Nearly 70 breweries on board for Tampa Bay Ale Trail's second edition

Time to take another hike.

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click to enlarge A taste of the Tampa Bay Ale Trail's new passport. - Tampa Bay Ale Trail
Tampa Bay Ale Trail
A taste of the Tampa Bay Ale Trail's new passport.

Ready to take another hike? As of Friday, the Tampa Bay Ale Trail has started distributing the second edition of its pocket-size field guide to breweries from Sarasota to Brooksville and east to Lakeland, and this time around, even more beer makers are on board.

The popular passport-driven program — which was established last spring and is basically one big series of brewery hops with the added bonus of perks — has grown from 47 locations to nearly 70. Apparently, according to a news release, that makes the Ale Trail one of the largest beer trails in the country.

CL's previous coverage is a solid way for the uninitiated to learn how the Ale Trail works. But let's rewind a bit: In its first year, the program, designed to champion the local beer scene, attracted 2,000-plus passport holders — more than 100 of whom made it to every location. Program data also showed that 500 of those "hikers" visited at least seven stops.

So, uh, yeah... the Ale Trail is for people who really, really dig beer.

"While brainstorming how the Tampa Bay Ale Trail would work, it was paramount that the program provide real, sustainable benefit to the breweries, not just one-time visits," said founder Mike Dyer in a statement. "Coupon books certainly bring people in, but often just to claim a single offer and then depart forever. I wanted to develop a program that encouraged loyalty and motivated people to visit new places that they wouldn't otherwise."

The Ale Trail's new "Season 2" passports are limited to 2,000 copies, and more than half of them are sold out. In the coming weeks, select breweries that're part of the program plan to sell the $25 beer-itual guides in their taprooms — they even get to keep $10 from each sale. However, passports are also available for purchase online.

"Last year we had our first person, Kurt Brust, visit all 47 breweries within a month," Dyer said. "He's assured me he can repeat his performance this year even with 70 locations to visit. Now that's dedication to local craft beer."

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