In 2014, state officials and craft beer companies collaborated to publish a “passport” listing 47 Massachusetts breweries. Beer fans who visited each one could send away for a commemorative glass.
Since then, however, the state’s craft beer scene has exploded. More than 120 breweries now call Massachusetts home, and another 30 are slated to open by the end of the year, leaving the passport hopelessly obsolete.
To keep up with the dynamic business it represents, the Massachusetts Brewers Guild industry association this week went digital, releasing a new “Mass. Craft Beer” application for Apple and Android smartphones.
The interactive program lets users follow or create “beer trails” among multiple breweries, find breweries near their current locations, check off brews they’ve sampled, and earn prizes for visiting multiple companies and regions.
Five lucky and especially devoted fanatics — chosen randomly from among users who check in at 100 or more breweries before Sept. 13, 2018 — will win dinner and drinks with a trio of Massachusetts beer legends: Boston Beer founder Jim Koch, Harpoon Brewery cofounder Dan Kenary, and Night Shift Brewing cofounder Rob Burns.
“When we were setting this up, I said, ‘uh, can I win this, so I get to go to dinner with them alone?’ ” cracked Burns, whose company is the smallest and newest of the three. “Just as a fan of beer, I’d love to drink with those guys.”
Other prizes include private tours of Boston-area breweries, run by City Brew Bus.
The app is the most tangible result so far of a year-old effort by the Brewers Guild to better promote its members, which began when Burns took charge as its president in September 2016.
Previously, the group’s single-minded mission had been to reform the state’s controversial “franchise law,” which essentially binds brewers to their distributors in perpetuity after an initial trial period. But many of the guild’s newer members are small enough that they distribute their own beer; these breweries wanted the industry group to expand its focus from State House lobbying to include boosting sales and driving more visitors to their doors.
“The whole point is to satisfy our commitment to bring more people to the taprooms of our member breweries,” said Keith Sullivan, cofounder of Medusa Brewing Co. in Hudson and the guild’s marketing director.
Local beer drinkers and suds-seeking tourists will also be the beneficiaries of that effort.
“For consumers, it’s a great way to discover the whole state,” Sullivan said. “You can grab some friends and get out to areas you haven’t seen, meet people you’ve never met.”Dan Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Adams86.