The Summit Brew Path is opting not to hand out a little prize to everyone who finishes the brewery trail this year.
Instead, it's offering free entry into a new Akron beer festival and a chance to win cold, hard cash.
Everyone who completes the passport program — there are 22 stops on the trail this year — will be eligible for a drawing for $2,000 in cash and other prizes. The drawing will take place Jan. 10 during the inaugural Summit Brew Path Bash, a special beer tasting that's free to attend for tour finishers and will showcase the participating breweries at the John S. Knight Center in downtown Akron.
The brewery trail, organized by the Akron/Summit Convention & Visitors Bureau, kicks off March 23. (It originally was slated to begin March 16 but was pushed back to avoid the St. Patrick's Day weekend.)
The cash prize is a big change for the Brew Path. Organizers handed out a T-shirt the first year and a glass howler last year. There was discussion this year about hats, bottle openers, glasses and other items.
But Jim Mahon II, vice president of marketing and brand management for the tourism group, said that the feeling is people aren't completing the trail for a free gift. Instead, they enjoy the challenge and making friends along the way.
Last year, nearly 2,500 people finished the tour and turned in their passports. Thousands more participated, but didn't complete the Akron-centric tour, which showcases all the breweries in Summit County and select ones in Stark, Portage and Medina counties.
It's unclear whether people will embrace a trail without a guaranteed prize at the end. But perhaps more people will finish the tour if there's $2,000 at stake.
"You are definitely going to want you and your wife to have two passports to up your chances," said Ernie Joy, co-founder and brewer at Wadsworth Brewing Co. in Wadsworth.
But he said he has heard from a couple of customers who are disappointed and don't plan finish this year.
Organizers are eager to see the response.
The brewery trail works like this: People grab a passport at the participating breweries and then get them stamped at each location. Once they collect all the stamps, they turn in the passport to be eligible for the prize.
There will be only one entry per person for the cash prize. In other words, people can't complete the trail multiple times to boost their odds. The grand prize winner also isn't required to be at the Summit Brew Path Bash.
The trail will feature:
• Akronym in Akron
• The Brew Kettle in Hudson
• BrickOven Brew Pub in Akron
• Canton in Canton
• Headtrip in Stow
• HiHO in Cuyahoga Falls
• Hop Tree in Hudson
• Hoppin' Frog in Akron
• Ignite in Barberton
• Lock 15 in Akron
• MadCap in Kent
• Magic City in Barberton
• McArthur's in Cuyahoga Falls
• Missing Falls in Akron
• Missing Mountain in Cuyahoga Falls
• Mucky Duck in Green
• Royal Docks in Jackson Township
• R. Shea in Akron
• Thirsty Dog Taphouse in Akron
• Thirsty Dog Sour Haus in Akron
• Two Monks in Akron
• Wadsworth in Wadsworth
While the passport program officially begins March 23, Mahon will be at the Art & Ale beer tasting Saturday at the Akron Art Museum, where he will hand out passports and special limited-edition glasses to the first 100 visitors at both sessions. He also will hand out passports and glasses March 21 at Jilly's Music Room during the 3rd Thursday event.
For more details about the trail, click here.