Patio season is in full swing for craft breweries in Regina, which means another popular summer tourism booster is also back for another year: the Hop Circuit, featuring six local spots to enjoy a Saskatchewan pint.
First launched last year, the Hop Circuit is a self-guided tour that invites people to visit participating locally owned craft breweries to experience what they have to offer.
“It’s kind of an easy and affordable kind of touristy thing that anyone, from locals to out-of-towners, can take advantage of,” said Mark Heise, owner of Rebellion Brewing and spokesperson for the circuit.
The rules are incredibly easy: stop in at one of those six breweries and enjoy their selection, get a Hop Circuit stamp to confirm you’ve visited, then head on to the next spot and do it all over again.
“You don’t have to drink a full pint of beer, you can make any small purchase, get a sampler or two or a half pint and move on,” said Heise.
Rebellion Brewing is just one stop on the tour, joined by Buswakker, Pile O’ Bones, District Brewing, Malty National and Warehouse Brewing.
Because all the collaborating breweries are centrally located in the downtown and warehouse district of the city, participants are encouraged to walk or bicycle from spot to spot.
The full tour takes approximately two hours to walk, said Heise, and several local bike groups in the city have already started organizing weekend Hop Circuit group tours.
To top things off, there’s no special requirements on how and when to complete the tour, said Heise. Participants can start at any one of the breweries, and do the full circuit in one day or over several months.
“We want people to have a good time, enjoy the beers, enjoy the people,” said Heise. “You can follow any route you choose [and] it's really up to you. It's easy and straightforward, for anyone to just hop in and enjoy.”
Although the experience is a highlight, it isn’t the only reason for participants to check out every stop on the circuit, added Heise.
There is a custom-designed pint glass waiting at the end of the tour, available exclusively to those who collect all six stamps to complete the full Hop Circuit — a must-have for collectors and connoisseurs of beer glasses.
“They’re bright and colourful, and we used the Experience Regina logo developed a few years ago in this kind of retro 70s font, and it looks great,” said Heise. “We thought it was a cool incentive to complete the tour.”
The circuit really began as a way to boost local tourism and offer support to small business owners during a tough year, said Heise.
“It seemed like the right place, right time. People had a whole year of not travelling very far, and so they were looking for something a little local, nearby that they can take in,” said Heise.
It's also a great way to put the spotlight on the craft brewery scene here in the Queen City, as it's often described as top-notch.
“We don’t believe in the idea that ‘you’ve been to one brewery, you’ve seen them all.’ We’re all small, local, independent, we’re not chains, and so every brewery is going to be different,” said Heise. “And that's something we’re celebrating and promoting.”
And, as an added bonus, Heise said encouraging people to walk the tour also puts more focus on the warehouse district, which is home to lots of other local shops and storefronts deserving of attention.
“This is just another way of getting people to actually try that out,” said Heise. “It doesn’t just benefit the breweries, but all the other shops here.”
So far, the tour has proved popular with all kinds of people — especially craft beer fans, said Heise, but that’s not necessarily a requirement to enjoy the experience.
“We have these kinds of, call them unofficial ambassadors or super fans, and they want to take their friends and show them,” said Heise. “It’s like having your own tour guide.”
The Hop Circuit’s inaugural year was definitely a success, and Heise said he anticipates things will take off with an even bigger burst of enthusiasm this year.
“I can say, for everyone who operates a brewery here, we really put a lot of our personal heart and soul into it, put our own unique spin on it, and so we really want to share it with other folks,” said Heise.
Full details about the Hop Circuit are available on the Tourism Regina website.