What the New Maine Beer Trail is Lacking

I received the following press release today from the Maine Brewers’ Guild:

The Maine Restaurant Association and the Maine Brewers’ Guild announce the Maine Beer Trail. This new trail spotlights the high quality and creative diversity of fresh, hand-crafted, Maine-made beer. The purpose of the Trail is to attract visitors to Maine to enjoy the vibrant micro and craft brewing industry found throughout the state.

The Maine Beer Trail brochure provides a simple guide to more than a dozen of the state’s breweries and brew pubs. Brochures can be downloaded from the Maine Brewers’ Guild website www.mainebrewersguild.org and will be available at Maine Visitor Centers and participating breweries and brew pubs.

Maine is widely known for its award-winning craft beer. According to the Brewers Association, Maine ranks fourth in the nation for the number of breweries per capita, with one brewery for every 42,000 residents. Maine is home to New England’s first microbrewery, D.L. Geary Brewing, which was established in 1986. Gritty McDuff’s opened its doors in 1988 and became the first brew pub to open in Maine since prohibition. Since 1986, Maine has been at the forefront of the craft brew movement and the industry has grown to include dozens of breweries and brew pubs statewide.

From The Shipyard Brew Pub in Eliot, to Atlantic Brewing Company in Bar Harbor, to Kennebec River Pub & Brewery in The Forks, visitors are attracted to fresh, locally brewed beer and the Maine Beer Trail provides an easy to follow brochure that can be used throughout the state to find nearby pubs and breweries.

What The Brochure (and the Trail) is Missing:

While I think the Maine Beer Trail is a great idea (I’ve been calling for its creation forever), and a tourist-driven, Maine-brewing-community-collaborative is exactly what the state needs, the initial version of the Trail the Guild has rolled out leaves a little something to be desired.

For starters, where are the rest of the breweries? The brochure itself only lists 14 stops but there are an awful lot more places in Maine who brew their own. Where are Andrews, or Bar Harbor Brewing, or Sheepscot, or Marshall Wharf (just to name a few)? I really think if you’re going to roll out a program like The Maine Beer Trail, you really need to list all of the breweries in Maine. Otherwise, it just doesn’t make sense.

Secondly, what’s the incentive? I mean, sure you get to see some fun breweries and fun towns, and you get to drink some good beer along the way. And while that may seem like enough, if you’re going to put forth the effort of having an official “Trail”, you have to give it a little something extra. What the Maine Trail needs is the Maine equivalent of the Vermont Brewery Challenge Passport, where you receive a small passport with a logo from each of the state’s breweries and every brewery you visit, you get your passport stamped. Collect enough stamps and you qualify for a bottle opener, a t-shirt or a “collector’s set of VT beer gear”.

So Brewers’ Guild, nice try. And good start. But if you’re going to do this thing, don’t do it half-assed. Include every brewery in the state (and don’t stop until you have them all signed on) and give tourists — and locals — an incentive (beyond the beer) to visit all the breweries. It’s good for the beer, it’s good for the state; it’s just good marketing. Good luck.

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5 comments

  1. Hi Luke — Thanks for your thoughts.  I will share them with the Guild.  Sean Sweeney  had the same
    suggestion about the Vermont trail.  Never hesitate to send feedback.  It is appreciated.   It would be
    great for the Maine Brewers’ Guild and the Maine Beer Writers’ Guild to find ways to work
    together as we expand upon what we’ve begun with the Maine Beer Trail. 

  2. Yo Luke,  
    Hear, hear!  I’m with you (but only up to the “half-assed” part.)  I think this is a great start, and I think it’s a sign of surprising progress that the Guild has found support for this from the State. I’m sure that it’s a bit of a task to get everyone (brewers and brewpubs, state gov, etc.) on board at the beginning, and that the Trail’s size and marketing usefulness and customer excitement will only grow from here. I have a couple ideas about how the Maine Brewers Festival can help, and I bet the Writer’s Guild can be part of the growth and improvements, too… Cheers!  Jay

  3. . . . and what the great beer bars like Great Lost Bear, Novare Res and Ebeneezer’s surely they should be on
    the trail too. Hopefully they’ll make it on the second take.

  4. Yes on the beer bars, Portland is probably second only to the Northampton,MA area for quality beer bars per area. While Andrew’s is my favorite Maine brewer by far I was always under the impression he did not encourage visitors.

  5. Yes to anonymous. Ebeneezer’s is considered the best beer bar destination in the US and the world
    ( with 100’s , to choose from) , Great Lost Bear has numerous accolades ( and the biggest on tap selection).

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