The Taste of Tourism

PHOTO PROVIDED BY TASTE 1000 ISLANDS

By: HOLLY BONAME

The business of tourism is expanding, and why wouldn’t it be when new businesses and attractions have been on a steady increase across the north country. Historical trails are being promoted statewide and here locally the craft beverage industry is on the rise, developing an intriguing addition to the ever popular wine trails in New York state.

                Taste 1000 Islands is among these new trails and attractions, and business owners along the trail say it’s bringing in crowds that have not been to the area before.

                Woodboat Brewery is a microbrewery located in Clayton, along the St. Lawrence River in the Thousand Islands. Located only a few blocks from the downtown business district and next to the Antique Boat Museum the brewery sees large crowds of tourists that are visiting attractions, stopping in once they realize there are locally crafted beers being produced right in town.

                “I think the trails are an industry of their own,” Mike Hazlewood, owner and brewmaster at Woodboat Brewery in Clayton, said. “We get feedback from visitors that don’t know the individual breweries or attractions, but they recognize trails.”

                 “Taste 1000 Islands is a collective of local craft beverage makers in the Thousand Islands,” Julia Purcell, founder of Taste 1000 Islands, said. “We offer small batch wine, beer and spirits made with locally sourced ingredients along the St. Lawrence River.”

                Their mission is simple: Increase awareness of local brands, encourage tourism to the region and provide fun and educational activities and experiences to visitors and residents alike.

                The organization was created by Ms. Purcell and her Brooklyn-based production company in 2016. Partnering with seven local beverage producers, the organization began to develop a trail that would be inclusive of all types of attractions- from wineries to distilleries and breweries. Initially working with Gary DeYoung, of the 1000 Islands International Tourism Council, it was clear that there was a draw to the area because of these local businesses. Ms. Purcell took that vision and applied for a grant from the state to build the craft beverage trail website, events calendar, form partnerships and run a complete public relations campaign with help from LL Marketing and Design who joined in early 2017 to help manage the project locally.

                The trail was developed with an easy-to-follow day trip format along the St. Lawrence River. It starts in Cape Vincent, on Lake Ontario, and follows the river down, all the way through Clayton to Alexandria Bay. Ms. Purcell says the stops were strategically located along State Route 12, with only short drives in between each stop.

                “Taste 1000 Islands has many partners around the region. Between the 1000 Islands International Tourism Council, the Antique Boat Museum, the Clayton Chamber of Commerce, the Clayton town docks, and many local restaurants, and businesses. And while currently no money has been received, Empire State Development (ESD) has promised a matching grant from the New York State Craft Beverage Fund to continue the trail map and its many area stops,” Ms. Purcell said.

                The craft beverage industry is relatively new to the region, which is why Taste 1000 Islands focuses not only on promoting the businesses themselves, but also the region as a whole.

                “This is a new kind of tourism for our region. We are providing an activity and experience that allows visitors to not only taste locally hand crafted beverages, but to meet the people making them and to learn about the unique process,” Ms. Purcell said. “We are not only entertaining, but educating people on where their products come from and encouraging support of local products.”

                Craft breweries are trending across the country. Mr. Hazelwood says that he sees people come to the Woodboat Brewery for that very reason. 

                “People are interested in craft brewing these days, it’s a tourist attraction of its own. The trail map is tying everyone together and it’s a good thing,” Mr. Hazelwood said.

                Ms. Purcell says that she would love to see people coming from near and far to experience and ‘Taste the 1000 Islands’.

                “As our products develop, we hope to see ourselves as a world-class destination for tasting and learning more about the craft beverage process. We would like to offer organized tours, create more local partnerships and see new products developing and improving in the region,” she said.