by Alyssa L. Ochs
Here at IOWA Trails & Tales travel guide, a significant part of our mission is to connect tourists to craft beverage trails that highlight a region’s unique approach to making wine, beer and spirits. Craft beverage trails have been around for many years, but they haven’t gotten a lot of attention or been actively promoted in many parts of the country. This has led to misunderstandings and misconceptions about what these trails really are and how they enhance the travel experience. And no, a winery, brewery or distillery trail is not just walking on a random hiking path in the woods with a beverage in hand!
To clear things up, here’s what craft beverage trails really are, why they’re worth checking out and how they can help you get more out of travel.
Background on Craft Beverage Trails
Craft beverage trails are somewhat similar to a bar crawl in that both concepts involve visiting multiple businesses selling alcohol to try what each has to offer. Bar crawls usually invite participants to walk, bike or ride a bus from one place to the next, all of which are located relatively close together.
In contrast, a craft beverage trail has stops that are often farther apart and involve driving to various breweries, wineries or distilleries in a region. Trails are more geared towards tourism rather than a wild party scene for St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween or other festive holidays that lend themselves well to partaking in a few drinks.
Why Try a Craft Beverage Trail?
If you love to travel and enjoy locally produced alcoholic beverages, a craft beverage trail perfectly combines these interests. Beverage producers are in tune with the overall vibe of a region and can offer tourists an excellent way to get to know the local scene in an authentic way.
Think of craft beer, wine, and spirits trails as niche tours or drinkable “bucket lists” that promote small businesses and encourage non-standard, outside-the-box travel. Every beverage-producing region has something distinctive to offer, just as all individual travelers do when they cater their daily itineraries around homegrown beer, wine, cider, seltzers or spirits.
Goals and Benefits of Trails
One of the main goals of setting up a craft beverage trail is to draw business to craft beverage establishments and introduce out-of-towners to places they might otherwise not come across in their trip research. Meanwhile, residents living near the trail stops can get more involved with businesses in their area and support the local economy, while getting out more and perhaps making new friends too.
Craft beverage trails are fun for weekend day dates with someone special and bachelor and bachelorette parties with groups of friends. With energized marketing efforts behind them and community support, they promote experiential tourism and immersion into different cultural scenes. Trails can also encourage producers to focus on local ingredients and eco-friendly methods to attract sustainable-minded consumers to their places of business, plus other activities and sights to see nearby.
Examples of Fun Beverage Trails
There are craft beer, wine and spirits trails scattered all across the country in big cities, rural areas and broader regions with small towns. You can experience numerous craft beverage trails right here in Iowa that highlight offerings in specific areas of the state. To help you narrow down the options, you can even search for trails by Beverage Type and Region on the IOWA Trails & Tales website trails-tales.net.
Here are some examples that you might want to check out for yourself when you are traveling the state:
• Amana Colonies Wineries
• Heart of Iowa Wine Trail
• Cedar Falls Beer Trail
• Central Iowa Beer Trail
• Iowa Distillery Passport
• Iowa Craft Beer Passport
• Iowa Wine Trail
• Northeast Iowa Beer Trail
• Quad City Ale Trail
• Pub Pass Des Moines
• Western Iowa Beer Trail
How to Have the Best Trail Experience
First and foremost, to have the best and safest experience on a craft beverage trail, it is a good idea to have a designated driver so that you aren’t putting yourself at risk on the road.
You’ll also want to do some research, study a map, plan your route and consider the weather. It’s also a wise idea to choose the right people to travel the trail with so that you will have fun but still be responsible and continuously learning new things along the way.
Beverage Trails and Technology
One of the best ways to keep consumers engaged with a beverage trail is to link it to modern technology. For instance, some brewery, winery, and distillery trails have their own mobile apps available for download.
Trail directors and managers boost engagement by running competitions based on social media postings, sharing photos online and including hashtags. They also make it easy for customers to find their favorite beverages after the trail experience is over by utilizing scannable QR codes and sending follow-up marketing messages to customers via email or text. To promote a well-rounded travel experience, craft beverage trail apps may include suggestions for non-drinking activities nearby to check out before, between and after trail stops.
Explore Trails in Iowa and Beyond
With a better understanding of what craft beverage trails are, we hope you’re feeling inspired to check out a few in Iowa and elsewhere around the country during your travels. As you make stops at breweries, wineries and distilleries, take what you’ve learned here and strike up conversations with producers about what you’d like to see offered on the trail. A few examples of potential offerings are merchandise discounts, educational opportunities, prizes, punch cards and VIP access to onsite events.
To be part of this exciting movement and the next big thing for the craft beverage industry, stick with us at Trails and Tales for highlights, updates, and travel inspiration to sip your way through Iowa and beyond.
For more information, fun trip ideas and inspiration, visit our website www.trails-tales.net