It didn't take long for Boise Ale Trail's concept to be vindicated. Maybe half a beer.
Co-creator Derek Anderson realized it when he started mingling at the app's launch party Monday at Woodland Empire Ale Craft.
"There were a lot of folks there that had not been to Woodland — ever," Anderson says. "That is exactly what we're doing it for."
Designed to promote Boise's growing brewery scene to locals and tourists, Boise Ale Trail is free at Google Play and the iOS App Store. It's the first product from Idaho Beer Adventures, a company founded by Anderson and Matt Gelsthorpe. The men bring serious expertise. An ex-head brewer in Boise, Anderson is now sales director for Grand Teton Brewing Co. of Victor. Gelsthorpe is the beer monger for Bittercreek Alehouse in Boise and former longtime beer buyer at the Boise Co-op.
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The Ale Trail interface is intuitive. Icons represent 20 breweries. Tap for information and maps. Visit a local brewery in person, and the app's Passport section automatically checks you in. (Be patient, it takes about 90 seconds — no extra button pushing required.) Check in at 12 breweries? You earn a free prize after filling out a quick local beer survey at the Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau. Right now, it's a Boise Ale Trail flat koozie.
Since the app's debut in May, Anderson has seen it quench Boise drinkers' thirst for fresh beer fun — even at breweries they knew about but maybe hadn't frequented recently. "They're coming away with new experiences and new opinions," he says.
Do you like to keep up with the latest breweries that open?
"We always try to do a good job of highlighting new breweries through our social media," Anderson says, "and adding them to the app." (Be aware: Guns & Oil Beer Co., which is listed in Garden City, is brewing but not planning to open its taproom until fall.)
Probably most important, Boise Ale Trail guides out-of-towners through the Treasure Valley's dynamic brewery scene. "It's nice for tourists to have when they come to town — to have something to do," Anderson says. "The byproduct of them having something to do is they're spending money." No wonder the Visitors Bureau and Visit Idaho are on board with this app.
Ultimately, Anderson hopes Boise Ale Trail will help "take our brewery and our beer scene to the next level."
"It's meant to have fun," he says. "There's a lot of information that can be gleaned from reading about beer, but we want the experience to be the focus."