Cleveland may launch a beer trail.
"We’re exploring the idea," Destination Cleveland spokeswoman Emily Lauer said Tuesday. (Oct. 3) "We haven’t put the corners and edges around exactly what we are doing, but we are looking for additional ways to showcase the scene because it’s growing at a rapid pace."
She emphasized the word exploring -- as opposed to definitely launching.
Cleveland is Ohio's most mature craft beer community, with Great Lakes Brewing Co. opening way back in 1988. The state's craft beer scene for years revolved around Northeast Ohio -- before other regions caught up -- and Cleveland often has been billed as a beer tourist destination. (Speaking of that, Destination Cleveland will be at the Great American Beer Festival this week in Denver promoting the city's beer culture -- and everything else it has to offer for tourists.)
Today, about 30 breweries call Cuyahoga County home.
Despite its lengthy craft beer history and a recent surge in brewery openings, Cleveland has been behind when it comes to creating a beer trail. Plenty of communities around the country already operate ale trails, including several in Ohio.
The Columbus Ale Trail is now in its third year, while Summit County/Akron launched the Summit Brew Path this year. Both offer passports that are stamped when people visit breweries.
The Ohio Craft Brewers Association also started a statewide passport app called Ohio On Tap this year, and Cincinnati has been talking about creating one.
So what's taken so long in Cleveland?
Leslie Basalla-McCafferty, co-owner of the Cleveland Brew Bus and author of Cleveland Beer, blames herself -- and other passionate beer fans like her.
"Essentially, the only reason Cleveland doesn't have something going yet is that people like me, who have the connections in the craft beer community and the desire to promote the local brewing scene, haven't acted until recently," she said in an email. "... It takes people with passion to get organized to make these things happen, and I'm glad we are finally getting our collective acts together!"
She brought the idea to Destination Cleveland earlier this year and then others started pushing for it as well.
"I have long thought Cleveland should have a brewery passport/ale trail system of some kind," Basalla-McCafferty said. "We are a town with a burgeoning, dynamic brewery scene, and home to some absolutely world-class breweries. We are considered a craft beer destination by many. A passport system would encourage beer tourism, and give travelers a handy way to find local breweries. It would also encourage locals to explore beyond their favorite places or the ones in their neighborhoods. People are motivated by competition and prizes -- the idea of racking up stamps and receiving goodies appeals to a lot of craft beer drinkers -- look a the success of the Untappd app. Those badges are essentially meaningless, but it's fun to say 'I'm level 53 on the 'I Believe in IPA' badge!' or I've checked in 1,043 distinct beers!'
"I think the idea of an ale trail also plays well into the collaborative mindset of most local brewers. They are all pretty supportive of one another and of the idea that we have a beer community here -- what better way to cross-promote? It's another example of the old adage about a rising tide lifting all ships."
She also admitted that the Summit Brew Path goosed her into action.
"When the Summit Brew Path launched, it kind of lit a fire under me," Basalla-McCafferty said. "If Akron can do this, then there is no reason Cleveland shouldn't -- in fact it's kind of ridiculous that we don't have something in place already."
Cleveland exploring potential beer trail
Cleveland may launch a beer trail.