UPDATED: Stark County Ale Trail Hits Snag

UPDATED: 2:40pm

Well that was short lived.

The inaugural Stark County Ale Trail, dubbed Hall Of Fame Hops, is no more.  At least not in its present incarnation.

The Ale Trail, featuring as few as eight and (depending on the readiness of one relocating brewery (Shale) and one new one (Muskellunge)) as many as ten breweries, is over before it began. But that doesn’t mean it’s dead in the water. The fledgling trail, meant to drive visitorship to local Stark breweries, hit a snag when the participating breweries and the Canton Visitors Bureau (also known as Visit Canton) could not come to an agreement over member brewers. At issue is the bureau’s insistence on the inclusion of a non-brewery member.

In a press release, brewer Jake Turner of Maize Valley, one of the main members spearheading the trail said, in part, “We hit an impasse when, without consideration, and with much objection from [several of] the participating breweries, the bureau decided to include a non-brewery business on the tour. It is our opinion that the spirit of the tour was to highlight and drive visitorship to locally owned and operated craft breweries. When several breweries voiced their opinions on this topic, the CVB was dismissive and decided it was more important to have one non-brewery business on the tour than [to consider the opinions of] all of the actual craft breweries who collaborated to make this happen. We are coming together to form a new trail in Stark County and surrounding areas to highlight our wonderful, local craft breweries.”

It should be noted not all of the breweries objected to the inclusion, nor the decision to withdraw from the the tour in its present form.  The release did not state specifically which members objected.

Current member breweries include Canton, Royal DocksMucky Duck, Maize Valley in Marlborough Twp, Sandy Springs in Minerva (also on the State Line Brewers Guild OH-PA Trail), Paradigm Shift in Massillon, Lockport in Bolivar, and the new Fat Head’s location in Canton. As previously mentioned, Shale Brewing, which is relocating from downtown, to the Jackstown Township space that currently houses Scenic Brewing, and Muskellunge Brewing would be added if their respective taprooms are open by the time the trail launches.

Turner added that the group plans to meet as soon as next week to work out details for the revamped tour, without the support from the visitors bureau. He hopes to add Millersburg Brewing in Holmes County and JAFB-Wooster Brewery in Wayne County to the ranks as well. The CVB backed Trail was to launch April 1st. Turner said he hoped that despite the setback, the new trail would launch as soon as May 1st.

Additionally, as reported by Rick Armon on his Ohio.com beer blog:

“Visit Canton Vice President of Marketing & Communications Tonja Marshall said the tourism agency was caught off guard by the objection to include Gervasi and didn’t think the inclusion was unreasonable because of its relationship with Thirsty Dog. The group also was open to including others if they offered an exclusive craft beer.

Gervasi also didn’t ask to be featured, she wrote in an email to the brewers.

‘While not all partners have pulled out of participating in the HOF Hops craft brew tour, we fully respect the [brewers’] rights to move forward with their own craft brewery passport that allows them full control over the decisions for inclusion,’ she said in an email to the Beacon Journal/Ohio.com. ‘We would not look to move forward with anything that would be seen as a conflict or not be supported by the breweries.

‘At this time the CVB will hold off on final decisions until next week, but in the meantime we continue working to explore how best to invest in the growth of tourism in Stark County.’”

2:25pm – This article has been updated to include a response from the Visit Canton Marketing & Communications VP, emailed to Akron Beacon Journal / Ohio.com staff writer Rick Armon

2:40pm – This article has been updated to reflect that not all of the participating breweries disagreed with the inclusion of the non-brewery member, and not all agreed to the decision to withdraw.  The release we received stated that it was a “collective decision”, but we have since heard from at least one member that this was not 100% correct.

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