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The Columbus Ale Trail is a book among other things

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 28, 2018

Have you heard of the Columbus Ale Trail? Did you complete Volume 1, 2 and/or 3? Are you working on Volume 4? I am one of the founders of the project and have invested about 60 to 100 work hours each year to make it happen. While I have not yet published a book…Book, I suppose in some sense, this was my first book project. Each year I have helped get it to print doing various duties and for the last two years I have been a project manager of sorts taking care of gathering the content, editing it, determining the formatting and special features, deciding on the lay out, how the maps will be put together, etc. Each late March / early April I can count on having one or two really shitty weeks pushing to get all of this to print by deadline and I can always count on some last-minute glitch to come up the make sure we are cutting things right to the wire. The greatest challenge for Volume 4 was when I came to get the final copy of the book and do last-minute proofreading so I could hand off the USB of the product for the printers at noon. I arrived at the designers house at 10 AM to discover he thought the turn in day was the day after and the maps had not been started yet. In that situation only one thing could be done – take a shot, pull up two chairs and start making two maps from scratch. The maps look pretty good considering they were created in less than ninety minutes. As for the proofreading, I can tell you where the errors I could not catch in the twenty remaining minutes are located.

It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In the case of the Columbus Ale Trail we were not flattered by the Route 33 Brew Trail, a product of the Fairfield County Convention and Visitors Bureau (aka Visit Fairfield County). Their first version was released in May of this year. It was not an imitation it was an outright copy (wording, layout, formatting, etc., etc.) to the point of being blatant intellectual property theft. When I met with their executive team in June they seemed baffled that I would have any concerns about what they presented as some type of misunderstanding. It was an absolutely frustrating experience to get stonewalled. At the time of this writing they have never provided a feasible explanation as to what happened. There are only two plausible options: 1) They made a conscious decision to copy the ale trail or 2) Their designer decided to make a twenty plus hour project a two-hour copy job and over-billed the good taxpayers of Fairfield County. Anyone that has put the two books side by side has come to the same conclusion, there is no way to accidentally copy whole paragraphs.

The end result is that they have now produced a new version of their Brew Trail which is closer to being an original work and by report they dumped 3500 of the 6000 copies they printed earlier. The bigger consequence of their lack of remorse and in my opinion professionalism and class in dealing with the situation is they and their Brew Trail have a big black mark with the craft beer community in Central Ohio. I could further explain the damage that was done, but by doing so, I would once again be doing them a favor for free.

Last year over 2370 people visited all 38 brewery sites listed in the Columbus Ale Trail (Volume 3). If you conservatively estimate that $6 was spent at each brewery then each brewery saw at an absolute minimum of $14,220 in business for a listing that cost them $600. A minimum total revenue for the craft beer community as a whole is $540,360. That is a minimum because that number does not count the people who only went to four, eight or any number less than 38 breweries. I’d settle for 1% of the revenue as compensation but I can assure you I have not seen anything remotely close to that. What I did earn was the respect of the people I worked with to have made this happen for the last four years. So if you happen to have an inclination to steal the creative property of the Columbus Ale Trail, you are making a lot of people very angry. That can not bode well for anyone or any organization, that is classic bad Karma.

That is one story of the Ale Trail, there are literally thousands more and most of those are significantly more upbeat and positive.

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One Response to “The Columbus Ale Trail is a book among other things”

  1. The Columbus Ale Trail has been a runaway success. It’s hard to imagine anything that a small group of enthusiasts could do that would have anywhere close to the same impact. I can totally understand why intellectual property theft of the type you describe in this post would be upsetting.

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