The Wabash Ale Trail and Their Winter Event – Breweries Working Together

The Wabash Ale Trail and Their Winter Event – Breweries Working Together

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

Craft beer fans around Lafayette will be glad to learn that there is a new way to enjoy east central Indiana beer. The breweries in and around the Star City have joined together to form the Wabash Ale Trail, composed of Lafayette Brewing Company,  Brokerage Brewing Company,  Crasian Brewing Company, People’s Brewing Company,   Thieme & Wagner Brewery, Teays River Brewing & Public House, and  Escape Velocity Brewery.

It’s great to be able to visit a group of breweries knowing that they are tied together by not just geography, but also by philosophy and camaraderie within the industry. They can work together even though they are technically competitors, and they know that a rising tide raises all boats. It’s in this spirit that the first activity of the Wabash Ale Trail comes about – Winter on the Wabash Ale Trail.

image credit: Wabash Ale Trail

As stated on the Facebook page, “The winter months can be challenging for small businesses such as breweries, taprooms, & restaurants. That is why many of your local breweries have come together this winter to offer chances to win prizes in return for helping us through the cold months. Visit any or all of these participating local breweries between Jan 17 through April 10 and enter our weekly drawings for gift cards and other prizes. Entries will be collected each week from Monday through Sunday and weekly winners will be announced starting Monday, January 24th and running through Monday, April 11th. It’s our way of saying thank you for your continued support. Join us this Winter on the Wabash Ale Trail! Limit one entry per brewery per week and you must be 21+ to enter. See official rules for further details.”

The first week of the event has gone by and the prizes have been announced on each breweries social media. This seems a great way to beef up winter patronage while offering pertinent and usable prizes. People are visiting because they are fans, and the gift cards and such mean that they can visit again – that’s how you build a regular.

I talked some of the breweries on the Ale Trail about its genesis, future, and purpose, along with the Winter on the Wabash Ale Trail event.

Michele and Tom Bulington, owners and brewers of Crasian Brewing in Brookston: At the end of 2019, we formed our group (The Greater Lafayette Area Breweries) and our goal was the same (working together to bring in more business), but we wanted to work on an ongoing ale trail and a mobile app. Of course, Covid put a stop to meetings and we still have not moved forward with that bigger idea as of yet.  I am hoping that this winter ale trail will spark some interest in moving forward with the mobile ale trail app.  I did a great webinar last year about setting up an ale trail and sent it to Chris at People’s. Along with several other trails that I researched and sent to him (including the Northern Indiana Ale Trail).

image credit: Greater Lafayette Area Breweries

Tom & I were not able to attend the initial meeting about the Winter event because we were hosting our staff Xmas party the same night.  However, we did get up to speed on the program have been active on our FB group in putting it all together.  In the initial meeting, the breweries talked about how the winter months are already a slow time for us without the current strains of the supply chain, employee shortages, and consumer confidence in safety.  This is our opportunity to work together and boost business while giving back to the community that supports us. Each participating brewery provided 24 $25 gift cards and will each receive 24 gift cards from all other breweries.  Each week the breweries will raffle off 2 x $25 gift cards (2 different breweries), and each brewery keeps the entries for a large raffle at the end of the winter event. It has been a fun project and I hope that it is successful for all of us.

Greg Emig, owner and head brewer at Lafayette Brewing Company: As far as the Winter on the Wabash Ale Trail goes: It began as the result of a conversation I had with Chris Johnson over at People’s.  We got together to discuss what we thought the winter was going to look like given the increase in Covid cases that were occurring during the fall months. That, in turn, became a meeting with other local brewers, as we discussed the possibility of a promotional collaboration in which we could all participate. Most everyone was open to the idea, so it evolved from there. You asked about the Ale Trail breweries working together sort of like the regional meetings used to be with Brewers of Indiana Guild. There are similarities but the trail is much less formal and probably less focused on things like education and legislation while being more focused on marketing and community involvement. Ultimately, the Brewers of Indiana Guild’s mission is on a state-wide scale, while our Greater Lafayette group is considerably more local.  Either way, it’s a similar theme that carries our industry: Brewers working together to advance our craft.

Chris Johnson, owner and head brewer at People’s Brewing Company: I agree with everything Greg said. Our group is far more casual than the guild, it’s not uncommon for a couple of us to discuss ideas over a pint or two at any of our establishments. In this case the discussion between Greg and I grew into this promotion, taking input from most of our local establishments and building something that everyone participating was comfortable giving a try. We have a central location (Facebook Group) that we use to communicate with everyone. Most of time that used for trading a bag of grain, a couple pounds of hops, or answering a question someone has.  We have talked about a “beer trail” for some time and this promotion (“Winter on the Wabash Ale Trail”) may help move that along.  We hope this is a success and we can build on it in the future.

David Thieme, owner and head brewer at Thieme & Wagner Brewery: Imagine for the duration of the winter your monthly bills continuing to come but your income being slashed considerably; this is the reality of owning a small brewery. Rather than fight over what brave souls dare to leave their dens, we have come together as Greater Lafayette Area Breweries to convince more to break their hibernation. I got into this industry not to sell beer but rather, conversation. Rightfully so, I am not too concerned if it doesn’t happen in my own establishment but deeply troubled if it doesn’t happen at all. Hence the Winter Ale Trail; a small sacrifice in the name of camaraderie leading to an enticement in the name of conversation and libation.

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