Coinciding with the craft-beer revolution of recent years, beer travelers or, “beercationers,” make it their mission to travel to find a city’s craft beer. They spend weeks and months planning their beer trips. Then, beercationers get to their beer-travel destination and sample their way through a place by visiting breweries, taking tours, collecting stamps on their ale-trail passports and take in all that the local scene has to offer.
Vancouver’s booming craft-beer scene is attracting beer travelers, and more and more are finding out about our beer town.
Beer travel is on the rise and has become so strong over the last several years that Travelocity and The Brewers Association have created a beer tourism index. They looked at the location of all the breweries in the U.S., as well as looked at other factors that make a successful “beercation,” including availability of rideshare services, accessibility via air and the average cost of lodging, and named the best places in the U.S. to sample the nation’s best craft beer.
“Small and independent craft brewers are part of the DNA of their communities. They are becoming mainstay attractions for travelers,” said Julia Herz, craft beer program director for The Brewers Association and publisher of CraftBeer.com.
According to the Beer Tourism Index, the Portland/Beaverton/Vancouver, OR/WA metro area is the number one large metro area for a beercation. While it’s no secret Portland has been on a beer traveler’s must-visit travel list for some time, Vancouver’s evolving beer scene is making Vancouver, and Southwest Washington as a whole, a beer-travel destination.
“Vancouver’s brew scene has really emerged as a powerplay in the Northwest,” said Jacob Schmidt, director of Marketing and Communications for Visit Vancouver USA. “People like the accessibility of it versus looking at 80 breweries in Portland and saying to themselves, ‘where do I start?’ Or if they’ve been to a lot of breweries in Portland, they make their way over the bridge. Beer tourism is adding to the value of Vancouver as a destination.”
Visit Vancouver USA promotes the craft-beer scene via brewery maps, their annual Vancouver Magazine and does direct outreach to travel writers and bloggers. In the spring of 2019, Vancouver will host the Northwest Travel & Lifestyle Writers Conference, where Visit Vancouver will create opportunities for writers to experience the craft beer scene.
The craft-beer scene in Vancouver offers the traveler much to explore. Fifteen breweries call their home Vancouver and now more than 30 breweries are along the North Bank of the Columbia River/Southwest Washington. In addition, many craft-beer taphouses are opening in Southwest Washington, offering locals and beercationers the ability to try many local breweries’ beers in one place.
Michael Perozzo, owner of ZZoom Media and creator of the Brewcouver Passport, explains the Vancouver beer scene.
“We have a wide range of breweries from mid-size to very small,” Perozzo said. “We’re brewing everything from pale ales and lagers to mixed-fermentation sours and barrel-aged big beers. You can visit here and walk to six/seven breweries easily and visit all our breweries in a weekend. It’s amazing how Vancouver has grown in the last few short years.”
Craft beer travelers can make their way around Vancouver collecting “passport” stamps on the Brewcouver Passport.
“Every brewery has the passports available and encourages patrons to get to know our entire beer scene here in Vancouver,” Perozzo said. “Over 2,000 people have completed the passport in its entirety to redeem their prize. It’s about half and half between folks here in Clark County and Portland versus out-of-towners from all over. We’ve seen Dallas, Seattle, Japan, Canada, Boston. Everywhere!”
Besides visiting all the breweries, beer travelers can explore craft beer by attending the Vancouver Brewfest. The Vancouver Brewfest is held in the spring, summer and winter, and is in its seventh year.
“People who attend the Vancouver Brewfest tell their friends how cool it is and what a great park (Esther Short) we have in Vancouver,” said Cody Gray, organizer of the Vancouver Brewfest. “Beer lovers don’t wait in long lines for beer even though we have 4,500-plus people on Saturdays during the Summer Brewfest. We’ve had beer lovers each year from across the country and internationally as well.”
Visitor spending in Vancouver has risen approximately 8.5 percent since 2016. Of that, approximately $134.9 million of overall visitor spending is spent on food and drink, which includes breweries/brewpubs, according to Schmidt. While the numbers aren’t broken down with how much is being spent on craft beer, craft-beer breweries and taphouses are seeing their share of the dollars.
“We’re making award-winning, world-class beer here and people are just starting to take notice. It’s only getting better, and it’s only going to drive more people here to visit,” Perozzo said.
Kimberly Johnson is a business consultant, writes at ABVGirl.com and is co-owner of Final Draft Taphouse.