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BREWPATH POPULARITY BOOSTS AKRON'S BOOMING BEER BUSINESS

June 11, 2017

I decided it was time to jot down some quick notes on the continuing popularity of the Summit Brewpath – a local brewery trail and passport program developed by the local Convention & Visitors Bureau. Similar to popular programs run in other cities, the program lets beer lovers get a passport at 14 participating breweries in Summit, Medina, Portage and Stark counties, then collect stamps when they visit and have a beer. Once their passport is filled with brewery stamps, they can get a free “I completed the Summit Brew Path” T-shirt, and are also eligible for an entry to win a grand-prize overnight stay in Akron.

To say this was a great idea for local beer lovers and brewers is perhaps the understatement of the year. Initially, 5,000 passports were printed; when 4,000 went out the door out in the first two days of the promotion, another 5,000 were ordered. By the end of April, the bureau had been forced to order an additional 10,000 passports due to the incredible demand.

It’s a fun idea, and participating brewers have reported that about half of their customers are coming in to get their books stamped. Each book provides a short intro to each of the 14 participating breweries and a space for their unique ink stamp. A few other regional breweries are also profiled in the book, which look similar to a travel passport. The 14 participating breweries include Aqueduct, BrickOven Brew Pub, Hoppin’ Frog, Ohio, R. Shea, Thirsty Dog and Two Monks in Akron; HiHO in Cuyahoga Falls; Mucky Duck in Green, Canton in Canton; Royal Docks and Scenic in Jackson Township; MadCap in Kent; and Wadsworth in Wadsworth.

Akron continues to add new breweries on a regular basis, as the local beer business finally seems to be hitting its stride and gaining a higher profile. Clearly, the Summit Brewpath program has been a big boost to business—even presenting a challenge to some of the smallest brewers, who have sold out of some beers on busy weekends when lots of people show up to get stamped. Nevertheless, if you’re selling beer, that might be a good problem to have.

The passport program has also had a great social impact as well, as visitors from different cities and neighborhoods compare their stamps, talk about their visits and the beers they’ve tried. It’s an idea that’s been working well in Columbus, where the Ale Trail is in its 3rd year; in 2017, it expects to have 38 stops and print between 35-40,000 passports. For Akron, at one-fourth the population size, to have a program almost half as large, is a pretty good start. Cincinnati recently announced plans to develop an Ale Trail of their own, and the Ohio Craft Brewers Association launched a statewide digital trail for smart phones called Ohio on Tap in May.

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