HiHO Brewing Co. owners Jon and Ali Hovan weren’t sure what to expect last year when the inaugural Summit Brew Path kicked off.

They figured the new brewery trail — which showcases stops in Summit, Medina, Portage and Stark counties — would increase foot traffic at their Cuyahoga Falls brewery.

It did. By a ton.

"We had a line out the door," Ali Hovan said recalling the first day. "It was wild."

The popular passport program returns Saturday (March 10) for its second year with new places to visit, a new-look passport and a new finishing prize. The Akron/Summit County Convention and Visitors Bureau, which organizes the program, has a goal of at least equaling the success of last year when it handed out about 20,000 passports. About 2,600 people completed the entire trail, collecting stamps at all the stops and redeeming their passports for a T-shirt.

"These people really, really wanted to try unique, quality authentic craft beer that’s made in this community," said Gregg Mervis, president and chief executive officer of the tourism agency. "I think they found good beer and good people and good conversation."



Here are nine things to know about this year’s trail:
1. 18 stops
The trail features 18 breweries — up from 14 last year.

The stops are:

• Aqueduct in Akron

• The Brew Kettle in Hudson.

• BrickOven in Akron.

• Canton in Canton.

• Headtrip in Stow.

• HiHO.

• Hop Tree in Hudson.

• Hoppin’ Frog in Akron.

• Ignite in Barberton.

• MadCap in Kent.

• Magic City in Barberton.

• McArthur’s in Cuyahoga Falls.

• Mucky Duck in Green.

• R. Shea in Akron.

• Royal Docks in Jackson Township.

• Thirsty Dog in Akron.

• Two Monks in Akron.

• Wadsworth in Wadsworth.
2. In and out
Six of the breweries are new: The Brew Kettle, Headtrip, Hop Tree, Ignite, Magic City and McArthur’s.

One brewery from last year, Scenic in Jackson Township, closed. Ohio Brewing also is in the middle of moving to a new location in Cuyahoga Falls and isn’t open yet.
3. New prize
The finishing prize is new.

The much-maligned brown T-shirt is out. Instead, if you collect stamps at every brewery, you’ll receive a 32-ounce brown glass growler embossed with the phrase "I completed Summit Brew Path 2018" and the names of all the participating breweries.

People can collect their mini-growler at the Convention and Visitors Bureau in downtown Akron during the week or at the Akron Art Museum on the weekends. The deadline to complete the trail is 5 p.m. Dec. 14.

Next year, the prize might be a hat or even a bottle opener.
4. T-shirt
But you really wanted a T-shirt? The Convention and Visitors Bureau is working on a deal to allow people to buy their own T-shirt with the Summit Brew Path logo at a local, yet-to-be-determined retailer.

People will be able to choose the shirt and color of their choosing. The T-shirt purchase is optional.
5. New passport
The passport, which will be available for free at all locations starting on Saturday, is different.

It’s no longer a bound, brown passport that resembles an official government passport. It also no longer contains multiple pages.

It’s now a charcoal gray folded piece of cardstock that’s about 14-by-7 inches when fully unfolded. The new look was designed to save money.

There’s also less information like hours and all the breweries are squeezed onto four foldout pages. People are being encouraged to visit the breweries’ websites or www.summitbrewpath.com for details such as hours.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau printed 20,000 of the passports to ensure it wouldn’t run out quickly like last year.

Organizers will be handing out passports Friday to about 100 lucky people at the sold-out Art & Ale beer tasting at the Akron Art Museum.
6. Missing breweries
There are plenty of breweries in Summit County that didn’t make the passport.

Why? Well, they aren’t open yet.

The passport includes a section highlighting breweries that are "coming soon:" Akronym, Missing Falls, Missing Mountain, Lock 15 and Ohio.
7. Savor the journey
Last year, Guilford Township couple Karen Bujak and Karl Boettger completed the trail in one day.

But organizers want people to savor the journey and not view the Summit Brew Path as a race.

"There’s no prize for finishing on the first day," said Roger Riddle, marketing and social media manager for the tourism agency. "There’s no reason why you should not relish the experience and go to these places and get to know these people."

Organizers were thrilled to hear stories last year of how people struck up friendships because of their mutual interest in the trail.
8. Outreach
The Convention and Visitors Bureau is putting more emphasis this year on connecting with other neighboring brewery trails to encourage people to visit the Akron area.

The Summit Brew Path was the second official brewery trail in Ohio, but there are many now operating within the state and elsewhere.
9. Grand prize
The Convention and Visitors Bureau is again offering a grand prize to one lucky winner drawn at random from those who complete the tour.

The prize features a two-night stay in Akron, along with dining and shopping gift certificates valued at more than $500.

Ali Hovan, the co-founder of the HiHO, called last year’s Summit Brew Path a "huge, huge, huge success." Her brewery even ran out of passports right away.

She expects the same positive response this year.

"People have been calling us. ‘Hey can we get a passport? When are they available?’" she said.