2016 will be big year for $5.2M Cincy brew trail

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2016 will be big year for $5.2M Cincy brew trail

City pledges to kick-in $1M for project

By: Amanda Seitz  

Posted: 2:48 PM, Dec 31, 2015
Updated: 5:00 AM, Jan 4, 2016

CINCINNATI -- If you walk through Over-The-Rhine next year, you’ll be
able to brush up on the history of Cincinnati’s love affair with beer,

Construction of the Brewing Heritage Trail’s first phase, a 2.3-mile
system that guides people through the city’s historic brewing land
marks with info signs and bronze medallion markers in the sidewalks,
is slated to begin in 2016.  

A new smartphone app, which people can use while walking the trail,
and website are also expected to launch next year, said Steven
Hampton, the executive director of the Over The Rhine Brewery

“2016 is going to be a very big year for the trail,” Hampton said.
Plans for the historic brewing trail have been in the works for five
years. “We’re excited share this history.”    

The trail will take three years to construct and cost $5.2 million,
Hampton said. It will ultimately stretch from Reading Road, near the
Horseshoe Casino, past Liberty Street to McMicken Avenue, near the
Christian Moerlein Brewery. City leaders hope the trail will also be
an attraction for tourists who might stop and grab lunch at a nearby
restaurant or be inspired to grab a beer at one of the local

Are Big Beer Brands Making Craft Festivals Square?
How beer in a box is ruining the festival vibe
by Matthew Sedacca, March 22, 2016

Illustrations by Natalie Nelson

With the meteoric rise of craft beer's popularity and availability, there  
has, naturally, been overwhelming growth in the craft beer festival  
circuit. For beer lovers, these events, theoretically, should be paradise.  
On the surface, this should mean more malt-loaded carnivals with rare and  
nuanced beer (and many different types from a variety of local producers);  
more like-minded folks eager to dip their tongues into glasses of hoppy  
wilderness; and, hopefully, more breweries?from well-known big names to  
local microbreweries?with representatives ready to guide fans to exciting  
brews. And while partially true, the profusion of craft beer brings big  
brands with big money. But do these macro "craft" producers deserve a seat  
at the table?

According to the Brewers Association, an American craft brewer is:  
"small," or has an annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less;  
"independent," with less than 25 percent of the company owned or  
controlled by an alcoholic beverage industry member that is not a craft  
brewer; and "traditional," meaning that the majority of total beers  
produced must have flavors derived from traditional/innovative ingredients  
or fermentation processes (sorry, no flavored malt beverages allowed).  
This definition, admittedly, is far-reaching, as it encompasses breweries  
that nationally distribute their bottles, alongside local players that are  
just beginning to serve their beers in the taproom.

While beverage titans AB InBev and MillerCoors still dominate the American  
beer market, since the 1980s?and especially within the past decade?the  
craft beer community has grown astronomically, also spurring the  
aforementioned big guys to buy out their craft competition. Per the  
Brewers Association, the number of craft breweries operating in the United  
States surpassed 4,000 in the fall of 2015, with little, if any, signs of  

In a recent study by Eventbrite, researchers reported an 86 percent growth  
in the number of beer festivals year over year in 2015, up 59 percent from  
growth in 2014. Beer Calendar, a website that lists worldwide beer  
festivals, reported over 1,400 events in 2015, with the majority held in  
North America. But despite such growth, the question remains: are these  
newer festivals diving deep into the intricacy and freak show  
experimentation of the craft beer word? Or are they just aggregating a  
bunch of well-known "craft" brands and letting people drink the day away?

Are these newer festivals diving deep into the intricacy and  
experimentation of the craft beer world?

Bryan Roth, a Durham, North Carolina-based All About Beer contributor  
believes there's a strong dichotomy between true craft beer festivals and  
events sponsored by major "craft" brands. But he notes, "The idea of the  
'beer-in-the-box' festival has been a bit larger in the past, but ...  
smaller, more intimate ones are becoming commonplace."

When a beer festival is not affiliated with a local brewers? guild, and  
rather appears to be an amalgamation of several established and big name  
craft breweries, it has come to be known, tongue-in-cheekily, as a  
"beer-in-a-box" festival.

"With beer-in-a-box festivals, there?s one goal?to make money," says Paul  
Leone, Executive Director of the New York State Brewers Association. "If  
you look at who's doing them, there are companies coming up and being  
created to capitalize on the growth of craft beer. It's real easy to get  
permits for these things, and they?re hugely profitable."

In stark contrast to beer-in-a-box festivals are the micro-scale, niche  
events that curate barrel-aged saisons, where hop-freaks garb pretzel  
necklaces as palate cleansers. Such an example is 3 Floyds Brewing Co.?s  
Dark Lord Day in Munster, Indiana, an event which offers brewery fans one  
of the most coveted imperial stouts in the craft beer world. For $200,  
attendees also can taste a variety of high-ABV beers, and engage in  
in-the-know activities afterwards, like bottle swapping.

"There are obviously some beer geeky events out there, events that are  
trying to draw in people by having rare beers or beers that you really  
have to know about the brewer to even appreciate that it [the beer] is so  
rare," says Alessandro Vazquez, the founder of Brew Avenue Events, a Craft  
Beer Festival consulting and production company based in Illinois.  
Small-scale, independently-run festivals often times help introduce local  
residents to breweries that they didn?t know were within driving distance.  
For example, the Vlamis Craft Beer Festival in Elkton, Maryland offers  
patrons a three hour beer tasting for $25. According to organizer Anthony  
Vlamis II, there's an emphasis on less-known breweries, with a third of  
them sourced from the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia region.

"It?s an eye opener to some people, and it?s a good way for people to try  
beer they like or don?t," he states. "Everyone?s able to find one they  
like." At the tasting, small-scale and local breweries will go  
pour-to-pour with well-known "macro-craft" breweries like Stone and Evil  
Twin, but Vlamis suggests that the little guys do as well, if not better,  
than their larger, more commercially adept competition.

"With beer-in-a-box festivals, there?s one goal?to make money."

Alongside smaller, intimate gatherings, larger beer festivals affiliated  
with a region's brewers guild (a non-profit organization linked with the  
Brewer's Association) carry a similar mindset to the Vlamis tasting of  
emphasizing good, local beer. According to Amanda Buhman, spokesperson for  
the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, the organization highlights the local  
and regional microbrewery scene at its All Pints North Festival in Duluth,  
Minnesota. She says that the Guild curates its lineup, with an emphasis on  
a wide range of regional and local brewers, many of which one can only  
sample at brewery taprooms.

"I think there's a real loyalty to the Minnesota brands," Buhman says,  
explaining that the Best of Fest Award almost always goes to one of the  
local breweries. Additionally, approximately 75 percent of the breweries  
attending the festival are from Minnesota, with the rest mostly comprised  
of breweries that have attended the festival prior to sharp growth in the  
state's craft beer scene. Buhman later adds that like other guild-run  
festivals, the event functions partially as marketing promotion for  
underrepresented Minnesota-based breweries, as well as a "fundraiser" for  
the guild in assisting local brewers.

Unlike the ?ber-specialized beer festivals that offer high ABV raspberry  
bourbon barrel-aged stouts, or a curation of the most tongue puckering  
sour ales from the region, Paule Leone of the New York State Brewers  
Association explains that "beer-in-a-box" festivals typically get by with  
volunteers pouring the beers (rather than brewery representatives who can  
explain why that bourbon stout tastes like bubblegum). He also mentions  
that organizers are extremely flexible when selecting participating  
producers, referring to commonplace breweries and their beers that one is  
likely to find at the corner store.

Some of these festivals evoke harsh gut-responses from those deeply  
involved in the craft beer community, like Leone. Others like Dan  
Silberman, founder of Drink:Eat:Play, a food and drinks events company  
based in Los Angeles that puts on nationwide beer events, see the benefit  
of incorporating macro-craft breweries. For him, these beers can serve as  
a gateway for newcomers, many of whom might be scared off by phrases like  
dry-hopped or gose.

"We don?t appeal just to craft beer geeks because we?re not gonna get the  
kind of beers that you're gonna have at beer week," Silberman says. He  
adds "we usually ask for them [breweries] to bring a specialty, but for  
some of them they?re trying to push product so that you'll go to the local  
bar and ask for a Lagunitas IPA or Sierra Nevada Nooner, which is common,  
because that?s what one of their goals is: to familiarize attendees with a  
beer that they can easily find and purchase."

"It's simple economics: macro-craft breweries, in comparison to  
small-scale microbreweries, have the budget for taking such financial  

Roth points out that there are two reasons that often explain the seeming  
pervasiveness of macro-craft breweries. The first is that, well, it would  
be weird for them not to be there. Elder statesmen breweries like New  
Belgium and Anchor helped push the craft beer scene into the mainstream.  
As such, it is fitting for them to participate in craft beer festivals,  
both large and small, that celebrate their innovation. The second reason,  
however, is that there are implicit costs that can make attending a  
festival fiscally disadvantageous for smaller breweries.

"For some of these festivals, it?s not easy for some of these small  
breweries to send a couple of kegs and send a couple of people," continues  
Roth. "This is out of their annual operating budget." He adds that both  
local microbreweries and larger craft breweries could be using these kegs  
for their taprooms, where they will make a larger initial profit, instead  
of hoping the exposure will lead to more patrons of the brewery in the  
long-run. In terms of numbers, Roth explains that it's simple economics:  
macro-craft breweries, in comparison to small-scale microbreweries, have  
the budget for taking such financial risk.

It's not unfathomable for event organizers to conceptualize an intimate,  
local expos? highlighting local beers, with a handful of staple macrobrews  
to round out the event, but wind up dealing with the opposite. Rob Precht,  
founder of the Hot Springs Craft Beer Festival in Hot Springs, Arkansas,  
explains that when he last put out a blast to local brewers, only a  
handful from area accepted the invitation.

"Every Arkansas brewery is not just invited?they're recruited," Precht  
says, admitting that he has driven to brewers in attempts to sway their  
decision. He adds, "We don't have good participation with Northwest  
Arkansas brewers because they don't see this as their market, and they're  
busy, and they prefer to do something else, but I'm still working on them.  
I call them every year."

Other festival organizers and marketing experts lamented the fact that  
often, instead of brewery representatives (individuals versed in the  
brewery's philosophy and style), volunteers will pour the 2 ounce beer  
samples. And their explanations of beers typically coms from liner notes  

All experts interviewed for this article concurred that the craft beer  
market?in particular the craft beer festival market?has become flooded.  
However, they also agreed that this hoppy wave will subside, leaving  
behind organizers truly dedicated to the craft movement. "I think the  
market will take care of itself," Vazquez says confidently. "That?s the  
natural order of things.


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