by Tamara Scully
There are a lot of ways to do tourism. And when you’re talking about craft beverages, the attraction – a nice, cold, beverage – is often enough to bring visitors into the bar, tasting room, brew pub, or vineyard. Craft beverages attract customers.
Typical craft beverage tourism once consisted of visiting vineyards and wineries, located in beautiful settings, with classy tasting rooms and grapes growing outside the doors. Today, visitors are touring distilleries and breweries, cideries and meaderies, in locations as diverse as city breweries and remote rural distilleries, as farm-to-glass beverage makers emerge across the nation.
Miles Above the Rest
“Colorado’s beverage industries work together to create innovative beverages while giving back to their communities. For example, spent grain from brewing is used by local farmers and ranchers to finish their beef and pork. Distilleries age their beverages in retired beer and wine barrels and incorporate local produce for added flavor. Winemakers use local honey to create new varieties of classic mead,” Anne Klein, Director of H&Co, a Colorado marketing agency, said.
It’s this community connection that flows through the industry’s tourism efforts. While individual craft beverage makers offer tours, many join forces to create regional “trails,” such as the Fort Collins Brewery Trail and Foam on the Range Tour. While each brewery highlights its own signature tastes, they all work together to keep tourism alive.
At Peach Street Distillers, in Palisade, bourbon is made from local sweet corn, and fruit brandies from the pears, plums and peaches of local orchards. Grappas are crafted from grapes grown at the nearby Debeque Canyon Winery.
Palisade is nestled in the premier wine grape region of the state, and is the known as the peach growing capital, too. While beverage makers here offer tours and insights into the art of distilling and brewing, the farms where the ingredients are grown join in as well. Visitors can tour orchards, see hops processed or peaches packed, and then enjoy beverages made with these local ingredients. The Palisades Fruit and Wine Byway highlights the orchards, gardens and farms as well as the beverage makers.
“Palisade’s agricultural businesses offer a great opportunity to learn firsthand how fruit, wine and farm products are grown from the ground up, then prepared and sent to market,” Klein said. “Camaraderie in the industry is intended to boost sales.”
Farm stay vacations, where guests can assist in beverage-making tasks, is one way to keep folks around for more than a few hours. Luxury, eco-friendly, and themed vacation stays are all available on-site at some of the state’s wineries.
At Mesa Wind Farm and Winery in Hotchkiss, overnight guests enjoy the opportunity to harvest grapes, press peaches, pick tree fruit or prune in the orchards. Then, they can relax at the tasting room, literally enjoying the fruits of their labor with the winery’s assortment of wines made from their own crops.
Tying local history into the day’s tasting events is another way to shine. The Marble Distilling Company’s tasting room boasts a marble bar from the local quarry, and The Distillery Inn allows visitors to soak up more local flavor.
Food and beverage tours, such as those offered by Colorado Springs Food Tours, combine history, food and drink, and “connect the local community, visitors, and the culinary world through fun and adventurous events,” Klein said.
Wine and Beyond
At Vermont Farm Tours, owner Chris Howell believes that “touching, smelling and tasting” a product “provides a personal connection, and sensory experience.” Wine tours, featuring visits to Lake Champlain vineyards and wineries, allow his guests to do taste the wine, meet the producers, and experience the behind-the-scenes action that goes into crafting their favorite wines. He also offers cocktail tours, featuring cocktails made with local spirits and bitters, as well as presentations from bartenders and craft beverage makers.
The Finger Lakes Region of New York, already home to numerous wineries and assorted wine trails, has also become home to Finger Lakes Beer Trail. Since 2011, founders Adam Smith and Theresa Hollister, have been fulfilling their mission “to increase the visibility and reputation of the region’s craft brewers and other brewing-related businesses. In doing so, we aim to attract more beer-loving tourists to the Finger Lakes region thus ensuring continued economic growth and financial stability of our region’s craft brewing industry.”
Other initiatives, such as New York’s Craft Beverage Industry Tourism Promotion Grant, which was “created to help grow tourism across New York State by promoting destinations, attractions, and special events explicitly related to the craft beverage industry,” as per the Empire State Development website, are adding momentum to beverage tourism efforts.
Beverage trails abound in almost every state. Whether promoted by non-profit organizations, by private businesses or by the beverage makers themselves, linking producers in one region together, and partnering with local lodging providers, restaurants and other attractions provides visitors with more than a few hours of activities, and gives them reason to stay in the region.
While craft beverage makers proudly promote their own unique characteristics, such as one-of-a-kind copper stills, barrels or malting vessels, on-site gardens where ingredients are grown, or tours of their own vineyards or farms, some are also adding activities to draw new crowds, and keep locals coming back frequently.
Workshops that teach the craft of distilling, brewing or wine making are ways to capitalize on your skills while attracting guests to your business. Whether offering short courses, or intensive week-long workshops, fees from classes can help the bottom line while requiring little up-front costs. Offering lodging onsite, or in conjunction with a local innkeeper, brings even more financial benefit to your business and community. Classes covering mixology, or food and beverage pairings, are other choices, often attracting locals back each week.
Renting out your space for special events is another popular way to attract tourists. Weddings, anniversaries and birthdays occur year-round, and rentals during otherwise slow periods can be a benefit. Hosting onsite craft fairs or farmers’ markets, offering special event dinners, or even renting out space for exercise classes, scrapbooking groups or to service organizations for their meetings can bring in revenue, as well as new and repeat customers.
While the drinks themselves often do the beckoning, savvy beverage makers are getting creative not only with what they brew, but with how they attempt to attract customers. When beverages are not mass-made, offer unique flavor profiles and interesting stories, and are integrated into their community, tourism dollars flow freely. Craft beverage makers have learned that when it comes to tourism, “the more, the merrier,” really does apply.
Craft Beverage Tourism: Straight up or with a twist
by Tamara Scully