South Florida Brew Bus Delivers South Florida's Craft Beer Craze
"Drive slow!" shouted several of the more than 20 passengers on a minicoach as it rolled south on I-95 past the sprawling suburbia of southern Palm Beach County. The driver looked back, smiled, and set the cruise control to 55, allowing traffic to pass unabated.
Photo by Karli Evans Driver Edgar Revuelta (left), Brew Bus USA events coordinator Aaron Caplan, and Brew Bus South Florida attendants Kimberly Johnson and Matt Davis.
Why the leisurely pace when most people just want to get to wherever the hell they're going? Simple: free beer. As another round of cold ones from Brew Bus Brewing was tossed down the aisle, the adults smiled like kids on Christmas. At the wheel, the driver looked almost preternaturally mellow.
Welcome to the South Florida Brew Bus.
The five-month-old beer tourism operation takes craft-beer-loving citizens on journeys to five local breweries to sample 12 to 16 ounces of beer at each stop, as well as however much they can drink on the bus. The bus has its own line of five beers prepared by Cigar City Brewing in Tampa, such as the award-winning English porter Double Decker, rich with chocolate malt and roasted oat flavors. By the end, sobriety ranges from tipsy to hammered.
"We're a little different from a regular brewery tour company," Brew Bus event coordinator Aaron Caplan says. "We don't just do brewery tours... We do stories of finding that one beer that keeps you going back."
The concept was hatched in Tampa three years ago, when Florida-born Anthony Derby returned home to the Sunshine State after attending the University of Colorado. While there, he had become infatuated with the craft beer movement and, after attempting to visit three breweries in one day, saw his opportunity. Upon his return in 2011, he teamed up with his mother, who is the acting president of now-iconic Cigar City Brewing, and began the operation that would become the Tampa Bay Brew Bus.
That service started in February 2011 and, with the help of Cigar City, began offering its own beverages in June 2012. The bus hit three of the 29 breweries in the Tampa Bay area, offering passengers three routes.
Last year, Derby hired college friend Aaron Caplan to help with the creation of a similar service in South Florida. By March 2014, they had purchased a 23-passenger bus to travel among three breweries. For $50 a head, they provided pint tickets, beer, and, most important, transportation.