So, what is the Heritage Corridor Ale Trail?

You may follow us on Facebook, subscribe to our newsletter, or participate in our digital passport, but do you know what the Heritage Corridor Ale Trail is?

The Heritage Corridor Ale Trail is a collection of breweries and other craft beer hot spots among the cities and towns of the Illinois & Michigan Canal

That canal is an important part of history, as it was the link between Lake Michigan and the Illinois River (eventually connecting to the Gulf of Mexico).  Construction started in 1836 and the Canal opened in 1848.  Unique towns and villages formed along the Canal, and you can see the history still today.

The Mule-pulled I&M Canal Boat in LaSalle, IL
The Mule-pulled I&M Canal Boat in LaSalle, IL (photo credit: Canal Corridor Association) 

Fast forward to 1984, when the I&M Canal Heritage Corridor was signed into law by Ronald Reagan.  It was the nations first Heritage Corridor (as of writing there are 55 National Heritage Areas, which is a new nomenclatures that some of the Corridors adopted).  Also, created, the Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau.  The CVB was created to promote the area, and its member businesses, to anyone visiting the area (whether minutes, hours, or days away).  The CVB has also expanded its area to include The First 100 Miles of Route 66 and the Starved Rock State Park area as well.

Well, that's us. 

The high majority of craft beer posts are written by me, Dan Mulka.  I'm the Marketing Manager for the Heritage Corridor CVB.  I am a fan of craft beer, following in the footsteps of my homebrewing father.  

In 2016, my first year with the CVB, I was able to meet and visit with many small businesses throughout the area.  This included a signifcant number of breweries, which of course, I was a fan of.  Through talking with the brewers and staffs of these breweries, I was impressed by both the creativity, work ethic, and pure talent of each employee.  And, the beers were magnificent.

I wanted to help promote these breweries.

I started the blog in late 2016 during the Christmas season, as well as started the social media accounts.  Yes, Ale rhymed with Trail.  That's how the name came.

Advertising for the Ale Trail, featuring Pollyanna Brewing Company and Tangled Roots Brewing Company
The first Ale Trail print ad we did for Chicago Magazine (2017)

In 2018, we kicked off the first Ale Trail passport - encouraging visitors to bring their passport book to participating locations to earn stickers upon purchasing a beer.  After 10 visits, they were eligible for a pint glass.  After 20, they were eligible for another prize (we've changed the 20-level prize a couple times).  We also kicked off the e-newsletter, which at the time was monthly. 

In 2019, we went digital (which helped because we didn't have to worry about places running out of booklets and stickers).  In 2020, we re-launched the digital passport - which we are actually continuing until February 28, 2021.  The 2021 passport will launch late May or early June.

We released this video in January of 2019.

The breweries that become a member of the CVB (we only charge $160 a year - per location - to help with a small portion of the costs of passport, prizes, and other paid promotion like advertising).  The breweries are also included in our Travel Guide and more.  If you know of a brewery that is interested in becoming a member, please share this link and have them contact us at 844-944-2282.  

We also help breweries with PR, connect them to the state's Tourism department and more.  

We have many great restaurants, attractions, businesses, and yes, breweries in our area.  They all have stories.  And, now, I ask for your help.

(Yea, there was a catch ... but it's probably not what you think).

What I ask --- go to your local breweries and buy a 4-pack.  These entrepreneurs and artisans need your help to keep their doors open.  With the impending winter, it's going to be tough and the customer flows will be lower ... but on the other side of winter, and when they're allowed to have full capacities again... we want to make sure that their beer is still flowing.

I'm lucky, as I'm in a job where I get to write about beer.  The Ale Trail is actually like 10% of my job, but its my favorite parts of my job.  And, I also see it as helping our breweries by spreading the word about them and inspiring people to visit.  

I hope that this inspires you to go drink beer (safely, of course, by picking up some to-go beer from our member breweries), because you're doing more than drinking a beer.  You're helping business and creating jobs.  It sounds cliche, but it's truly a win-win situation.





Scenes from the Corridor