Beer Scout: On the beer trail

IN THE FIELD: Asheville Ale Trail's new Field Guide to Asheville Area Breweries will be available soon at beercentric locations around town. Photo by Thom O'Hearn
IN THE FIELD: Asheville Ale Trail's new Field Guide to Asheville Area Breweries will be available soon at beercentric locations around town. Photo by Thom O'Hearn

Since 2010, Bend, Ore.’s Visitor and Convention Bureau has produced an Ale Trail to the city’s many breweries. It helps visitors find all the area’s brewery information in one place, and it supports a variety of other local businesses — from restaurants to beercentric stores to hotels — with listings and advertisements. Everyone wins.

With 17 breweries, the Asheville area is quickly closing in on Bend’s 19. So it makes sense that the Asheville Ale Trail thought it was time to start producing its own guide for Asheville’s visitors.

Compared with Bend, the Asheville Ale Trail is a little different. While Bend’s is run by an organization very similar to a chamber of commerce, Asheville’s is run by two entrepreneurs: Hilton Swing and Dan Peschio.

“The original mission [two years ago] was to build a sort of loyalty app, but we quickly decided that wasn’t the route to go,” says Peschio. “We were going to make it something based on checking in at the breweries, but instead we responded to what people wanted, which was information about what’s going on — both right now and with a bit of notice for larger events like festivals.”

So the team created a website with a listing of all the Asheville-area breweries and was the first in town to have a comprehensive and curated listing of beery events. The most popular feature found online is also available as a weekly email: The Weekly 6ix Pack. “The big thing we’re trying to do is give people useful information. For locals, what’s happening tonight is important, but so is knowing when Brewgrass tickets are on sale.” Sometimes the events are beer-related but not necessarily about the breweries. For example, maybe Asheville on Bikes has a ride ending at a brewery, or an event put on in tandem with a brewery. For Swing and Peschio, it’s about the entire community of local businesses in Asheville and their intersection with beer culture.

Visitors to the Asheville area can get as much, or more, out of the website as locals, according to Peschio. However, the team found that tourists often don’t find out about the site until midway through their trip. “We think having a printed field guide around town will get [tourists] to our website earlier in their trip for the up-to-the-minute information,” says Peschio. “It acts as a sort of signpost for us.”

While the Field Guide to Asheville Area Breweries will work together with the Ale Trail website, it’s also meant to be a useful tool in its own right. To encourage folks to grab one for their pocket, there’s a listing for all 25 of the Asheville-area breweries that were open at the time it was printed, including key details like addresses and hours. There are helpful maps. There are a few pages for tasting notes. According to Peshcio, even the ads may come in handy for visitors. “Maybe you wouldn’t have realized that Nona Mia is right there when you’re at Altamont,” says Peschio. And to make sure the guide stays up to date, it will be refreshed and published anew twice per year. “That’s important, because even though we just came out with it, we already have a new brewery open with One World. … Once Sierra Nevada opens, we’ll need to include that as well,” says Peschio.

The field guide will be available soon at all local breweries as well as area bottle shops, beer bars and hotels at no cost. The Asheville Ale Trail website can be found at ashevillealetrail.com.

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About Thom O'Hearn
Thom O'Hearn covers beer and brewery news for Mountain Xpress.

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