The first Real Ale Trail was in the North East Wales in the County of Flintshire back in 2010. North Wales ambitious marketeer Shelly Barratt gathered an idea on how to bring new customers to a number of small local rural pubs which were in real danger of closing down widely due to their location and a change in entertainment habits. What she didn’t realise at the time is how loved the event would be and just how popular it would become.
The first ever event eight years ago was small, the buses were quite empty as they shuttled good-spirited folk around one wet Saturday to 7 country traditional Welsh pubs. Landlords where very happy with their new found popularity and customers enjoyed not having to worry about driving. Since then, the Trails have increased in popularity and continued to grow in numbers. Some trails attracts up to 1200 people in a single event, with visitors turning up from all over the UK and even overseas to be part of the Ale Trails now.
We now have eight Trails running twice a year in Snowdonia, Conwy, Flintshire, Wrexham, Wirral, Arfon, Cheshire and Cardiff, with hundreds of different ales to sample. This is probably the only event in the history of the world that’s aimed at middle-age Dads who are intrigued by the prospect of being delivered safely to the door of quality real ale houses.
We soon realised that the Ale Trail is one of the best ways to explore the regions best hostelries offering unique beery riches. Small welsh breweries are often hidden in villages and these breweries supplying only to a handful of pubs and are happy to not bottle their craft. A lot of ales you sample on the trail are not mass produced and something rather special to the area. Such as our own RAT Ale made appearing on the trail and brewed by microbrewery Facers in Flintshire.
The boom in microbreweries and the production of independent ales means that there is always something new to experience every trail. No trail is ever the same apart from the scenery. It wasn’t until people kept commenting about the spectacular countryside you get to enjoy between pubs that we took note. Now we try and keep the route on as many small country lanes without hanging branches, ones that can accommodate a 40ft bus loaded with grown men singing their way around the country.
We were very proud to accept the prestigious award for ‘The best event’ chosen by North Wales Tourism, we were recognised not just for the innovation of the event but largely for the trails intent which has always been to help small rural businesses attract new people.
Apart from being a thoroughly enjoyable day out with friends, the ale trail has a direct impact on tourism and the local economy.
Each year the Real Ale Trail transports thousands of people straight to the doors of small country pubs and brings over £300,000 to each counties rural economy.
The rural pubs all gear up for this small ale festival. They employ more bar tenders, cooks, cleaners and the list goes on. More than 70 people in either a full time or part time capacity now work the festival in some form or another. Indirectly, the Real Ale Trails support the employment of local people through the purchase of supplies too, think micro brewery, BnB’s, bus companies, designers, printers, hotels, taxis…everyone gets a lift from the event!
“What a brilliant day. Never been on an ale trail before but will definitely be an annual event for us and our friends! Majority of the pubs really went to great effort with ales, music/bands/djs and food etc. Well done to all involved in making this event so fantastic!”
Are you a pub or a brewery who would like to start or join a Real Ale Trail? Well we’d love to hear from you! We are always looking to vary and extend our ale trails. Get in touch via the form below.