Recently, I took a car trip to Maine to visit family, and while there, I took the opportunity to visit a few of the many breweries in the Portland area. It’s been many years since my first visit to the Maine Beer Company, and at the time, their little cubby was perched and overlooked the brewery and warehouse. These days, this warehouse itself is part of the tasting experience, complete with elegant décor and a large and somewhat inquisitive fountain.
worth 1000 words
I noticed something else as well. Everyone was taking pictures. Cell phones were outside where visitors took selfies, panoramas and videos to document their visits and posted social media accounts everywhere. Staff stuffed bottles of liquid souvenirs into boxes while smiling visitors flashed discount cards on their way out. It was Disneyworld beer. The Maine Beer Company is clearly equipped for as many tourists as possible to traverse through its space each day.
On the long way home, I wondered, “Will New Jersey become a beer tourism destination?”
Move in the right direction
By chance, a few days after my return to New Jersey, I learned that a bill had been introduced to create the New Jersey Craft Beer Trail to promote craft breweries in the Garden State. On September 24, Governor Murphy signed Convert Bill A-1091 into law. The bill, also sponsored by NJBIA, was co-sponsored by Assemblyman Carol Murphy (D-7) and Valerie Finnery Huttel (D-37), Senator Stephen Orohu and Assemblyman Hal Wirth (R-24), and Senator James Beach (D-6). )) ).
Assemblyman Wirths, from Sussex County, told me, “I enjoy all different beers and we are fortunate to have some great microbreweries in my area. I was interested in doing something to help the industry. Our Jersey wineries have a very successful wine trail program, so why not do it? For beer brewed in Jersey?”
I can’t agree more than that. The growth of the craft beer industry over recent years has been a good economic story here in the Garden State. In 2011, fewer than 30 breweries inhabited the state. Now that number is over 130. According to the Brewers Association, we are 20th in the country in the number of breweries but only 44 in the number of breweries per capita (two per 100,000 people over the age of 21). The potential for continuous growth is huge.
This new beer route is the responsibility of the New Jersey Department of Travel and Tourism. After reaching out to them for more details, I was surprised to learn that they actually had a route plotted on their website. This is encouraging! It’s on the department’s website, VisitNJ.org, and although it’s hard to find without a direct link, typing the word “beer” in the search bar will lead you there.
The site is geographically classified into northern, central, and southern New Jersey. (over there is being Central NJ, after all!) and topically via beer, wine, and distilleries. All breweries for each area are listed with links and phone contacts and plotted on Google Maps. All the information is there, except for one thing: the actual path.
All of this is great news, but we know that a list of breweries isn’t making a track for beer. It is not a simple case like “If you build it they will come”. A September 24 press release about the signing of the draft brewery bill stated that “at least three breweries will be linked in a vacation itinerary identifying nearby restaurants, accommodations, arts, cultural attractions, and more on an interactive website.”
There is clearly more work to be done. Assemblyman Wirths asked if he intended to continue participating in development. He said, “Sure.” “I can’t wait to tour the trail myself!” Honestly, I can’t either. I think NJ has a real shot at getting into the regional beer map. Here are some of my thoughts:
In case you weren’t aware, Grand Rapids, MI, is known as Beer City and they have an app to prove it. The Beer City Brewsader app offers guided tours of Grand Rapids and gives you access to the hotel’s beer packages. You can even ride a party bike or trolley. It’s a one-stop shop for the beer tourist.
Interaction and prizes!
The Maine Beer Track offers a mobile-friendly website where you can filter by options and regions. Is food available? Is it close to the beach? Then select individual breweries to create your own route and map. If you create an account, you can “stamp” your card with a four-digit code for each brewery. Visit at least 25 breweries to start winning prizes from the State Brewers Guild.
Breweries often rely on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to promote their beer. Obviously these would be great places to promote beer trails. Perhaps less obvious, at least for the travel and tourism department, are beer-related apps like Untppd. In this application, users can rate beers, communicate with each other and find great beers. Untppd also provides advertising and promotional opportunities for businesses. Other state beer trails are showing up there, so why not New Jersey?
Ask Hunterdon County
What better way to experience the rustic beauty of Hunterdon County than by exploring their beer trail? Check it out here and then get a passport to get started.
It’s refreshing to see the New Jersey government give the craft beer industry some love. There is more to come. “There is a bill to allow craft distilleries to continue selling mixed drinks as well as allow microbreweries the ability to deliver beer,” Assemblyman Wirths said. “These delivery privileges will also extend to most liquor license holders: bars, restaurants, and liquor stores.” The bill, S-3915 (also A5848), was voted on in the state Senate in early December. However, it wouldn’t hurt to contact an assembly member to express your support now!
I will see you on the road!
Check out our stories about these New Jersey breweries: Magnify, MudHen, and Descendants.