By Brenda Silva
(Photo by Verola Media)
While local breweries craft interest in their beers, other like-minded businesses are also looking to quench the thirst of Treasure Coast residents and tourists alike. Local brewers and vintners have forged a beverage-based trail map where visitors enjoy a unique craft beverage experience. The trail map, available in print and electronically, can be presented by visitors at participating locations and stamped. Once the map is filled with stamps, visitors can redeem it for prizes at the last participating location on their journey. The trail, which continues to grow, creates a fun and engaging way for craft beverage enthusiasts to sample the quality products produced by the talented brewers on the Treasure Coast.
The idea for the Treasure Coast Wine & Ale Trail first came up in 2016, when Gary Roberts, owner of Summer Crush Vineyard & Winery in Fort Pierce, met local brewer Pete Anderson. Roberts remembered, “The W&AT started several years ago when Pete Anderson and his wife were at the winery for an event. I asked
him what he thought of trying to start a wine and ale trail, and he liked the idea.
As a past-president of the Chamber of Commerce, I had worked with the county a lot, and asked the county tourism if they liked the idea and might like to help.”
Pete Anderson, head brewer and co-founder of Pareidolia Brewing Company in Sebastian, said, “I wanted to start an Ale Trail while
there were only a few breweries, rather than wait until there were more. Then I got a call from Gary Roberts, who asked me about starting a trail. Since there was only his winery, a trail didn't make sense, but if we combined the breweries and his winery together, we all would benefit. (Photos: Gary Roberts, Pete & Lynn Anderson)
Charlotte Bireley, director of tourism & marketing for VisitStLucie.com, added, “The three tourism offices (Visit St. Lucie, Visit Indian River and Discover Martin) jumped at the opportunity to develop and brand a Treasure Coast Wine & Ale Trail to help promote the partners of the trail. After the first year, it was obvious that funds were needed to continue the promotion of the trail (marketing materials, ad campaigns, etc.). Pete Andersen proposed the idea of hosting an annual festival featuring the trial partners, with the net profit from the festival going to support the future marketing efforts of the trail.”
Aside from being located in the Treasure Coast, another requirement to become a Trail partner, according to Bireley, is that the partners “must also brew or make their own product on-site with a public tasting room.” One reason the Trail was created, Anderson pointed out, was “to encourage customers to visit the partner locations, and see where the products are made locally.”
Anderson also noted, “With the addition of Ocean Republic Brewery in Martin County, all of the members are spread across the three counties of the Treasure Coast. The members include a cider maker and a meadery, as well as breweries and the winery, which collectively differentiates our Trail from most others.”
The first festival took place in November 2018 at Summer Crush Vineyard & Winery, and it attracted over 650 attendees. Since the inaugural event, attendance has grown year over year, with over 800 estimated attendees in 2022. To encourage attendance, hotels frequently offer a special Wine & Ale Trail rate that includes tickets to the event. Today, the annual Treasure Coast Wine & Ale Trail Festival, which usually takes place in the fall, continues to offer tastings, treats, and many opportunities to sample a glass of local cheer.
Although self-described as a Wine & Ale Trail-related event, the festival remains family-friendly, with something for everyone, including free admission for kids under 12. For adult visitors who may not want the unlimited tastings, “There is a lower non-tasting admission cost, allowing anyone to enjoy the live music, food trucks, and craft booths. Summer Crush is an incredible venue with wide-open spaces and large interactive games, such as Jenga and chess that kids love playing,” said Nerissa Okiye, tourism director for the Martin County Office of Tourism & Marketing.
When asked if the Wine & Ale Trail event has impacted tourism within the Treasure Coast, Gary Roberts said, “The popularity of micro-brews and other locally made wine, mead, and ciders has grown dramatically in the past 10 years, and many people plan their vacations near towns with a vibrant scene. The TCW&AT Festival takes that to the next level, allowing people to visit ALL the trail members in one place.
The next Wine & Ale trail festival will be held in November of 2023, just in time for terrific weather, but craft beverage enthusiasts can enjoy the summer months by participating in the official Treasure Coast Wine & Ale Trail adventure. Get started HERE!
**Please drink responsibly.