In Richmond you can’t throw a kepi without hitting a tour group of some sort. I sat down recently with Forest Hill resident Tommy Miller and discussed his new tour venture which hopes to take advantage of the recent RVA craft beer explosion and explore a wide open tour niche.
While traveling in California Tommy experienced his first multiple brewery bus tour. This experience set the wheels in motion. Two things stuck out, the big school bus that the Cali. tours were using we’re conducive to conversation and secondly RVA was lacking such a service. That is the genesis of RVA Brewery Tours.
The next steps were a bit harder for someone working a full time job with Hanover County. A used 14 passenger mini-bus, think commuter bus not school short bus, was purchased. Graphics were attached to spruce up the bus, sound system hooked up, checked out by mechanics, and the proper licenses were acquired from DMV and the City. As with any small start up funding is always a factor. To help fill that gap and make improvements to the van and website Tommy has produced a video (see bottom of page) on IndieGoGo.
Currently tours run on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and run $40 a person. The tour which for obvious reasons is only open to 21 and older begin and end at Capital Ale House begins with a lesson in beer tasting and tasting sheets are provided. There are stops for private tours and tastings at Center of the Universe Brewery, Legend Brewing, Hardywood, and Midnight Brewery. Tommy feels that the tour has equal appeal to both the new beerhead and the veteran. For the person new to craft beer it’s a wonderful introduction and for the veteran it’s a chance to see behind the scenes and ask the brewers questions.
As new breweries come online they’ll be added as tour options. Discussions have already begun with Blue Bee Cidery, which would make a nice companion stop for Legend and a close eye is on the progress of StrangeWays Brewing, Ardent Craft Ales, Haxall Brewing Company, and even Extra Billy’s as the step up their brewing game.
When asked about the impetuous for the local craft beer explosion in RVA, Tommy stated that the biggest difference was the passing of SB604 which allows breweries to serve beer without the burden of providing food. The other factor is a trifecta of factors. Restaurants (some already knew) woke up to the demand for this product, local distributors did a great job of providing these restaurants, and finally Taste the Local did an excellent job of marketing the local brands.
I resisted the urge to find out which local beer he thought was the best and gave him the option of picking the top beer from the breweries on his tour and a quick rundown of top restaurants to enjoy a beer.
- Legend Brewing – The old standby Brown Ale
- Hardywood – Bourbon Crue – Not available now but if you don’t like the taste of bourbon stay away when this one comes back
- Midnight Brewing – Rockville Red
- Center of the Universe – Scotchtown Ale
Restaurants that hit the spot for beer and food.
- Mekong – If you didn’t see that one coming you don’t drink much beer in RVA.
- Savory Grain – He gave a special shoutout to the “awesome” burger and to the kale chips.
- Station 2 – Burgers and beer enough said.
- Commercial Taphouse – One of the first in RVA to realize the quality of craft beer and was in his neighborhood when living in the fan.