BETTENDORF — The ultimate brew crawl, with benefits, is in store for area beer lovers as the new QC Ale Trail directs people to 12 craft breweries in the area, with more to come.
Fans of locally made brews can hop on the trail with a passport, which are available at participating breweries, Visit Quad Cities visitor centers, or downloaded from qcaletrail.com. After you get the passport stamped at four places, earn an engraved bottle opener; consume the brewers' dozen, and you nab a commemorative pint glass.
“Our craft-beer industry, community, and product is strong, growing and extremely important to our Quad-Cities brand and destination,” Dave Herrell, president/CEO of Visit Quad Cities, said Friday at Five Cities Brewing, unveiling the new effort, website, map and logo.
“The QC Ale Trail represents a collaborative team effort to showcase our local craft beer curators,” gets people “connected to our local brewery experience, and gives them an opportunity to raise a few pints along the way,” he said.
“We know how to grow things in Iowa and Illinois, and yeah, we only have 12 breweries, but I would stack our product up against anybody in the United States,” Herrell said.
“As the craft-beer industry is either successful — or lack thereof — in communities, so goes the success or the lack thereof in communities from an economic-development perspective,” he said. “This industry is vitally important to our destination, is vitally important to our brand; it's vitally important to our economic system. It's everything we should be about in terms of what the Quad-Cities is.”
Beyond the first 12 locations and prizes, the trail expects to grow to include craft breweries in Geneseo and Muscatine. And then maybe go into Iowa City and Galesburg, and wineries, said Debbie Davis, a local craft-beer expert who's worked at Radicle Effect in Rock Island and is starting at Crawford in Bettendorf later this month. The QC Ale Trail also will have branded hats and shirts for sale.
“Our brewing community is a tight-knit group. Now we have a way to collectively market our product to those who enjoy drinking great beer,” Davis said. “The Quad-Cities is special in that people are very neighborhood-friendly. They like to support local businesses in their own backyard. Craft beer drinkers are so adventurous, so they travel about too.”
“Every brewery also offers something different, so you don't get the same experience everywhere,” she said. “People want to go out and try different things.”
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“The tourism push was already there...It's a great idea,” Davis added. “The Quad-Cities can be a destination for people who enjoy drinking craft beer.”
The first dozen are: Baked Beer & Bread Co., Davenport; Bent River Brewing, Moline and Rock Island; Big Swing Brewing, Rock Island; Crawford Brew Works, Bettendorf; Five Cities Brewing, Bettendorf; Front Street Brewery, Davenport; Galena Brewing Co., Moline; Great River Brewery, Davenport; Green Tree Brewery, LeClaire; Radicle Effect Brewerks, Rock Island; Rebellion Brew Haus, Moline, and Wake Brewing, Rock Island.
Coming this summer will be the new Midwest Ale Works, 537 12th Ave., East Moline, next to The Rust Belt music venue. Co-owners Clark Miljush and Steve Sears will open as a bar (selling others' beer) in late June and a brewery in August. Miljush said Friday he started homebrewing seven years ago and got positive feedback.
“This is super cool. It's going to be a lot of fun for everyone who gives it a try,” he said of QC Ale Trail. “It helps promote everybody. For people in the Quad-Cities, it's an added benefit to do something they already love. It connects all the breweries; it's a huge achievement to pull this off.”
Adventurous Brewing, a Bettendorf home-based business, sells to about half-dozen area restaurants and bars, and plans to open a retail location in a year, said owner Chris Trelstad. He said he's required to have the same license as any brewery in the state, and started in March 2018.
Andrew Arnold, the proprietor of the planned Independent Malting Co., Davenport, also was excited about the new promotion. “It's preserving our history and growing it as well,” the Davenport West grad said.
He's raising $2.5 million to build the largest brewery in the Q-C, at 1801 W. 3rd St., just west of Division, which was the original Independent Malting site, until 1957. Arnold will build a brewing museum, brewery and tasting room to open by spring 2020.
The first Q-C brewery opened in Rock Island, in 1847 Littig and Co., followed by two others. Those three merged in 1893 to become Rock Island Brewing Co. The City Brewery was the first to open in Davenport, in 1850. Four more followed, and then in 1894, a merger created Davenport Malting Co. After Prohibition ended in 1933, several breweries tried to start up, and after a nearly 48-year drought, Front Street opened in 1992, and the rest is history.