Breweries’ Growing Popularity Spawns a New Industry: Beer Tourism

The American craft brewing industry is at a historical high, with the number of breweries surpassing the 4,000 mark in September this year – the first time that has been achieved since the 1870s, according to the Brewers Association. In fact, the national brewers advocacy group estimates that 75 percent of adults in the United States who are over 21 years old live within 10 miles of a local brewery.

As a testament to the industry’s burgeoning popularity, the international Wine Tourism Conference taking place Nov. 18-20 at Lansdowne Resort has incorporated sessions that focused exclusively on beer.

“We organized a Beer Tourism workshop at the Wine Tourism Conference because, as a beer tour operator, we know beer tourism is booming and we wanted to know whether there was an appetite among regional breweries for more information on the subject,” said Allan Wright, founder of Zephyr Adventures, which founded the conference and has been running active tours around the world for 17 years.

“We ended up with 41 participants [in the workshop] so it is pretty clear there is, indeed, such a demand and will be working towards the creation of the first Beer Tourism Conference next year,” Wright said.

Aside from the Beer Tourism workshop, the conference also offered the following sessions on Nov. 18:

  • Digital Marketing for the Beer Industry, which covered search engine optimization, content creation including blogs, social media, email marketing, online advertising and video marketing.
  • Creating and Growing a Food, Wine, or Beer Tour Operator Business, which focused primarily on the latter niche market. Attendees from around the world included tour operators from Slovenia, Portugal, Canada and Chile. They shared their experiences and solicited business advice from the panelists, who included Tommy Miller of Richmond Brewery Tours, Kristina Bouweiri of Reston Limousine, and Jane Gregg of Epicurean Ways, which offers luxury food and wine trips in Spain.

In addition to Reston Limousine’s Loudoun winery tours that were launched in 2002, “we also now do brewery tours, cidery tours and distillery tours,” Bouweiri said. “The wine tours are still more popular, they’re just more established. We feel certain that those other tours are going to be very popular and going to continue to grow.”

Reston Limousine also participates in Visit Loudoun’s Brewery Advisory Committee, which was formed in early 2014 to support local brewers in their efforts to market their industry.  Visit Loudoun’s Vice President of Marketing Jackie Saunders, who initiated the group, said that “in the past we have worked with the wineries in a (similar fashion) so we wanted to make sure with the expansion of the number of breweries and product, that we were incorporating all of their input.”

With the number of local breweries that have opened or will soon open at 15, Visit Loudoun launched in June a branding campaign for the industry called the Loco Ale Trail. As part of the campaign, they created and published a map of the locations that are brewing on site, have a tasting room and offer a selection of beers.

Similar to the highly successful DC’s Wine Country campaign, “the brand is beyond just a logo, it really signifies all the experiences that we have to offer, it includes transportation, it includes overnight hotel features, it includes restaurants that you can visit that feature the beer.”

Editor’s Note: Therese Howe is a former writer for Loudoun Business. She is currently marketing manager with Reston Limousine.   

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