Over the last 10 years, the world of craft beer has exploded into a nationwide sensation. Starting around 2013, Northwest Arkansas began to experience its own boom. Due to the area’s growing craft beer scene, Experience Fayetteville launched the Fayetteville Ale Trail – Arkansas’ first craft beer tasting adventure featuring local breweries – in August of that year. Each brewery was spotlighted in a “passport” and drinkers could get a stamp at every participating business. Once the passport was full, then the person could get a bottle opener and a sticker. After that, they could get a new passport and start over again.
Over the last four years, 35,000 passports have been printed, with 2,000 given out in the first two weeks and 17,000 in the first year of the program. What started with seven breweries in Fayetteville and Springdale has grown to now include 11 partners throughout Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers and Bentonville. Even a cidery is involved with the ale trail. The current participants include Apple Blossom Brewing Co., Columbus House Brewery, Fossil Cove Cove Brewing Co., Core Brewing and Distilling Co., Saddlebock Brewery, West Mountain Brewing Co., Ozark Beer Co., Bike Rack Brewing Co., Bentonville Brewing Co., New Province Brewing Co. and Black Apple Crossing Cidery. While not all of the companies are in Fayetteville, they are partners with the Ale Trail.
“By promoting and educating Arkansans and guests to the Natural State about the local craft beer culture of Northwest Arkansas, this innovative partnership has helped boost the local economy, inspired similar endeavors across the state and garnered national attention and recognition for its partners and their beloved hometowns,” said Hazel Hernandez of Experience Fayetteville.
The Fayetteville Ale Trail has received regional and national media attention with features in Tulsa World and CNN Travel. This year, Ozark Brewery’s Bourbon Barrel Double Aged Cream Stout was listed on Food & Wine’s “50 Best Stouts.” Last year, Travelocity named Fayetteville a Top 20 “Beer Destination.” In 2015, the Southeast Tourism Society named the Ale Trail the recipient of its Shining Example Award for Best Niche Marketing. As the Ale Trail continues to grow in popularity, so does the craft beer culture in Fayetteville and Northwest Arkansas. Fayetteville alone hosts an array of events year-round revolving around craft beer: Frostfest, Ales & Tails, Arkansas Brewgrass Festival, Foam Fest, Northwest Arkansas Craft Beer Week and Oktoberfest. Businesses continue to pop up as a result of the Ale Trail, including Hogshead Tours, a spin-off business which hosts food, wine, farm and music tours.
Evan McDonald, co-owner of Apple Blossom, is grateful for the Ale Trail and Experience Fayetteville’s promotion of the craft beer scene in Northwest Arkansas.
“The Ale Trail has been very successful,” he said. “First and foremost, all the breweries in Fayetteville are very grateful for this thing because it’s gratifying and encouraging to know the city is so supportive of our industry that they’d put out this ad push specifically geared for our customer base. Even in NWA, you won’t find other cities that are as supportive as Fayetteville. I’d definitely say it’s has been quite the success.”
The craft beer scene continues to grow in Northwest Arkansas, and the Fayetteville Ale Trail will continue to highlight and showcase these amazing breweries and their creations for all the world to see. As more and more people continue to visit Fayetteville and enjoy craft beer, the Fayetteville Ale Trail will keep them informed about all the latest and greatest to experience.
Visit FayettevilleAleTrail.com for more information.
Photography courtesy of Experience Fayetteville