There’s a new way to discover Niagara’s growing craft beer scene.
Following the footsteps of the popular Niagara wine route, the Niagara Ale Trail points visitors and locals alike to Niagara’s local craft breweries – including the Niagara College Teaching Brewery.
Maps of the Niagara Ale Trail are already available at the NC Teaching Brewery and the Wine Visitor + Education Centre, as well as all participating breweries. A new webpage connected to the Tourism Partnership of Niagara’s website has also been created at Niagaraaletrail.com
In addition to the Niagara College Teaching Brewery, participating breweries include Bench Brewing Company (Beamsville), Lock Street Brewing Company (Port Dalhousie), The Merchant Ale House (St. Catharines), Plan B Beer Works (St. Catharines), Silversmith Brewing Company (NOTL), Oast House Brewing (NOTL), Exchange Brewery (NOTL), Taps on Queen (Niagara Falls), Niagara Brewing Company (Niagara Falls), Syndicate (Niagara Falls), Kame and Kettle Beer Works (Fonthill), and Brimstone Brewing (Ridgeway).
While the initiative was announced at the recent City of St. Catharines State of the City Address in late January, an official launch is being planned for mid-March.
“The City of St. Catharines believes there are great, untapped tourism opportunities in Niagara’s craft beer industry. Tourism Services works with and promotes many partners who provide a uniquely Niagara experience,” said Karen Doyle, tourism marketing officer for the City of St. Catharines. “This was an opportunity to work collaboratively beyond municipal borders on a region-wide basis with Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Twenty Valley and Niagara’s South Coast to deliver a complimentary experience to the Wine Route.”
The City aimed to elevate Niagara’s craft beer industry and make it a strong, recognized part of its tourism offering, Doyle said.
“With a very successful and well-established wine route, and hundreds of wineries attracting tourists seasonally, there is already a great format to follow and build on,” she said. “What is not yet identified or being done is a collective approach in market to enable the craft beer connoisseur to find it all at their fingertips, until now, Introducing Niagara Ale Trail!”
Doyle noted that over the last five to seven years there has been growing appeal and support for the craft beer industry in Niagara, and the industry has been gaining momentum with mentions in national media and mainstream food and drink publications.
“The buzz is with both locals and visitors who rave about the seasonal brews, unique flavours and characters found right here in Niagara,” she said. “In addition, Niagara College’s Brewmaster program is reaching five years and all eyes are on Niagara for what is next in brewing and distilling.
“The craft beer industry is a small and mighty industry that is continually expanding and with that, there was an opportunity to support and collaborate on new initiatives.”
Steve Gill, general manager of the NC Teaching Brewery and the NC Learning Enterprises Corporation said he has been working with Doyle on the initiative since December 2015.
“I believe it is a wonderful initiative that gets the word out about the great breweries in Niagara,” said Gill. “It is important for us to work with our industry partners and help them achieve success.”
Gill believes the initiative will help boost tourism for the breweries. “We are already involved in Niagara beer tours and working collaboratively with various Niagara breweries on special events, tours, operations etc.,” he said. “Being part of the Niagara Ale Trail will bring ideas together and breweries together to work closely together, similar to what the wineries do now.”
Gill noted that he is proud of the growth of the craft beer scene and that the College is well positioned to educate and train the next generation of brewers and beer industry professionals.
“The college is an important player when it comes to the local economy. The growth shows the college’s contributions as an economic driver in our region is very positive,” he said. “The growth shows that we are on the right track with the teaching brewery and also that there continues to be opportunities for our brew grads. We are able to help students make their aspirations and dreams come true to their chosen field of study.”
While the industry changes quickly, Gill said the majority of breweries have ties to Niagara College not only in the Niagara region but in Ontario.
“Also, across Canada it is very easy to find a brew grad from Niagara College in any province and almost every city,” he said.