When Michael Marquess and Urs Riner of Mother Road Brewing Company wrote their business plan, one goal was to reach out to other Flagstaff brewers to form a guild and offer a walking tour of Flagstaff breweries.
“We knew this was essential,” Marquess said. “So, when Geoff came in to recruit us for Flagstaff Ale Trail we were like, ‘Check that sucker off the list!’”
Geoff Barnard, former Grand Canyon Trust president, was back in town with a new idea that he picked up in Bend, Ore. The Flagstaff Ale Trail was born after Barnard and business partner Steele Wotkyns convinced five probable competitors to come together to offer a fun walking tour of the city.
“With the fifth brewery starting up in Flagstaff, we have enough to be a destination for beer lovers,” said Al Henes, owner of Flagstaff Brewing Company, one of Flagstaff’s iconic brewpubs. Flagstaff Brewing Company brews on premise, which was one of the requirements for being a Flagstaff Ale Trail destination.
Flagstaff Brewing Company and Mother Road Brewing Company joined Lumberyard Brewing Company, Beaver Street Brewery and Mogollon Brewing Company to form the Flagstaff Ale Trail late last year.
“It brings people into our doors from around the country and the world,” said Riner of Mother Road. Publicity for the newly born Flagstaff Ale Trail has reached as far as Germany, thanks to Wotkyns who also owns WotkynsPRplus, a public relations firm.
“We are really fortunate in the different talents that we bring to this foray. It is great for WotkynsPR to bear forces on Geoff’s really great idea,” said Wotkyns. The duo’s innovative public relations, marketing and merchandising program promotes Flagstaff to craft beer lovers across the globe.
“Publicity for Flagstaff Ale Trail is elevating the craft beer scene here in Flagstaff. We made USA Today two times already,” said Wotkyns proudly. “This is very good for Flagstaff businesses and particularly good for Flagstaff downtown businesses. And it’s bringing commerce and visitors to Southside, a lovely and diverse part of town. We just added McGaugh’s as a place where people can buy Flagstaff Ale Trail cups and passports.”
Craft beer enthusiasts have two choices for purchasing Flagstaff Ale Trail packages, which include maps for the self-guided walking tour, squishy, non-breakable silicone pints called Silipints and passports that authorize deep discounts to holders. Clients can buy online or they can purchase packages at four locations: Beaver Street Brewery, Flagstaff Brewing Company, Lumberyard Brewing Company and McGaughs Smoke and Bottle. Each brewery stamps the passport with an exclusive stamp designed to convey the uniqueness of the brew house.
“The beer pours well and tastes good in this pint cup,” said Winnie Hanseth, co-owner of Beaver Street and Lumberyard Brewing Companies, as she squeezed the 16-ounce silicone cup embellished with the Flagstaff Ale Trail logo.
“This is a unique idea – we hadn’t heard of it before. We are all so close together for the Ale Trail that it makes good sense. And they’ve done all the work,” smiled Hanseth, nodding to Barnard and Wotkyns.
“The concept was new to me, but I was told it was popular in Oregon,” said Dana Kanzler, Mogollon Brewing Company’s master brewer.
Bend, Oregon is where Barnard first experienced an Ale Trail. He lived there for three years before returning to Flagstaff. “While we were in Oregon, four friends flew up from Flagstaff to do the Bend Ale Trail with us. They were so enthusiastic that we knew it would work here in Flagstaff,” explained Barnard.
When asked how they were convinced to cooperate with competitors for the project, Steve Hendricks, brewer and distiller at Mogollon, responded, “We all work together pretty well. We know each other and help each other out. When you help the community, the community helps you.”
“The only convincing that they [Barnard and Wotkyns] had to do was around the fact that we don’t have a tasting room. But visitors can come in and we’ll talk to them about what we are doing for the day,” said Kanzler, who will stamp passports and offer to pass holders a free tasting of whatever is brewing.
“Flagstaff breweries have remarkably different styles,” said Kanzle.r “You might as well try them all.”
“It’s tough in Flagstaff, there’s no need to send money out of town,” added Hendricks, who encourages locals to buy local beers and spirits at locally owned markets and restaurants.
“That’s what the Flagstaff Ale Trail is all about: getting traffic to local businesses,” agreed Wotkyns.
Wotkyns and Barnard plan to add an online Flagstaff Ale Trail store that will offer T-shirts, street wear and Flagstaff-related gifts. Barnard hopes that his son’s school will do the fulfillment. His son, John, is a graduate of Minnesota Life College in Richfield, Minn., where he lives in its living community for people with learning differences and autism spectrum disorders. Barnard, who sits on the school’s board of directors, has made a proposal.
“The board is very enthusiastic about this and they are standing by,” said Barnard. “In the meantime, we are moving ahead on supporting local nonprofits. We just met with Literacy Volunteers of Coconino County. We are talking about doing a Saturday afternoon walk. We discount the package down to our cost, and the nonprofit offers the package to their supporters at a price that gives them a nice donation.” FBN
Beaver Street Brewery
11 South Beaver St # 1, Flagstaff
Flagstaff Ale Trail
Flagstaff Brewing Company
16 East Route 66, Flagstaff
Lumberyard Brewing Company
5 South San Francisco Street
McGaughs Smoke & Bottle
218 S. San Francisco St., Flagstaff
Mogollon Brewing Company
4366 East Huntington Drive, Suite B, Flagstaff
Mother Road Brewing Company
7 South Mikes Pike, Flagstaff