Tahoe Ale Trail connects outdoors with brew pubs
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — There very well may be a world that exists where one’s love of the outdoors should never be paired with one’s adoration of local craft beers, but that world does not exist at Lake Tahoe.
Like the myriad trails the region offers for exploration, the Incline Village Crystal Bay Visitors Bureau believes there is a wealth of watering holes available to explore after a walk or ride in the woods.
And like those trails, Ryan Eller, owner and proprietor of Mellow Fellow Gastro Pub in Kings Beach, and others on the North Shore believe there is a new beverage to explore with each visit.
Launched Sept. 1 through the visitors bureau, the North Lake Tahoe Ale Trail started with the procurement of a $10,000 Travel Nevada grant, said Andy Chapman, president and CEO of the Incline visitors bureau.
The bureau matched those dollars to fund the project’s marketing with video production and creation of an interactive map travelers and locals can use to plan their hike.
Since its launch nearly a month ago, Chapman has mainly been focused on allowing the initiative to grow organically, mainly through social media and word of mouth.
The Ale Trail is supported by the North Lake Tahoe Marketing Cooperative, known as Go Tahoe North and The Abbi Agency.
As Chapman and other visitors bureau officials and business owners monitor the Ale Trail’s progress, further marketing and promotions will be developed.
“It’s the stickiest social campaign we’ve done in a long time,” Chapman said. “We’re going to look at what the winter version of this may look like.”
Targeting the fall season for launch, the Ale Trail could provide a means to not only extend shoulder season tourism, but also provide a springboard for local breweries and pubs to extend marketing through the visitors bureau.
“It’s a good angle for us as a business, because we don’t have the reach to get all of those new people to come in,” Eller said.
With help from its website and an interactive map that can be found there, visitors can locate trails by land and water, which link up with a variety of local bars and restaurants throughout the entire North Shore-Truckee triangle.
Chapman hopes the initiative helps shine yet another spotlight on the variety of outdoor activities locals and visitors can participate in here and connect them with the other end of experiences the area can provide.
“It’s the human-powered sports initiative,” Chapman said.
Whether it’s a hike to Brockway Summit or a kayaking trip through Meeks Bay, the interactive map points out nearby businesses and a means by which to get there.
But it’s that emphasis on outdoor recreation and bonding over a frosty beverage that Chapman is emphasizing — not just another reason to belly up to a bar for a night one might not remember the next day.
“Craft beer in general attracts an audience that isn’t necessarily interested in getting drunk,” Eller said. “Obviously, you can do that, but the goal isn’t to come in and see how many beers you can drink; the goal is to come in and talk about the beer and analyze what they do and don’t like about it.”
Rich Romo, co-owner of the Incline Village craft brewery Alibi Ale Works, won’t argue with a potential uptick in business.
When members from the travel bureau showed up to talk about the initiative, it seemed like a no-brainer to Romo.
“Why not?” he said.
Romo has seen a variety of patrons visit his brewery since it officially opened in December 2014, anyone from college students to longtime residents visit, he said.
While the types of people vary, if there was anything that unified them, it was a love of craft beer and a penchant for conversation.
“We never wanted to be a bar that people got hammered at,” he said.
While Mellow Fellow and Alibi may compete for business in the strict sense of the word, Eller believes the initiative can be good for any local watering hole in the area.
“The way I look at it, when the water level rises, all boats float higher,” he said. “Collaborating through a larger organization like Go Tahoe North, everyone benefits by working together.”
While it’s still too early to see how the initiative is impacting local business, Chapman is already working on expanding the Ale Trail website to include more videos as well as working on ways to incorporate more trails and connecting businesses.
He said those initiatives could be primed for release as early as winter 2015.
“I point out many cases of where privately owned companies do just as bad a job as publicly owned companies,” says Reno resident and former teacher Robert (R.D.) Gardner.