Unlike most summer visitors who gravitate to the area’s shoreline, the people riding through town on a bus Friday afternoon won’t be destined for the beaches, but for the beer at breweries in Westerly and Stonington.
Up to 13 craft beer enthusiasts will meet at Grey Sail Brewing on Friday for a four-stop bus tour. The trip was organized by a new business, The Rhode Island Brew Bus. Similar to tours offered in other states, The Border Jumper Tour stops at local beer locations for guided visits, sample brews and keepsake pint glasses, with transportation to each of the breweries on a tour bus.
Company founder Bill Nangle, a 24-year-old North Smithfield resident studying entrepreneurial management at the University of Rhode Island, said his own love for drinking, brewing and learning about craft beer inspired his business.
“They have beer tours like this in a lot of other states,” Nangle said. “When I saw an opportunity for there to be a brew bus in Rhode Island, I knew I had to give it a go.”
Since drafting a business plan in January, Nangle has been hard at work making this opportunity become a reality: securing an activities bus, contacting local breweries and advertising the four weekly tours, which include the Westerly/Stonington tour of Grey Sail Brewing and the Malted Barley in Westerly, Cottrell Brewing Co., of Pawcatuck, and Beer’d Brewing Co. of Stonington as well as tours in Newport, Providence and South Kingstown.
Nangle, a member of the Rhode Island Brew Society and a home brewer, said he has been making the rounds to Westerly and Stonington breweries for years, and named the trip as one of his favorites in the area.
“I’ve probably done that tour with my girlfriend at least three times already this year,” Nangle said. “It’s a really fun thing to do, and Westerly is a great town to spend time in.”
Nangle said he is looking forward to sharing the experience with other beer lovers on Friday in his company’s kickoff tour.
“Some people think of it as a booze cruise, but it’s not about that at all,” he said, explaining that even with multiple tastings at each brewery, participants consume the equivalent of one pint of beer per location, at most. “It’s more of an educational thing. It’s really about taking in and celebrating all the local breweries and craft beers in our area.”
Each tour is capped at 13 participants, with costs ranging from $67 to $77 per person, including the transportation, tastings and pint glasses at each brewery. In between the tours, Nangle and a bus tour guide will provide additional beer brewing information, trivia questions and giveaways.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Nangle said that eight people had signed up for Friday’s tour, which begins at Grey Sail, then continues on to Cottrell, The Malted Barley — where participants will get a choice of pretzel and a local pint — before going to Beer’d and then returning to Grey Sail.
“We know it’s going to be slow starting out,” he said. “We’re hopeful that as word spreads locally, we’ll pick up a bit.”
Nangle said his company has been using primarily social media to advertise the tours, and is in the process of designing pamphlets to leave at bars and local hangouts in the four towns the tours take place. Nangle described the relationship he has developed with the 18 breweries, beer pubs and other tour stops as incredibly positive.
“I haven’t approached a single brewery and had them say no,” Nangle said.
The owner of Grey Sail Brewing, Jennifer Brinton, also expressed support for Nangle’s business endeavor.
“We’ve participated with the Connecticut Beer Trail before,” Brinton said. “I think what Bill is doing is great, and I support him as a small-business owner. I appreciate any concept that minimizes any potential for drinking and driving.”
Cottrell Brewing’s Bergin O’Malley, who is in charge of brand and business development for the Pawcatuck brewery, explained that as breweries and craft beers continue to grow in popularity, beer tours like Nangle’s are also becoming more widespread.
“He’s been really supportive of us,” said O’Malley. “It’s clear that he’s really passionate about craft beer and local breweries, which we are as well.”
Friday’s tour begins at 4:15 at Grey Sail Brewing, continuing to the other three stops with about 45 minutes spent at each location. For more information, or to sign up for a tour go to therhodeislandbrewbus.com.