- Associated Press - Sunday, May 22, 2016

STAUNTON, Va. (AP) - Like Nelson County has the Brew Ridge Trail, the Shenandoah Valley now has its very own beer trail snaking down Interstate 81.

A multi-locality effort has brought a dozen craft breweries together to benefit six tourism areas. It’s called the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail and includes the following breweries: Seven Arrows Brewing Company; Pale Fire Brewing Company; Stable Craft Brewing; Three Notch’d Brewing Company; Brothers Craft Brewing; Basic City (coming soon); Redbeard Brewing Company; Shenandoah Valley Brewing Company; Blue Lab Brewing Company; Devils Backbone Brewing Company; Wolfe Street Brewing Company; and Queen City Brewing.

“Craft beer is really gaining momentum in Virginia with over 100 breweries,” said Courtney Cranor, Waynesboro assistant director of Economic Development and Tourism. “It’s a market that continues to see growth. In addition to the trails you mention, there are other beer and wine trails in the vicinity. Aside from the Brew Ridge Trail there is the Nelson 151 and the Red, White and Brew (in Washington, D.C.). Much like the Brew Ridge, Shenandoah Beerwerks focuses solely on beer.”

The announcement comes with the start of American Craft Beer Week, which celebrates more than 3,000 small and independent craft brewers and breweries across the country.

“Explore our great outdoors and enjoy great beer, too,” a release said. “Come tap into that authenticity you crave.”

What makes this trail stand out from others is how the local breweries boast real fields, farms, pristine waters, endless mountain views and hiking trails. The trail also will tap into local farmers’ markets, music festivals to draw more people into the area’s small cities.

“Shenandoah Beerwerks isn’t using promo incentives to attract the beer drinker. We want to go beyond merely ‘linking’ the breweries on a map,” Cranor said. “We’re trying to focus on both a fun and serious beer experience here and pair it with the types of activities that have been shown to be enjoyed by craft beer drinkers. You’ll see a lot of links to outdoor recreation, hiking, mountain biking, paddling and where to grab a great craft beer in the vicinity of those activities. It’s really about a tourism experience for the next generation of beer drinkers.”

Tourism officials from Staunton, Augusta, Waynesboro areas have been studying the potential of the trail since 2014.

“What we quickly discovered is that a beer trail in our area would be much stronger if we included Lexington and Harrisonburg breweries,” said Sheryl Wagner, director of tourism for Staunton. “So, that’s when we asked those tourism offices if they wanted to be a part of it. They enthusiastically agreed and for the past several months, we have all been working together to make this project come to fruition.”

Wagner said they tried to make this trail different from other beer trails in the state like that in Nelson County and in Loudoun County called the LoCo Ale Trail.

“I think this is a great regional project with tremendous potential. There’s nothing else like it in the Shenandoah Valley,” she said. “Our trail is, of course, about great beer, but it’s also about all the other activities that connect you to the Shenandoah Valley - beautiful farms, outdoor recreation, small towns, music festivals and great food.”

“I’m always excited by the way small businesses create the flavor of any area and you can’t get much more flavorful than the variety of craft beers on this trail,” Cranor said.

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Information from: The News Leader, http://www.newsleader.com

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