“Wine tourism seems to be a foregone conclusion,” craft beer program director at the Brewers Association, Julia Herz, told BeverageDaily.
“People go to Napa, Sonoma, New York State, the Finger Lakes. That, surprisingly so, has not applied to beer despite the almost double the sales.”
According to Nielsen data, total category sales of beer hit $36bn in 2015 with craft beer being the fastest growing subset of the overall category, compared to wine which had $13bn in annual sales in the same year.
And with more than 4,100 breweries and counting throughout the US, breweries are much more prevalent and accessible.
“Getting to 4,100 breweries was a pre-prohibition already accomplished milestone, and then just in 2014, we finally got back to that,” Herz said.
Top 6 large metro areas with the most beer tourism:
- Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, Oregon
- Denver-Aurora, Colorado
- Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington
- Portland-South Portland-Biddeford, Maine
- Colorado Springs, Colorado
- Santa Rosa-Petaluma, California
Source: Travelocity Index
‘Own your backyard’
According to Herz, in order for a brewery to draw in out-of-town visitors it must start local and be in tune with the surrounding community because “they are your customers first and foremost.”
“Own your backyard,” she said. “And then from there become a destination of that backyard.”
“If the local community is not supporting a brewery, they’re doing something wrong,” Herz said.
But with investment and engagement with the local community comes an even bigger halo effect, Herz added, as residents bring in out of town people to visit the community as well as the brewery.
“That becomes a part of how these breweries thrive and get to be known as destinations,” she said.
Extended stay brewery visits
Another way some breweries have further capitalized on the rise of beer tourism is by accommodating overnight stays from out of town guests. For example, Rogue Brewing in Oregon also has a bed and breakfast for those visiting from out of state.
The Dogfish Head Inn in Delaware was developed to a be a “welcoming hub” for guests also visiting nearby Milton Brewery and Rehobooth Beach brewpub.
Brewery tours and special releases
By offering tours of the brewing facilities and special releases of certain beers for local and visiting customers, breweries can benefit from the steady growth of on-site beer sales. The Brewers Association estimates that on-site craft beer sales account for 1.75 million barrels, working out to roughly 7% of craft beer’s total US sales.
Special releases of certain beer like Indiana-based Three Floyd’s Dark Lord beer, released on “Dark Lord Day” draws lines of people waiting to buy a ticket for an opportunity to buy the beer.
“And many of those people are not locals but out of towners visiting that specific brewery,” Herz said.
Herz said that the popularity of beer tourism will only continue to grow, putting craft beer more on the map. Advanced beer markets such as Portland and Denver are not the only cities benefiting from rising interest in “beercations”: smaller metro areas have an opportunity to take advantage of traveling beer lovers as well.