In the summer of 2020, Hunterdon County launched the "579 Trail," aligning agritourism highlights that are within shouting distance of one specific county route.

Nearby wineries and cideries were included on this list of attractions because they either include a farm market or grow their fruits on site.

But that left the county's breweries without their own, unifying promotional mechanism.

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So Bob King, owner of Lone Eagle Brewing in Flemington, approached the Hunterdon County Economic Development office about a "Beer Trail," to which the county has now thrown its support.

Beside Lone Eagle, the Hunterdon County Beer Trail includes Descendants Brewing Company in Milford — the successor of the old Ship Inn, which had been New Jersey's oldest craft brewery — and Readington Brewery & Hop Farm in Neshanic Station, the county's newest beermaker.

Others on the trail all opened between 2015 and 2020: Conclave Brewing in Raritan Township, Highrail Brewing in High Bridge, Odd Bird Brewing in Stockton, and Sunken Silo Brew Works in Lebanon.

In that relatively short time, King said, each different location has developed its own special following, and all will soon be collaborating on a special edition American Pale Ale brew.

"We all have our rabid fans, and so what I wanted to do — Hunterdon County's fairly spread out, so how do we get people in the north visiting breweries in the south and vice versa?" he said. "We're not your typical, industrial, put it up in a factory kind of breweries. Each one has its own character, has its own flair."

For patrons who want to tackle the whole trail, Economic Development director Marc Saluk said a new series of passports should be available starting Feb. 1 for the winter and spring, following the initial series during the second half of 2021 and preceding another one for the upcoming summer and fall.

"The idea would be for visitors to go to each one and get a stamp, and once they have a full book filled, they will receive a commemorative glass" with the logos of the Beer Trail and each of the seven breweries, Saluk said.

And what about a newcomer like Readington, which is on the Beer Trail but geographically off the 579 Trail, even though it grows its own hops?

Saluk said the county's upgrade of the Economic Development division to a full Department of Economic Development and Tourism will enable more cross-promotional opportunities by the summer.

That will be beneficial, he said, for a wide variety of different local business categories.

"The Beer Trail will still be the Beer Trail, 579 Trail will still be the 579 Trail, they'll have their own unique following, their own social media, their own newsletters et cetera, but they're going to fit under that larger Hunterdon tourism umbrella," Saluk said.

The 7 breweries on the Hunterdon Beer Trail

Check out the Hunterdon County Beer Trail on Facebook and Instagram, and sign up for their newsletter at hunterdonbeertrail.com.

Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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