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Launched in June by the Alberta Small Brewers Association (ASBA), the Alberta Ale Trail website is a carefully curated, year-round provincial tourism guide geared to local and international craft beer enthusiasts. The website promotes the province’s entire brewing sector in one convenient resource that features interactive trail maps. With the province’s burgeoning brewing industry as its central hook, tour itineraries incorporate complementary activities, attractions and accommodations that play to the broader tourism strengths of each region. The site also features a beer-themed events page.

Tourism industry organizations such as Travel Alberta and Tourism Calgary have long worked closely with the province’s craft brewers. The Ale Trail project had been in the works for years, but its launch was finally made possible with financial assistance from Travel Alberta and the Tourism Relief Fund. The federal program was created to help the tourism industry contend with pandemic related public health restrictions and assist future growth and development.

Featuring 149 breweries, the Ale Trail’s self-guided tours are packaged by region: Calgary, Edmonton, the Rockies and southern, central and northern Alberta. The site will evolve to reflect the ongoing expansion of the province’s brewing industry, said Blair Berdusco, executive director of the ASBA. She has followed the rise in global beer tourism and believes the taprooms and award-winning beverages of Alberta’s craft brewing sector have much to offer beer buffs. “People will always find something to go back to the Ale Trail to discover,” said Berdusco.

Tour itineraries that emphasize accessibility and pet-friendly accommodation options are included, she added. “We’d like to remove as many barriers as possible to exploring the trails and include a breadth of options for anyone who wants to try a trail.”

Though the Ale Trail is not a booking service, and it merely suggests itineraries, certain tour stops and tastings can be booked on the site through Tastely, an Alberta tourism reservation provider. Tastely is at work to expand the number of booking links available on the site. “It’s mostly specific to the breweries, but the goal is that you can book a ticket, a tour or any kind of booking that might need to be made along the trail,” said Berdusco.

Local breweries are always on Don McDonald’s list of vacation stops. He is director of sales for Beer Revolution in Edmonton and Brewsters Brewing Company and Restaurant, which has locations in Calgary, Edmonton and Airdrie. McDonald believes Alberta’s high-quality malting barley and many unique grain-to-glass stories will help the Ale Trail capitalize on the recent global surge in brewery tourism. “Similar to the way wine growing regions talk about how they grow the grapes and make wine locally, we’re doing that same thing with beer,” he said. A reflection of the way the province’s craft brewers are known to support one another, he believes the site will strengthen the industry as a whole.

Berdusco hopes to see an uptick in sales as Ale Trail users multiply, and a companion smartphone app is now in the planning stage.

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