Armed with a converted school bus, a new business is looking to hitch a ride on the region’s beer scene.
RVA Brew Crew launched this month, offering tours to breweries around the area.
The startup, launched by Branden Whitten, offers three routes: east toward Triple Crossing Beer’s Fulton location, west toward Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery in Goochland and Midnight Brewery in Rockville, and throughout Scott’s Addition, hitting nearly 20 spots in the neighborhood.
The bus goes to mostly breweries, distilleries and cideries, but also hits spots such as The Circuit Arcade Bar and Richmond Wine Station.
Whitten, who lives in the city, said she often wanted to go out to the likes of Lickinghole and Triple Crossing, but shied away for lack of a designated driver.
“The question was always, ‘Who’s going to drive?’ That’s where the idea came from,” Whitten said. “Especially with traveling on the eastern or western routes, it’s not a guarantee you’d be able to get an Uber or Lyft if you’re out in Goochland, especially if you’re traveling with four or more people.”
Whitten put the idea in action after being laid off from her marketing job for an IT firm this year – one week before her wedding.
“It wasn’t good timing by any means, but it gave me extra time to work on the wedding and allowed me to put the dream into action,” Whitten said, laughing. “Once we got back from the honeymoon, we really got the ball running.”
Whitten bought and converted a former Blue Bird school bus that fits up to 14 passengers and runs two routes per day on Fridays and Saturdays, and one on Sundays. Each trip lasts 4 1/2 hours and ranges from $35 to $55 per person. The bus is also available for private rental.
The routes start and end at a parking lot across from ZZQ on Norfolk Street in Scott’s Addition. Whitten said she’s working on adding a route that would allow her to pick up people who live outside the city to go to Scott’s Addition.
Whitten said RVA Brew Crew isn’t quite a party bus, nor is it an educational tour experience.
“We really just are focused on getting people to and from. We’re a festive ride option … It’s a different option from limos and such,” Whitten said.
It’s Whitten’s first time as a business owner, and she’s running RVA Brew Crew full time with help from her immediate family. She plans to hire another driver or two, and hopes to add more buses and routes.
RVA Brew Crew is at least the second booze tour bus to hit the road recently. Last year, Drink Richmond launched, offering rides and tours to a handful of spots around Richmond.