Bell's locations on the Kalamazoo trail, a special trip to Brewers Union 180 gets you another unique get in a stainless steel cup. The pint glass seems almost anti-climactic for completing the whole circuit, but at least you'll earn another vessel to hoist a celebratory pint.

Eugene, Oregon - home of Autzen Stadium and a beer trail to boot
Tri-Valley (Danville, Dublin, Livermore, and Pleasanton, CA) (2015)
visittrivalley.com/tri-valley-beer-trail   Participating Locations: 16
All Stamps - choice of pint glass or T-shirt

Here's another case of a region trying to get out of the shadow of more prominent nearby craft beer destinations (in this case, places like San Francisco, Santa Rosa, or Oakland/Berkeley/San Leandro). However, this ale trail, which covers communities along the East Bay's I-680 and I-580 corridors, gives craft beer seekers a chance to sample breweries such as Livermore's Eight Brothers and Working Man Brewing.


THE PAY-TO-PLAY-ERS
Finger Lakes, NY (2011)
fingerlakesbeertrail.com Participating Locations: 50+
Passport Cost: $20    Rewards: Various Discounts at Participating Locations

$294,000 is hardly chump change for most people. For Theresa C. Hollister, President and Founding Partner of Finger Lakes Beer Trail Marketing & Tourism Associates, it's a sure sign of success for this now five-year-old beer trail, which includes breweries like Abandon Brewing and Climbing Bines in its roster.

When I started reading about the Finger Lakes Beer Trail, their Passport reminded me a lot of the Entertainment Books that my parents bought often when I was younger, with discount coupons for a variety of services, restaurants, and so forth. The 2016 edition of the Finger Lakes Passport featured $475 worth of discounts at a number of breweries, brewpubs, and associated tourist-oriented spots.

The barnhouse-style facade of CB Craft Brewers, a member of the Finger Lakes
Beer Trail (photo courtesy of fingerlakes.org/Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance)
Via e-mail inquiry, Hollister stated that roughly 2,000 passports were sold last year, with "the great majority of the purchasers (94%)...day-trippers." The remainder of sales have been to a wide-ranging array of out-of-staters, including Ohio, Florida, California, and Ontario, Canada.

As for the 2017 edition, Hollister said that was still in the finalization stage, but that details would be posted on their website soon.

Santa Cruz, CA (2016)
santacruzbeertrail.com  Participating Locations: 13
Passport Cost: $25    Rewards: $3 pints at Particpating Breweries/10% off a Homebrewing Kit

Though this metro area of roughly 260,000 people may be known more its Boardwalk, surfing and slugs (as in banana slugs, which the locally based University of California Santa Cruz has adapted as its sporting mascot), a burgeoning craft beer scene has been buoyed by a newly created passport-style beer trail.

The Santa Cruz coastline offers a picturesque backdrop between
stops on the newly instituted Santa Cruz Beer Trail
For beer trail pursuers, your passport essentially gets you discounted pints at participating breweries such as Corralitos and New Bohemia Brewing, while a visit to Seven Bridges Co-op (a homebrewing supply worker cooperative) gets the visitor 10% off a homebrewing kit. Even better for passport trekkers is you are well within easy reach of the renowned farmhouse-style brews of Capitola's Sante Adairius Rustic Ales, almost a must visit for any craft beer aficionado in the area.

Flagstaff/Grand Canyon, AZ (2011)
www.flagstaffaletrail.com    Participating Locations: 15
Cost: $5.95  Rewards: Discounts worth $20 - $25 at participating locations


Not that one needed any real excuse to visit the area where Grand Canyon National Park is nestled, but the Flagstaff/Grand Canyon Ale Trail gives visitors extra incentive to get their kicks traveling the old Route 66. Not surprisingly, the breweries around here make reference to this oft-explored region, such as Mother Road Brewing and Wanderlust Brewing. A fairly recently published guide to some of the area's breweries can be found at this January 2016 Phoenix New Times article.

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So one may wonder now: does this concept apply to any of the big boys of craft beer? My next blog post will take a peek at just that very thing...

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