Hold on Bellinghamsters, an entirely new way to enjoy beer is a-brewing. Those who thought they knew their way around Bellingham’s beer scene will have to start with a blank slate. From Boundary Bay to Chuckanut Brewery, four Bellingham residents have created the Bellingham Tap Trail — a beer map — as a way for beer-lovers everywhere to navigate the breweries of Bellingham.
Shannon Larkin, Mindy Overlin, Scott Pelton and Brian Seales created Bellingham Tap Trail (BTT) as a part of Taps, Caps and Corks LLC. Seales and Larkin also own a marketing company called Ketchup+Mustard. Seales says he has inside information about new Bellingham breweries in the works: seven breweries exist in Bellingham now, with two more to open by the end of 2015.
“Bellingham has breweries, but how did we plan to find them all without a map?” Co-founder Scott Pelton said. “Problem solved. We’re excited to bring all Bellingham’s amazing breweries together and be the resource for all beer-related venues. We already have people coming to Bellingham for the sole purpose of trying our beer. Let’s show them the inner workings of the breweries, get to know the owners and get to know all the amazing nooks and crannies of our beautiful city. BTT isn’t just about exposing people to our breweries, it’s about showcasing the best of Bellingham, but with beer.”
Inception of the BTT
Bend, Oregon has had incredible success creating a 26-brewery beer map, brewery tours and expanding awareness to the community of 80,000 people, Pelton said. He hopes that Bellingham’s Tap Trail will be as successful.
“Mainly, we’re excited to have started a business whose sole purpose is beer. Beer is not a bad business to be in.”
The Bellingham Tap Trail will include different beer competitions, gear, merchandise, an interactive map updated semi-annually, beer reviews and other events. The four cartographers of the brewery map expect the trail map to be completed by the time of Bellingham Beer Week 2014, which took place in mid-September.
The map will also have a “passport,” listing 15 breweries and tap houses. When a customer purchases a beer at one of the locations, he or she receives a stamp on the passport. After receiving 15 stamps, the customer is eligible for free BTT gear.
When the Bellingham Tap Trail launches, beer enthusiasts can navigate the breweries by touring van. “We’ve had great beer in Bellingham for some time and we want to enhance that tradition. We’re not only adding a map and a website, but we’ll have tours by 2015. We’re bringing people to the beer and we’re investigating three ways to do that,” Pelton said.
BTT staff will drive a van full of BTT map users (or Trail Blazers) around to different breweries and educate them about local businesses and other community knowledge. Because Bellingham has such a strong bike community, the BTT staff is also researching a cycle pub, a bicycle powered by 12 people that could be steered by a BTT staff member. Each of these tours will visit three or four breweries at a time, lasting three hours. The goal is to make each tour different.
Pelton said that the organizers have printed 10,000 maps to distribute throughout the region, at brewery events and community events. The BTT website will also be updated with beer reviews, events, calendar listings and emails. Pelton and his team are ready. “By encouraging tourists and residents to explore our many taps, we’re getting people engaged in the communities that pubs, breweries and tap houses create.”
People already visit Bellingham for the beer. The Bellingham Tap Trail will provide them with an opportunity to see and experience the behind-the-scenes action of local breweries, and what makes Bellingham so special.