What is the CT Beer Trail?
There’s been a lot of confusion regarding what the CT Beer Trail is and what it is not. While most of the craft beer fans we encounter are appreciative of what we do, there are few out there that are very vocal in a negative way. So, we figured it was time to set the record straight, and let you make your own informed decisions.
First some points that need to be made clear…
The CT Beer Trail is not funded by the state in any way, we never claimed to be and have no desire to be so. We do receive a small fee from most of the breweries; the amount is minimal and necessary to keep our operation running. We’ve never claimed to be a charity, a government sponsored entity or anything other than a business that serves the state’s breweries and beer lovers. Like any business, we do need to have some source of income to maintain our operations. But the bulk of our money comes from private bus and limo tours we plan and conduct (which also bring business to the breweries, we actually pay them for their beer and their time) and merchandise sales sold at events where we talk up our state’s breweries.
We also organized the Trail Blazers Club, a program that offers members that opt in to receive discounts and incentives at breweries, brew pubs, bars, restaurants, hotels, festivals and other venues. There’s a lot of talk about if the CT Beer Trail is official or not, to be clear it is official, just not in the way you would expect.
Early on we helped develop the CT Brewers Guild by putting together their bylaws, promoting them and their efforts with the media, helping them develop a smart phone app, helping them plan and run their meetings and elections and doing a bunch of other tasks to support them. In return we get no financial support in any way from the guild. The guild’s board of directors agreed to allow us to start the Trail Blazers Club as a way of enabling us to develop a revenue source instead of directly compensating us for some of the work we do for the guild as an entity. In fact, if you are a Trail Blazer Club member, you’re considered an official enthusiast member of the guild. That’s not my wording; that came straight from the guild’s board of directors. It’s mostly an honorary title, but one that indicates your support of the state’s breweries. Most of the folks we talk to that opt into the program love it and thank us for setting up the program. And for many of the supporting venues, the cards bring in repeat and new business. In a sense, everyone involved benefits from it. We have a ton of repeat members each year and new members too. But making membership cards, tracking memberships, sending cards out in the mail, it all takes time and money, so it’s not the windfall some seem to think it is.
While we are considered official, we are essentially funded as an optional resource by the individual breweries. Some get involved, others do not. It’s their choice to make, and they are never pressured to do so. It is our desire to change that process and to remove the funding requirement from the individual brewers and have the guild centrally fund the efforts, and by doing so lower the actual already meager cost to the breweries. This is an initiative we’ve been talking about for a couple of years now, but it has not yet become a reality yet. We hope it will soon though, but that is in the hands of the guild.
It has been said that we should be all inclusive, representing all of the breweries, and we agree. Unfortunately that is not the way the agreement with the guild is set up at this time. We hope to change that soon.
In the meantime, we regularly post and repost social media updates for breweries we do not technically have a one-on-one relationship with. We don’t try to hide these breweries, we actually promote them, but not to the level of the breweries that support us and enable us to continue our work. To do so would be unfair to the breweries that support us.
Your feedback was heard
Recent feedback has hit home, and we are currently developing a way of representing the breweries that have not joined the trail, while not betraying the good will of those breweries who have continued to support us from day one. We hope to have an evolving solution for that in the weeks and months to come. But all things take time and right now we’re focused on promoting and celebrating CT Beer Week, and we don’t have a huge staff.
The CT Beer Trail is largely the product of one man who is lucky to have the help of a handful of volunteers to assist with events and other activities. We’ve also been honored to have the support of most of the state’s breweries.
The company is owned and operated by a disabled military veteran, and many of his helpers are military members as well. What does this matter? Nothing really, but we just wanted to give you a little insight into the folks behind the trail. We’re not money hungry villains who are hell bent on using the state’s breweries for personal gain. We’re actually genuine beer lovers who started this whole thing to simply promote breweries. No one is making a large sum of money on the initiative, the bulk of the money made from breweries is pumped back into the CT Beer Trails social media ads, and other efforts to cross promote the state’s craft beer community.
But at the end of the day, we are a small business, built around a genuine passion, with the goal of helping breweries cross market and better connect with the average person in the state. We’ve been fairly successful at doing just that, garnering a ton of media attention and support for our state’s breweries, from local and national news coverage to working hand-in-hand with authors to tell the story of Connecticut’s beer.
At the core of all of this is a true love of beer and all things local and a deep respect for the brewers and fellow small business operators who had the courage to start a business that involved their passion. Starting and running any business is extremely challenging, sometimes mistakes are made. In our case we recently had a technical issue when we setup the Untappd badge for CT Beer Week (2015). We worked rapidly with the good folks at Untappd to put that badge campaign together in a matter of days, and some clerical errors were made. When we created the list of Connecticut breweries our list got truncated, simply through user error. Embarrassing? You bet! Part of a state-wide conspiracy to minimize some of our state’s finest breweries? NO WAY!
We caught the mistake within minutes of the badge going live, but unfortunately some folks took advantage of that opportunity to smear us and our efforts. They took a very positive thing for the state’s breweries and turned it into a silly social media controversy.
Words like defamation and libel come to mind, but when people have great passion, they too can make mistakes. We’ve witnessed a small number of individuals online make efforts to turn people against us, to mock us and to cast a negative light on our efforts; those efforts put forth with nothing but positive intentions. It’s important to note that none of these individuals were brewery owners or representatives. I can only assume the accusations, insinuations and false narratives are products of misguided passions and legitimate concerns. So we’ll hold no grudge, we all make mistakes.
We’re big fans of civil discourse conducted in a professional manner. Public disputes conducted via social media are neither civil nor professional. With that in mind, we are happy to talk one-on-one with anyone that may have constructive criticism or honest feedback. We want to improve and better serve for the state’s beer industry and beer enthusiasts. You can always contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope reading this lengthy message was worth your valuable time. I thank you for reading it with an open mind.
In an effort to bring about more transparency and to help keep the record straight, we will occasionally post a "State of the Beer Trail" update here as things develop. Thanks again for your time.