Often when one door closes another opens. Three college buddies dreamt of owning their own brewery. After drinking the vapid brews put out the monster mega breweries, they had tasted craft beers and wanted to be a part of that exploding scene. They began home-brewing, but with capital being so hard to come by in this economy and a lack of extensive brewing knowledge, the three decided a brewery was out of the question.
But not long after the brewery door closed, the bus door opened. Yes, the bus door – the Jax Brew Bus door. The three — Josh Carpenter, Mike Maulsby and Glenn Vopper – found an old airport shuttle bus on foreclosure sale, pooled their money, and bought a bus. They had a snazzy wrap added to jazz up the outside and began working with local breweries to put together tours.
Now the bus operates on Saturdays visiting three local breweries and one brew pub. Riders purchase a ticket and are shuttled to Intuition Ale Works, Bold City Brewing, Engine 15 Brew Pub, and Green Room Brewery. Riders get tours at several of the breweries and beer samples at all of them included in the $50 ticket price.
Last Saturday I had the opportunity to ride the bus and experience the service first hand. The ride begins at Tinseltown on the Southside and travels to Intuition Ale Works first. Manning the bus is a driver and a tour guide. Our guide for the day was Maulsby with Vopper driving. Along the way, Maulsby entertained us with interesting information about the local and national craft beer scene.
At Intuition we were ushered into the brewery bar to taste several of the breweries beers along with information about each. The tasting was followed by a tour of the brewing facilities and a visit to the Tap Room where we were encouraged to try other beers or fill growlers.
The next stop was Bold City Brewing where we were again treated to a tasting and a tour. Brian Miller, co-owner and Brewing Operations Manager, related several interesting stories and treated everyone to a taste of beer directly from the fermentation tanks.
A stop at Engine 15 at the beach yielded more tastes and some welcome food. The final stop was at Green Room Brewery where riders received a complimentary beer.
During the drive time an interesting thing happened, 14 strangers became fast friends. We were all drinking together, telling stories, and having the time of our lives. The Brew Bus became a matchmaker of sorts bringing together beer lovers and letting them learn from each other. It gave people the opportunity to share discoveries of great beers and it did it all in the span of just five hours. On these points alone the Jax Brew Bus is a smashing success.
As the craft brew scene in Jacksonville grows, the Jax Brew Bus will look to expand its route. For now it conducts tours every Saturday from 1:00 to approximately 6:00 PM. For more information or to make a reservation visit the Jax Brew Bus website at: www.jaxbrewbus.com.