Allegany County Tourism, the C&O Canal Trust and the Canal Towns Partnership have launched the C&O Canal Libations Trail, created to celebrate the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park’s 50th anniversary of joining the National Park Service (NPS). The trail includes wineries, distilleries and specialty cocktails to be released later in the year.
This multi-agency tourism effort promotes the “C&O Canal Experience” and includes the full length of the C&O Canal through Allegany, Washington, Frederick and Montgomery counties in Maryland and Jefferson County in West Virginia. Visitors are encouraged to explore the communities adjacent to the C&O Canal, sampling craft beer, wine and spirits while supporting local small businesses in the towns lining the C&O Canal National Historical Park. All are within a short walk or bike ride away from the towpath, the main trail that traverses the entire park.
There are currently 10 participating breweries and seven C&O Canal-themed beers. In Mountain Maryland, the four breweries in Allegany County collaborated to produce Douglas’ Ditch, a lager that combines the names of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, who played a role in preventing the canal from being turned into a parkway in the 1950s, and the “Grand Ole’ Ditch,” a nickname for the C&O Canal since it opened for business in 1850. The beer is expected to be ready in early March at all four locations.
PARTICIPATING ALLEGANY COUNTY BREWERIES
- 1812 Brewery, Cumberland, Maryland (6-mile drive from C&O Canal)
- Dig Deep Brewing Company, Cumberland, Maryland (0.2-mile walk/bike from C&O Canal)
- Locust Post Brewery, Little Orleans, Maryland (7-mile drive from C&O Canal)
- Route 40 Brewing & Distilling Company, Frostburg, Maryland (0.5-mile walk/bike from GAP Trail; 12.5-mile drive from C&O Canal)
“Brewing beer and supporting breweries is not a solo process. Instead, it is all about community.” said Ashli Workman, director of tourism for Allegany County, “That was the reason we asked our local brewers to take on a different approach and collaborate on a beer for the newly developed trail, because at the heart of everything they do — it’s about creating community.”
The canal dates back to 1828, when ground was broken on what was then an engineering marvel that would transport goods from the Ohio River valley to eastern markets. It paralleled the Potomac River, which was not navigable by ship, and saw mules pulling canal boats both east and west between Georgetown and Cumberland, where the canal terminated. Competition from railroads and a series of floods closed the canal to boat traffic in 1924 and it sat relatively abandoned until the 1950s when a group of interested citizens, including Justice Douglas, brought attention to the canal’s plight. It was named a national monument in 1961 before becoming a national historical park in 1971.
Approximately 5 million visitors each year make the C&O a major economic driver for the area as park visitors spent an estimated $98.4 million in local gateway regions, which supported 1,330 jobs. The park draws its visitors from its surrounding communities and from around the world to come to ride the 184.5-mile towpath and the adjoining Great Allegheny Passage (GAP Trail), which stretches from Cumberland, Maryland, to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The 332-mile trek from the Steel City to the nation’s capital is a bucket list item for many long-distance hikers and bikers. The park also preserves over 1,000 historic structures and conserves habitat for 113 rare and threatened plants and animals while offering interpretive tours, hiking trails, overnight lockhouse accommodations and a wealth of outdoor recreational opportunities.
“The C&O Canal Libations Trail presents wonderful opportunities to visitors and residents alike to travel along the C&O Canal Scenic Byway and to explore Maryland’s C&O Canal region,” said Maryland Department of Commerce Assistant Secretary Tom Riford. “The region is filled with an abundance of outdoor recreation, family-friendly attractions, a diverse culinary scene, world-class arts and culture and a wealth of history. The trail’s libations will include dozens of nearby wineries, distilleries and breweries."
Partners in the C&O Canal Libations Trail include the Canal Towns Partnership; the C&O Canal Trust; the Maryland Department of Commerce Office of Tourism; Visit Montgomery; Visit Frederick; Visit Hagerstown; Allegany County, the Mountain Side of Maryland; and the Brewers Association of Maryland.