Mixed Drinks: The Lure of Beverage Trails

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A great way to explore a new destination is through its local beverage scene, and many areas are making this experience even easier with the creation of beverage trails. While there are plenty of designated beer trails out there, those that highlight a mix of businesses—such as breweries, wineries, distilleries, cideries, and mead makers—can provide a unique and eye-opening experience.

Beverage trails benefit these local businesses with increased exposure and marketing opportunities, encouraging co-marketing and collaboration. For customers, having a trail that offers a variety of beverages allows for groups with different favorites to spend time together, with the bonus of introducing people to something they otherwise would not have tried. They also often benefit from prizes such as T-shirts, stickers, pint glasses, and other giveaways for completing the trails.

More and more beverage makers across the U.S. are banding together to share in the fun with an organized trail, including the Schuylkill Craft Beverage Trail (Pennsylvania); the Southern Tier Craft Beverage Trail (New York); the Lake County Libation Trail (Illinois); the Placer Wine & Ale Trail (California); the Treasure Coast Wine, Ale & Spirits Trail (Florida); and dozens more.

Discovering a New Favorite

In Ohio, the Darke County Whiskey, Wine & Ale Trail highlights Tailspin Brewing Company and Moeller Brew Barn, but also has stops for wine, cider, cocktails, and whiskey.

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“Participants have told us they love the variety it offers,” says Greg Billing, executive director of the Darke County Visitors Bureau. “There’s something for everyone along the trail to enjoy, but with so many options, it also encourages participants to try something new or different. It’s a chance to explore and discover a new favorite.”

Trail blazers like the variety of drink options as much as the different locations, Billing adds. The trail features a cocktail lounge with a speakeasy feel, a winery inside an old schoolhouse, a bar inside a boutique hotel, and a distillery on a 200-year-old family farm, among other unique stops. “They love discovering new places and the different atmosphere each one provides.”

The bureau encourages participants to do the trail responsibly at their own pace. Some complete it over the course of a few days, while others might take a couple of years.

A Pleasant Surprise

Emily and Tom Caldwell, owners of Big Trout Brewing in Winter Park, Colorado, are part of the Winter Park & Fraser Craft Beverage Trail, a self-guided trail of breweries, distilleries, and wineries.

“Since we are a small town that relies on tourism and recreational activities, it’s really nice to promote something else our town has to offer outside of the standard skiing and biking,” Emily Caldwell says. “We love the focus on community and experiencing all craft beverages Winter Park and Fraser have to offer within a small distance.”

Many of the craft beverage destinations are situated along an art walk. For those stops that aren’t walkable, there is a bike trail, and each is accessible by bus.

“The Chamber wanted to highlight the craft beverage scene and make it simpler for people to visit the businesses and have a fun experience,” says Catherine Ross, executive director, Winter Park & Fraser Chamber.

Caldwell also believes offering a trail with varying beverage types allows groups with different preferences to share in the experience. “It fosters community and group engagement across various businesses. We have had feedback from guests that they came to experience a brewery tour across the towns and were pleasantly surprised to have craft distilleries included as well.”

The trail includes Hideaway Park Brewery, Vicious Cycle Brewing Company, Fraser River Beer Company, and Camber Brewing Company along with wineries and distilleries. An interactive map on the website provides a description of the participating businesses.

Something for Everyone

The Nelson 151 Craft Beverage Trail in Virginia has something for everyone, says Maureen Kelley, Nelson County director of economic development and tourism.

beers and food from three notch'd brewing

The trail highlights Blue Mountain Brewery, Bryant’s Brewing, Devils Backbone Brewing, Three Notch’d, WildManDan, and Hazy Mountain Brewery along with distilleries, cideries, and wineries. Collaboration is evident amongst businesses on the trail, including meetups, participation in community events, and support of one another by cross-promotion.

“The Nelson 151 members truly care about one another and the success of the trail,” Kelley says.

In addition to an interactive map, participants who complete the trail receive a Nelson 151 T-shirt, a decal, and a Virginia is for Lovers bumper sticker. Kelley reports that more than 800 packages have been sent out.

Pro Tip: Many beverage trail websites include suggestions on nearby lodging as well as restaurants. Ask about transportation from each location, as many are located within walking distance or on a bus route. Remember that trails aren’t meant to be completed in one day—space things out to enjoy the experience at each and drink safely in moderation. Map out the locations that offer a non-alcohol option—most will—for your designated driver and for others interested in going alcohol-free.

Kristen Kuchar has been writing about the beverage industry for 15 years for a variety of national publications including VinePair, Zymurgy, The Beer Connoisseur, Craftbeer.com, Beer Advocate, Brew Your Own, Thirst Colorado, All About Beer, DRAFT, and dozens more. She is a Certified Beer Server and has a Level 1 Wine Certification with the Wine & Spirit Education Trust while continuing to pursue further wine and beverage education.

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