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Brewery Tours Are In The Air This Fall In Portland, Maine

a group of people wearing costumes

Our open-air offerings have proven to be very popular over the past couple of months with nearly 400 guests joining us in traveling nearly 800 miles on our walking tours alone. Several hundred additional guests have also been connected directly to our partners who are offering biking tours as well as boat-based activities. Now that fall is here, these experiences will continue for the next several weeks (and beyond). Let’s dive into our process to resume tours and take look at some of the numbers to see how we have been able to deliver revenue to many different partners during this time.

We restarted our current tours with limited operations in the middle of July. We directly assisted (I was the bicycle-based guide) with some Bike and Brews tours for three straight days starting on Thursday, July 16th. On Sunday, July 19th, we ran our first Walk, Talk, and Taste tour in the Old Port, once again with yours truly in the lead.

a man and a woman standing in front of a brick building

Kevin and Ellesa from New Jersey walk along Wharf Street during our first Old Port Walk, Talk, and Taste tour after resuming operations.

These are not actually newly designed tours for us. Bike and Brews was originally created by our partners at Summer Feet Cycling, and we have assisted in operating them for the past couple of years. Our Walk, Talk, and Taste tours have also been available for several years, although until this year they never were as popular as our bright green bus tours.

Those first few biking and walking tours were definitely used to test the waters with our staff, guests, and partners. We established a Health and Safety plan with new protocols in place for distancing, face coverings, sanitizing, and individual alcohol service (rather than pitcher pours) that were implemented with no real issues.

a group of people sitting at a table

Tom from Honeymaker takes time to chat with two guests from New York on a recent Bike and Brews tour.

The requirements established by the State of Maine in the Keep Maine Healthy plan have been the roadmap to safely operate our tours. By understanding the state guidelines for restaurants to safely function, we could work to visit each of our brewery partners as they were advised to operate under the same framework.

One line in the restaurant checklist really stood out to us: “Maximum group party size of eight people.” No additional explanation or interpretation was given for that, and it has not been changed since restaurants in our county were allowed to open for outdoor and indoor service on June 17th. This is why our tours that visit breweries have been capped at either 6 or 7 guests, by adding the guide we are staying within the state requirements for organized groups.

a group of people sitting at a table in a restaurant

Guests on a recent walking tour visit Gritty McDuff’s in Portland.

It was also clear right away that people were indeed coming to visit Maine and spend time in Greater Portland. 60% of our walking tour guests have reported that they reside in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut – three states that were exempted from the testing or quarantine requirement on July 3rd.

Visitors from 21 other U.S. states have been able to adhere to the requirements that the state has in place, each of our guests attests to this when completing their waiver in advance of the tour and once again upon arrival for the tour. In nearly all cases, the guests are visiting Maine for the first time as a leisure traveler and often are also visiting Acadia National Park while they are already in the state.

a group of people on a boat

At Lone Pine in Portland, Adam visits with a newlywed couple from New Jersey celebrating their honeymoon in Maine with an East Bayside Walk, Talk, and Taste tour.

We were certainly pleased to see that everything went smoothly on those first few tours and that people were excited about visiting a “safe state” for the first time by driving just a handful of hours.

Next, we worked on expanding offerings by adding additional time slots. We offered two different departure times on each day that these tours were available so that we could better accommodate the timing needs of our visiting guests. We also quickly worked to add new itineraries for our walking tours by creating routes in two other brewing hotspots in Portland: East Bayside and Industrial Way. This meant that we soon had 12 different weekly options for biking tours and 36 different tour options for walking tours available each week.

a person holding a little boat in the water

Guests enjoy local beer on a Sails and Ales outing last month.

We were not done creating open-air options. Our ongoing Port City Running Tour option was promoted as another open-air version of a brewery tour. We leveraged existing and new relationships with companies that offer activities on power and sailboats and unveiled six new activities on the waters of Casco Bay. Chartered sailing options with beer, spirits, or wine in partnership with Calendar Islands Sailing Company were added to the schedule. Power boat “Brews Cruise” activities allowed our guests to learn about the lobster industry (or watch the sunset) with Rocky Bottom Tours, and slightly larger groups could enjoy a harbor cruise with Casco Bay Custom Charters.

a group of people are drinking from a glass

Enjoying beers in the sun at Austin Street Brewing Company during a recent bike tour.

After two months of these various tours and activities, there is much positive news to report. Most noteworthy for us is our recharged ability to deliver new guests and positive revenue to our tour partners.

Many of these tours will be available for the next several weeks (our Old Port Walk, Talk, and Taste tour is now available year-round), so there is much more of this good news to come.

a person holding a glass of wine

This couple celebrated their 12th wedding anniversary with a walking tour that included Portland’s Liquid Riot Bottling Company.

Here are some of the numbers that we have compiled to give you a sense of what has been happening for the past couple of months of tours. All data is from tours delivered July 16th through September 22nd:

Walk, Talk, and Taste tours

99 – individual tours conducted
297 – individual visits to locally-owned breweries
373 – total number of guests on walking tours – Top Three States: 104 guests from New York (28% of all guests), 85 guests from New Jersey (23%), 32 guests from Connecticut (9%)
789 – total number of miles walked on foot by guests and guides
$12,923 – estimated amount paid by us to locally-owned breweries for tasting fees and food
$1,102 – estimated amount of additional purchases made by our guests during their brewery visit

Bike and Brews tours

52 – individual tours conducted
156 – individual visits to locally-owned breweries and wineries
194 – total number of guests on biking tours
738 – total number of miles biked by guests and guides
$4,975 – estimated amount paid for tasting fees at locally-owned breweries and wineries

Boat-based Activities

53 – number of guests on Sunset Brews Cruises
30 – number of guests on Lobster Brews Cruises
25 – number of guests on Harbor Brews Cruises
6 – number of guests on Sails and Ales trips
$7,268 – estimated amount of revenue generated for boat-based partners

See the current Health and Safety policies for Maine Brew Bus tours here.


a man holding a teddy bear in front of a buildingDon Littlefield is the General Manager of Brew Bus Tours and also directs the National Operations of Brews Cruise, Inc. He enjoyed an apple cider donut and a lot of Sebago Lake water while preparing this post. Twitter: @BeerinME