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June 11, 2015

'Unleash your inner beer beast': The Bangor area is getting its own brewery tour bus

Photo / Courtesy of The Growler Bus
Photo / Courtesy of The Growler Bus
The Growler Bus plans to start tours in early July.

Get your growlers ready. The Bangor area is getting its own brewery tour bus, and it's following the growing popularity of beer tourism in Maine and across the country.

Say hello to The Growler Bus, a new venture started by Gene Beck, the owner of Bangor bar Nocturnem Draft Haus, and his fiancÚ, Christine Hanna. The bus, which has the words "unleash your inner beer beast!" inscribed on its sides, will offer tours of the Bangor area's breweries and at least one distillery, giving guests a chance to tour some of the facilities and sample several of their beers.

The venture's initial tours plan to include stops at Geaghan Bros. Brewing Co. in Brewer or Bangor, Sea Dog Brewing Co. in Bangor, Orono Brewing Co. in Orono, Black Bear Microbrew in Orono, Penobscot Bay Brewery/Winterport Winery in Winterport, Square Tail Brewing in Amherst and 22 Vodka in Brewer. But Beck and Hanna hope to eventually open it up to longer tours, including trips to Mount Desert Island and the Blue Hill area.

It's an idea Beck and Hanna got after traveling to places like San Diego, where they noticed the popularity of brewery tours, Beck told Mainebiz. They were also encouraged by the success of two brewery tour bus businesses in southern Maine, Maine Beer Tours and the Maine Brew Bus.

"I really think over the last several years we have seen a huge increase in the amount of breweries in the state of Maine, the amount of really good beer bars, and restaurants and food destinations really taking an interest in the craftsmanship," Beck said. And that, in turn, has led to more consumer interest, he added, giving credence to ventures like his.

Maine's craft beer industry has surged in the past few years, going from 35 breweries in 2013 to more than 60 this year, according to the Maine Brewer's Guild. A study commissioned by the Maine Brewer's Guild last year found that the industry generated $92.6 million in sales from 2013's 35 breweries, with an estimated statewide economic impact of $189 million. The latter figure takes into account the growing number of festivals and other beer-related events, such as Portland Beer Week, Maine Beer School and the Maine Brewers Festival.

One of the goals, Beck said, is to showcase the hard work that goes into making beer. And that will appeal to craft beer fanatics and newcomers alike, he added.

"There's a lot of people busting their butts behind the scenes," he said.

The Growler Bus is set to begin in early July, with plans to offer three tours every weekend. The bus seats up to 14 passengers and admission will start at $55, which covers transportation and beer samples and is on par with the cost of similar tours in Maine. Beck and Hanna are hiring two to three drivers to kick off the venture.

Beck said The Growler Bus was financed by himself and Bangor Savings Bank.

Read more

Business is brewing: Craft beer's national growth is reflected in Maine

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