419 Ale Trail aims to further connect local craft beer scene

·4 min read

Jun. 17—Friday is the first day of a new calendar in the Toledo area: the inaugural Year of the Beer.

Destination Toledo, Lucas County's tourism bureau, will launch on Friday the 419 Ale Trail, a marketing initiative designed to steer additional business to local brewers in northwest Ohio.

By signing up for an Ale Trail passport, hosted on a mobile phone without an app, beer enthusiasts can check in at participating locations — which is most of them in Toledo and the surrounding suburbs — to receive various deals and collect prizes. Sign-up is available at 419aletrail.com.

Twenty-nine breweries and other craft beverage makers within the 419 area code are participating, and patrons will receive entries for brewery prize packages at five, 10, 15, 20, 25, and 29 check-ins, with the grand prize highlighted by an overnight stay at Metroparks Toledo's Cannaley Treehouse Village.

Participants will have until June 17, 2022 to complete the trail.

Cathy Miller, the trail's ambassador for Destination Toledo, said this was the "perfect time" to entice people to explore, with coronavirus restrictions mostly lifted in Ohio and the craft beer scene continuing to grow.

"It's really growing in the northwest, and with all the restrictions lifting, everybody's wanting to get out, so it's going to be a great summer," she said.

Even with pandemic-affected declines in 2020, the Brewers' Association estimated $22.2 billion in retail sales for craft breweries. More than twice as many breweries opened (716) as closed (346) a year ago, and many within the industry believe their market is poised for a big rebound this year.

Participating in the Ale Trail are local favorites including Maumee Bay Brewing, Earnest Brew Works, Inside the Five Brewing, Patron Saints Brewery, and Black Frog Brewery, but also new entrants into the local craft beer scene like Buffalo Rock Brewing in Waterville, which opened in 2020, and 60cc Brewing on Reynolds Road, which is scheduled to open its doors this year.

Part of the trail's allure was connecting Toledo and Lucas County with surrounding areas by inducing visitors and residents to try new places in the coming year.

Kalida-based 1820 BrewWerks, started by owners Amy and Butch Brinkman and Tessa and Andrew Wehri just last year, already had collaborated with Toledo-area brewers before opening, so the idea of the trail naturally made sense for the small, friendly brewing community.

"Just the idea of connecting the Toledo area all the way down sounded fabulous," Mrs. Brinkman said. "We've had brewers from Toledo come down and brew with us when our guys were just starting, so it's a very family, brotherly atmosphere."

The trail stretches west from Two Bandits Brewing in Hicksville, just minutes from the Indiana border in southwest Defiance County, east to Catawba Island Brewing just east of Port Clinton.

Catawba Island Brewing sales manager Jay Killon said that area already draws its fair share of tourists, particularly in the warm-weather months, but the Ale Trail offers another reason for people to visit northwest Ohio.

"Catawba Island is already a hub for tourism, but now it's going to be a hub for brewing fans alike," Mr. Killon said.

With the trail, there is now the allure of adding other local brewers to a trip for out-of-town visitors, he said.

"If they have a three-day vacation, they have 28 other breweries they can go to out west," he said. "For us, it's a conglomeration of the tight-knit brewing community that we already have, and it's a chance for all of us to get good exposure."

Mrs. Brinkman joked that she'd like to go on the trail as well, but her new outfit is looking forward to welcoming more new customers in the coming year to try their beers for the first time.

"Beerwise, we're so new," she said. "We just opened in November, so we're debuting all of our stuff. The guys have had about 30 recipes that they're fine-tuning up to opening, and we've only had a couple handfuls, so we're excited to put out as much as possible."

First Published June 17, 2021, 12:31pm

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