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15 Unique US Ale Trails

Five years ago, an ale trail was a novelty. You might visit some breweries, collect stamps in a brewery-, tourism board- or Brewers Guild-sanctioned Passport, and come home with a t-shirt or some other trinket showing that you completed said trail. Today, it seems like every city, state, or region boasting more than one brewery has an ale trail. With so many options as everyone vies for your beercation dollars, it’s hard to discern which are worthy of your PTO hours and which aren’t.

Thankfully, competition sparks creativity and innovation. Organizers are now moving beyond the “go here and have a flight” mantra of the ale trail trend in its infancy, and are hopping up their beer destination offerings through technology – such as apps and interactive maps – and by including local attractions and food hotspots. From coast to coast, here are 15 unique U.S. Ale Trails.


South Sound Craft Crawl in Tacoma, Washington

Nothing sells an ale trail better than the ability to visit breweries car-free. “You can make the journey part of your Craft Crawl experience with the free Link light rail train in downtown Tacoma,” says Matt Wakefield, Travel Tacoma communications manager. Seven of the breweries on the South Sound Craft Crawl are within walking distance of “rail to ale” stops. During the summer, a weekend trolley extends the car-free experience to several breweries with restaurants on the scenic waterfront.

“Our breweries love to play with decidedly different flavor creations,” says Moira Davin, director of marketing and communications for Experience Olympia & Beyond. “Whether it’s a beer made with rhubarb, basil or farm-fresh local cucumbers or strawberries, our brewers are always thinking outside the box.” A local favorite is Engine House No. 9’s Wild Tacoma Bing Cherry Wild Ale brewed with Central Washington cherries.


Bend Ale Trail in Bend, Oregon

There are so many reasons to trek the Bend Ale Trail. First, Bend is one of the original cities in the country to blaze an ale trail. Second, Bend has more breweries per capita than any other city in Oregon, and two-thirds of those breweries are within walking distance of each other. Third, the city has been named Beer Town, USA how many times?

Highlights on the Bend Ale Trail include Deschutes Brewery Pub, where the famed brewery got its start; Immersion Brewing, where you can learn to homebrew and actually take home beer that day with the brewery’s pay-it-forward program; and the McMenamins Old St. Francis Pub, Hotel and Brewery, a 1930s school that has been transformed (and also includes a movie theater and soaking pool).


Flagstaff-Grand Canyon Ale Trail in Arizona High Country

Flagstaff is an example of an already popular destination augmenting its vacation experience with local breweries via the Flagstaff-Grand Canyon Ale Trail, which runs through Flagstaff, Williams and Sedona. The area draws tourists with its natural beauty, abundance of outdoor activities and proximity to the Grand Canyon. Cap your day of rock climbing in Red Rock State Park with a roasty and hearty Nut Brown Ale from Oak Creek Brewing Co.

The Flagstaff-Grand Canyon Ale Trail passport costs around $6 with proceeds helping fund Quality Connections, a nonprofit dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities obtain job training and employment opportunities.


North Lake Tahoe Ale Trail in Lake Tahoe, Nevada

In planning the North Lake Tahoo Ale Trail, “we wanted to ensure a strong link to North Lake Tahoe by connecting the various hiking, biking and paddling trails found throughout the region to various brewpubs and restaurants, capturing what makes this area unique,” says Andy Chapman, president and CEO of the Incline Village Crystal Bay Visitors Bureau. “In a sense, we have connected the best watering holes at the end of the dusty trail.”

The interactive map highlights various trails and routes to follow ‒ including difficulty level ‒ with nearby libation hotspots to help refresh you when the adventure is over (or you just need a break). Celebrate biking the Tahoe Rim Trail with a Hop Song West Coast IPA brewed with a rye kick at Tahoe Mountain Brewing, wrap up paddle boarding with drinks on a floating bar at Pier 111, or kick back after kayaking on Lake Tahoe’s clear blue water with a tart and funky Strawberry Funkmobile Saison at Alibi Ale Works.


Las Cruces Ale Trail and the Green Chile Walk of Flame in Las Cruces, New Mexico

Things get hot along the Las Cruces Ale Trail in New Mexico – especially when you pair the beer trail with the flaming heat of the Green Chile Walk of Flame. Locals take pride in the natively grown green hatch chile and find inventive ways to work it into everything from the sweet and spicy Green Chile Sundae at Caliche’s Frozen Custard to the fruity yet fiery Chile ‘Rita Margarita at La Posta to the eyebrow-raising Green Chile Meat Lasagna at Lorenzo’s Italian Restaurant.

And yes, green chilies even work their way into beer. Pecan Grill & Brewery works roasted chiles into their D’s Green Chile Lager for a libation that produces heavy pepper notes without too much spice. Don’t worry, there are plenty of non-chile beers as well. Expect lots of wheats, pale ales and pilsners to match the desert climate.


Colorado Springs Crafts and Drafts Passport in Colorado Springs, Colorado

Colorado Springs Crafts and Drafts Passport combines your traditional passport stamps for a prize with digital coupons redeemable at 24 different stops along the trail. Those stops include not only breweries, but also a whiskey producer, coffee roaster and vodka distiller.

“Many of our stops have patios with impeccable views,” says Chelsy Offutt, director of communications for Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Owners are often onsite and happy to talk about their passion for craft beverages, and it’s an easy way to discover a new favorite place.” The trail is an education into craft beverages as much as it is a way to enjoy Colorado Springs’ scenery. And did we mention free beer? A number of participating locations include BOGO offers or a free beer with a minimal purchase.


Beer City Brewsader Passport in Grand Rapids, Michigan

In Grand Rapids, you’re not just another beer tourist; you become a Brewsader through their Beer City Brewsader Passport. Collect eight stamps in your passport or eight check-ins via their mobile app from a choice of more than 35 breweries to redeem for a commemorative t-shirt.

Along the way, experience a who’s-who of fabled craft breweries such as New Holland, Founders, Atwater and Brewery Vivant. Be sure to stray off the trodden path, though, and see what new discoveries you can find like Rockford Brewing, which walked away from the 2017 Great American Beer Festival with three awards: Small Brewpub and Small Brewpub Brewer of the Year, a silver for their Sheehan’s Stout (an Irish Dry Stout) and a bronze for their Rogue River Brown.


Route 33 Brew Trail in Butler County, Ohio

While Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland are urban meccas for beer lovers, the Route 33 Brew Trail – spanning the stretch of highway that connects Columbus to Athens – takes beercationers on a scenic road trip through Southern Ohio’s Fairfield County.

“The allure of the trail is that you will sample tasty craft beers in unforgettable locations,” says Jonett Haberfield, executive director of Visit Fairfield County.  

Highlights along highway include experimental brews at BrewDog USA’s ultra-modern and eco-friendly brewery, Wallonia-inspired beers at Rockmill Brewery’s horse farm-turned-brewery, and unfiltered, hop-forward beers at Loose Rail Brewing’s former rail substation.


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Comments

BeerMe180's picture
Wow. 2 Maine breweries out of over 100... That’s disappointing.

Comments

BeerMe180's picture
Wow. 2 Maine breweries out of over 100... That’s disappointing.

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