7 Reasons To Take A Brew Bus Tour
April 3, 2019
We know that our pricing may seem high to some people in order to visit the many breweries, wineries, and distilleries around the area. We hear the objections every day from people who are only looking at pricing instead of the full scope of what we are delivering. So what do you really get for trusting us with your money and time?
The inquiries we receive from prospective guests on a daily basis tells the story…some people just do not see the value of spending their hard-earned money on an organized Brew Bus tour with our company.
Of course, we feel very differently about this. We know that the educationally-focused services that we provide cannot be delivered in any other way.
Our many years of delivering high-quality and entertaining tours have allowed us to develop a great guest experience that is unlike any other option that is available.
We are offering all-inclusive brewery tours and more by Driving You to Drink Local.
But we are also providing a unique agri-tourism opportunity—a way for you to learn more about the local craft alcohol scene by going behind-the-scenes to learn about the process first-hand, meeting the people that are responsible for the tremendous growth, and definitely tasting the products that have put them on the map in the state.
There are many reasons that guests tell us when they decide they do not want to spend money on an organized tour with us. Here are our responses to these thoughts:
Can’t I just walk to all of the places in town?
In many cases, clusters of craft alcohol producers have chosen to open quite near each other. There is a certain strength in numbers to attract first-time visitors to a tasting room if there are a few more places to visit a short distance away.
Our tour itineraries are designed so that we visit multiple producers of beer, wine, and spirits. So by taking a tour with us, you will visit those specific locations that are on the schedule—but also see many other locations where great craft alcohol is also being made. Our tour staff will point out these places while you are on the tour and encourage you to make time to visit them after your tour with us.
Many of our guests make sure to take our tours early in their visit in order to get the big picture quickly. There are so many different producers that it can be overwhelming to decide how to make the most out of limited time.
It’s much like visiting a very large city and taking a hop-on-and-off tour bus to get an overview of the history and geographical layout of a complex location.
This is the beauty of taking a Brew Bus tour. Exploring somewhere new, admiring the scenery, and learning something along the way from someone who is actually excited and knowledgeable about the industry.
I can buy much more alcohol if I don’t pay for a tour.
If a guest says this to us we often realize that they are not a great match for what we are offering. And that is OK with us, as in no means are we a party bus or a bar crawl operation trying to rush groups through as many locations as possible. It is frankly not our business model, and our partners all very much appreciate that.
Our all-inclusive tours are focused on the educational aspects of the craft alcohol industry. There will be a primer on the tumultuous history of craft alcohol in the state and in the country. Industry pioneers and current leaders will be talked about, and we will explore the role of the early companies that started the vibrant industry that we enjoy today.
Every producer that we visit has a back story that our staff knows very well: start-up entrepreneurs who have left the safety and security of professional jobs with benefits to craft their specific art form. An art that happens to involve producing craft alcohol in an increasingly crowded marketplace.
But how much am I going to get to drink??
We spend about 45 minutes at each location on a tour and have roughly 15 minutes of travel time between stops. Our tours are designed so that we are providing a little more than one “standard drink” an hour.
For beer, this often means 4 different four-ounce pours displaying a range of styles and flavors. For wine, this often found in 3 or 4 pours of 3-ounces each. For spirits, this can be 2 or 3 samples of their distilled products in half-ounce straight pours or mixed in cocktail samples. Of course, some of our producers will provide much more than that, and nobody wants any craft alcohol to go to waste. There is more there to enjoy if you so desire.
Our staff will always make time during each visit to purchase more alcohol to enjoy while there, or to take with you for later enjoyment.
We always say that you will get more alcohol on a tour than you expect to, and often at a higher Alcohol By Volume (ABV) than our guests are used to.
This is why we serve water and food on every tour and space it out so that it is not a contest on who can drink the most. We do not want your night to end as soon as you leave the bus. There is so much to see in the city, we aim to have you happy at the end of the tour—not fully intoxicated.
We will just take Uber or Lyft to all of the breweries we want to visit.
With the advent and widespread adoption of ride-sharing services, we often hear that small groups would prefer to create their own schedules and just take cars between each of the stops.
We get it, you want to visit lots of places while you are here. It’s funny, but we also want that as it helps our guests to understand the entire local vibrancy and industry.
But our tour partners will often be in multiple neighborhoods that are geographically separated from each other. That is part of the beauty of having a safe and sober driver bring you around the area on a bus, we can cover a lot of ground and bring those locations closer.
And don’t forget, some of our tour itineraries actually leave the city and head to great producers that can be in the next town or a up to 25 miles away!
It can be difficult and expensive to get ride-sharing services at peak times, especially if you and your group need multiple large-capacity vehicles to get around.
The transportation costs mount as you move from location to location, and remember that your driver is generally not knowledgable at all about the craft alcohol industry. Often, they do not live in the area—they come into the city just to make money.
Our guides and drivers aren’t just informative, but they are enthusiastic and work very hard to have their guests listen and learn about the industry in the area. It is so incredibly rewarding to hear a guest say that our tour has inspired them to look into home brewing or wine-making.
You might think just because you don’t like drinking that you wouldn’t like a tour. But this isn’t just about drinking. It’s the incredible history, the energy of the different producers, the spirit, the life! By taking the time to discover, you are allowing yourself to appreciate everything you see so much more.
Wait, we can’t drink on the bus? What are we paying for?
State Law prohibits our company and others from consuming alcohol on the vehicle. It is considered an open container, and we do not allow it. We also have absolutely zero interest in ever changing that. It is not what our company is based on.
As already mentioned, there will be plenty of alcohol offered during a tour. Our guests are generally pleased with the amount that they consumed, even if they didn’t love all of the flavors and styles.
What you are paying for on a Brew Bus tour starts with the properly registered, licensed, insured, and maintained vehicle. Your safe and sober driver that is behind the wheel has received a three-hour certification ride in an empty bus before ever taking a guest on a tour.
Your guide has had many hours of training in leading amazing tours but also has a deep knowledge of the different layers of the craft alcohol industry in the area. You will find teachers, engineers, writers, homebrewers, and more at the front of the bus. Four of our tour operations staff have completed a nine-week training program and have become certified Portland History Docents.
Some of our staff have been with us for close to five years, and really know the details that are key to providing a great guest experience. Six of our drivers have advanced driving credentials as they hold Commercial Driver’s Licenses with Passenger endorsement. Most of our staff are cross-trained, so it is not at all unusual to find a professional brewer or Certified Cicerone driving you around on your tour.
There is more, of course. We provide a branded tote bag, bottled water, locally-baked snacks or a full lunch, and discounts to local businesses to our guests.
We pay each of our partners for the experience that they give our guests. Producing craft alcohol is not inexpensive, and if you watch carefully you will see our drivers paying for our tour visit before the group leaves. We also make sure to pay gratuities for the staff at each location that are working with our tours and encourage our guests to do the same if they happen to make additional purchases.
Although our guests cannot drink on the bus there is plenty of alcohol provided during a tour. And our all-inclusive tour pricing includes many other details that people do not tend to think about when they are looking at our company.
It will be boring to listen to the same production talk at each location.
Our tours are designed generally so that our guests will receive a production tour of a facility on the first stop. This grains-to-glass or Production 101 lesson is designed to help everyone in the group learn an overview of the process of crafting alcohol.
There are some exceptions to this, of course. Sometimes the timing does not allow for a facility tour to lead off an itinerary. Occasionally the production needs of our partners will not permit us to visit the back-of-house operations. If your tour is a mix of beer, wine, and spirits, you may find a discussion of the similarities and differences in the processes of making each type of product.
But we make sure to talk about much more than how it’s made.
Don’t forget that behind every craft alcohol producer is an amazing story of the first inspiration, a decision with a leap of faith attached, and tenacity to see it through no matter the challenges that come up.
Our tours are also a look into the development and growth of an entire industry that is focused on making individually owned and operated businesses work together to achieve common goals. They all want locally-made craft alcohol to be a larger share of what is consumed in the area, throughout the country, and around the world.
We also love talking about the business of beer. How do you select a name, logo, or location? What about coming up with unique names for your products? Where can your product be found, just locally or is it distributed in a wider area? And, what does the future look like for your company?
This deeper dive into the business aspects of running a craft alcohol company really resonates with our guests. We know from the introductions that each tour is likely to feature folks with advanced degrees such as educators, medical professionals, and engineers. These industries and more have a true thirst for knowledge, and we can see the wheels turning when our guests realize that their new dream job just might be producing great craft alcohol.
I’m going to check out renting a limo, party bus, or a van instead.
You will often find that the costs will be greater to charter a vehicle from a transportation company.
These businesses just make money by moving people around by the hour, they are not knowledgable about the local craft alcohol industry. So certainly do not expect an expert guide to be there for you.
Brew Bus tours are scheduled directly with our partners. Our company often opens doors to great places before they open to the general public, around lines of people that are waiting for their first tastes, and directly to meet the owners and operators of some of the best-known companies in the area.
When a brewery, winery, or distillery sees our bright bus pull up in front at the scheduled time, they know that our group is there to learn more about that company and that there are two Brew Bus staff on hand to help the visit go smoothly.
When a limousine or a party bus pulls up in front of a location unannounced, the staff just groan. They know that an unknown group is just being dropped off without notice, and we can tell you first hand that our partners do not go out of their way to do anything special at all. In fact, the opposite may be what these groups experience.
Since we visit each producer on a regular schedule and have the ability to show our economic impact to each of our partners, our tour groups will get that special VIP treatment.
Our long-standing track record in supporting the industry has earned us some special privileges that we pass onto our guests. First tastes of an unreleased bere, a special look at expansion plans, or news about a collaboration that hasn’t been announced are just some of the things our guests have heard recently.
Try getting that access from a charter company. It is not going to happen.
Can’t anyone just go in and buy samples for less?
The answer to this is clearly yes. And we encourage our guests to visit different tasting rooms while they are in the area.
By looking through all of the various components that make up our complete tour experience, we hope it is clear that what we offer to our guests is well worth the money.
Exploring our craft alcohol scene can be very overwhelming as a visitor. The great thing about a Brew Bus tour is that you can take many variables away. No need to plan where you go next, we have it covered! Don’t know where you are? Well, you don’t have to worry, the driver knows the route and just follow the guide. Need to use the bathroom? We know where those are in each spot as well. The pressure to plan every step is lifted off your shoulders, even if just for a few hours.
Many like-minded companies like ours are members of the Craft Beverage Tourism Operators Association (CBTOA), a non-profit that supports craft beverage tour operators and grows their business opportunities by building bridges between its members and the craft beverage, tourism and allied communities around the world.
The organization was created to build awareness about craft beverage tours as we absolutely realize the benefits that it brings to the travel industry, craft beverage venues, and other allied companies. Members of the CBTOA want to help educate industries on how to work best with tour operators—as well as educate tour operators on industry standards and best practices.
As you travel around looking for craft beer, we feel that you should look for the official CBTOA seal which is issued only when a tour company fulfills standards for operation.
Final Thoughts about Brew Bus Tours
If you are the type who really enjoys a great deal of planning then the real beauty of a tour…is after the tour. This is when our guests can go back to the new favorite places or check out the other producers that the guide recommended for exploration further on your own.
So no matter what type of person you might be, you can gain a lot from allowing yourself to just follow our lead.
But don’t take it just from us—check out the 1,000 reviews we have on TripAdvisor to see what our guests really think about value of the all-inclusive tour experience that we provide.
Don Littlefield is the General Manager of Brew Bus Tours. During his travels, he has taken formal brewery tours from reputable companies in Fort Myers, FL, Charleston, SC, Asheville, NC, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, PA, and Boston, MA. Twitter @BeerinME
The Maine Brew Bus
79 Commercial Street (Old Port Spirits)
Portland, ME, 04101