Boise's beer boom is now branching out beyond breweries. Two new tour companies are launching this month that will provide guided trips to local brew houses: Boise Brew Bus and Boise Brews Cruise. Because both businesses offer similar packages, we decided to compare them side-by-side.
Boise Brew Bus
Owners: Rich Fletcher and Holly Neitzel
Background: "The concept is just to take people from brewery to brewery ... and then to give them a tour with the brewers: a behind-the-scenes look at why they're brewing the beer that they are," Fletcher said.
Cost: $55 per person
Launch: Inaugural tour Friday, Jan. 16, 6:30 p.m.; second tour Saturday, Jan. 24, 2 p.m. Arrive 15-20 minutes before departure with your ID to snag a seat.
"Right now we're shooting for Fridays and Saturdays, just because we're launching," said Fletcher. "We're hoping to end that Saturday one with a dinner at one of the breweries."
Location: Meet at the Boise Brew Bus Depot, 4299 W. Chinden Blvd.
Min. People: "If there are six or less seats booked, the tour may be subject to cancellation," notes the Boise Brew Bus website.
Max. People: 14
Van Style: Ford e350 passenger van purchased in Portland, Ore.
"The seats are lined along the side so you're looking at each other. ... We've got a leather couch in the back that you can sit on and a disco ball; we're trying to make it a little bit more fun than just an average tour," said Fletcher.
Tour Length: Each tour will stop at three to four rotating breweries, including Crooked Fence Brewing, Haff Brewing, Edge Brewing Co. and Highlands Hollow Brewhouse.
"It's going to be about an hour to an hour and a half [at each brewery] depending on the size of the group and depending on how enthusiastic they are and how many questions they have," Fletcher said.
Tour Specifics: The focus is on beer education, with a tasting flight of beer samples at each brewery and an ice chest to keep any growlers or six-packs purchased cold.
"They're going to be able to taste the beer, ask the brewers questions about the beer and then there will be some time afterwards where they could purchase a glass or something if they wanted to drink another beer," said Fletcher.
Extras: Boise Brew Bus is offering Boise Weekly readers a coupon code to save $15 off each ticket. Enter "BoiseWeeklyRocks" when purchasing tickets at boisebrewbus.com.
Boise Brews Cruise
Owners: Noah and Laura Nesbitt
Background: "The start of the business really came from a love of craft beer and then also the love of being the host of the party," said Noah Nesbitt.
Boise Brews Cruise is part of a larger network of brewery tour companies located in 11 cities around the country.
"We purchased a five-year license from Brews Cruise, Inc. and in turn we're featured on their nationwide website and we have meetings with everybody. ... It's kind of like a franchise, but not really," said Nesbitt.
Cost: $60 per person
Launch: Inaugural tour Thursday, Jan. 15, 6 p.m.; second tour Saturday, Jan. 17, 2 p.m.
"We're going to start out Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from the get-go," said Nesbitt. "Once summer comes around we're going to open up Sundays as an option, as well."
Location: Meet at the final tour stop, park your car and board the bus with your ID 10-15 minutes prior to departure.
Min. People: "In order for us to run a cruise, we must have a minimum of four guests reserved before the scheduled departure time. If we have less than 10 guests, we may not operate, but we will be happy to accommodate you on another day if your schedule allows," notes the Boise Brews Cruise website.
Max. People: 12-14
Van Style: 2002 Chevy 3500 cargo van with a logo wrap.
"It was an old tour bus for Yellowstone park, they had it all outfitted with luggage racks and things like that," said Nesbitt. "I saw the potential immediately and just had to jump on it."
Tour Length: Each tour will stop by three rotating breweries and last three-and-a-half to four hours total. Partners include Sockeye Brewing, Payette Brewing Co., Edge Brewing Co., Crooked Fence Brewing, Haff Brewing and Highlands Hollow Brewhouse.
Tour Specifics: "The main emphasis on the tour is all about the educational aspect of things, the whole grain-to-glass concept of the beer," said Nesbitt.
The first stop will focus on brewing 101, the second will highlight beer flavors and the third will emphasize brew styles. Tour-goers each receive a 4-ounce tasting cup they can refill throughout the tour with 12 to 16 different beer samples.
"We've planned it so that the third stop is at a facility that serves food as well so you can stay for dinner," said Nesbitt. "At some of the breweries, like Sockeye, we've arranged a special food package that can be added on to the tour. For $20 extra, you'd get four, 8-ounce beers and a three-course meal."
Extras: The bus features an ice chest to keep purchases cold and each attendee receives a goodie bag filled with a taster glass, swag, snacks and fliers for designated drivers.