Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A proposal for a true 'Upper Hudson Valley Beverage Trail'

A rough outline of a proposed beverage trail
When do efforts to capitalize on local pride and promotion fall short of what could be achieved by broadening one's scope? We may find out if two state lawmakers from the Greater Capital Region are successful in getting state help to promote craft beverage production in a small slice of the area.

The Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce is working with State Sen. Elizabeth Little (R-Queensbury) and Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner (D-Round Lake) on just such an initiative. They would like to designate a regional craft beverage and winemaking trail for Warren and Washington counties under a state Department of Transportation (DOT) program. What it would entail is placing signs along state roadways directing motorists to craft breweries, wineries and distilleries, as well as including such a trail in the state's advertising and marketing of the craft beverage industry.

The effort is being buoyed by Travelocity and The American Distilling Institute recently putting the Glens Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area in its new index of top 10 small U.S. metro areas for craft spirits tourism.

All of which looks fine at first glance. But, at second glance the plan could be considered myopic.

The area already is covered by the Upper Hudson Valley Wine Trail, a collection of  more than a dozen wineries and tasting rooms plus affiliate businesses in Warren, Washington, Saratoga and Rensselaer counties. That existing cooperative venture could become so much more with the right vision and support.

New York State has long labored under the financially redundant and often conflicting burden of having too many school districts, stand-alone fire and police departments, hamlets-within-villages-within-towns, and on and on. Perpetuating such a failed organizational model by championing such cumbersome constructs in an alcoholic beverage industry that is undergoing a boom in all categories seems quite unwise.

Consider, around the state we already have beverage trails that bump up against each other, sometimes creating some confusion when promoting cooperative events. Do we need more of that? I suggest the lawmakers might expand the scope of their current intent. Rather than simply adding another entity to the mix, they could seek DOT and state marketing assistance to go beyond the small area now being targeted and helping the Upper Hudson Wine Trail become the Upper Hudson Beverage Trail and attracting as many wineries, breweries, distillers and cideries as  possible in the true "Upper Hudson" area.

The idea is not far-fetched. Whereas New York once had just a handful of wine trails, today it has 21 -- 15 that are wineries-only, 6 that include brewers and distillers under the "beverage trail" rubrick.

Most beverage trails have partnerships with a variety of hotels, motels, resorts, restaurants, tour vehicle companies, and craft food artisans that offer enticements to tourists. Imagine the promotional clout available to a well-formed beverage trail that stretches a manageable 60-plus miles from Albany and Rensselaer counties to the south to Lake George to the north.

• Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail
• Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
• Go here to visit Dowd's New York Wines Notebook

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