The Triad is the last urban region in the state without some sort of brewery tour bus, but in a few weeks, we’ll join the ranks of North Carolina’s other beer hotspots.
This week, Tap Hopper Tours and its 14-passenger bus will test its operation in Greensboro for family and friends before launching publicly in September. The concept is simple — hop on the spacious bus for a three-stop ride taking about 3½ hours, spending the afternoon sampling beers or liquor and touring facilities.
The Gate City’s breweries (save for Gibb’s Hundred), its lone distillery and one of its bottle shops are on board, and will rotate through Tap Hopper’s tour schedule. Whether you’re visiting Greensboro or haven’t found the time to catch up to the city’s rapidly growing booze manufacturing, Tap Hopper Tours will be an opportunity to see behind the scenes and let someone else take the wheel.
The best part about the company though is arguably that it’s operated by two locals already steeped in this industry. Niels Larsen, the bar manager at Print Works Bistro and former GM at Natty Greene’s, is launching the company with his long-time friend Patrick Sanecki, an assistant professor at GTCC who teaches culinary and hospitality courses. And while the nucleus of their business is in Greensboro, they’re already talking about plans to extend their tours throughout the Triad or for specialty trips out of the region.
The tour will include samples and a half pint per stop — though not for Fainting Goat Spirits — and will kick off at World of Beer, a craft-beer chain that’s agreed to give participants a discount on food for tour days. The tour bus is outfitted with coolers at each set of bus seats, bolted down, allowing riders to buy booze at the various stops to take home. And you’ll actually be allowed to bring unfinished samples on board too, Larsen and Sanecki said, just not outside alcohol.
The guys want to be flexible — they know their success relies on keeping their partner businesses and customers happy, and they’re quick to offer that they’ll do private tours, say for a bachelor party, give discounts to designated drivers or work out alternate pick-up or drop-off sites such as a hotel. They’ve done their research, checking out comparable models in other North Carolina cities after being inspired initially on a vacation to Jacksonville, Fla., and decided to add the coolers as well as water and snacks for riders.
Greensboro and the Triad may be the last major metro in the state without something like Tap Hopper Tours, but this area has an advantage compared to places like Raleigh; the density of Greensboro’s breweries and distillery in or around downtown will mean less time on the bus and more time in the city’s taprooms.
Find more info at taphoppertours.com.