VIDEO: Love craft beer? Board the Rhode Island Brew Bus

VIDEO: Love craft beer? Board the Rhode Island Brew Bus

They call it an "engine" for a new kind of tourism, a vehicle for bringing people together around a common interest and energizing the state's blossoming craft beer industry.

The Rhode Island Brew Bus is owned by North Smithfield resident Bill Nangle, a man who loves Rhode Island, loves beer, and plans to make a living helping others who share his interest in beer experience it in the most fun way possible.

Nangle, 23, said he got the idea for the Rhode Island Brew Bus about six months ago. The idea, he said, was to do something with his entrepreneurial management degree in an arena he's passionate about, all while spreading knowledge about the craft beer industry in the state.

The Rhode Island Beer Bus offers the atmosphere and experience no solo trip to a brewery ever could, said Nangle.

"You're getting on the bus with 10, 12 other people you don't know, and by the end of the tour you're all best friends, you're all talking beer," he said. "You're all having a good time because you're all coming together for the same purpose, which is to drink great craft local beer."

Nangle and his tour guide, Jon Lanctot of Woonsocket, ran a four-hour preview "Beereakfast" tour of four Rhode Island breweries on July 11. Watch a video of the tour:

The tour started out at Trinity Brewhouse in Providence, where participants got a mid-morning sampler of the brewery's new Captain America beer. It's OK to start drinking before noon if you're on the Rhode Island Brew Bus, said Nangle.

From there, tourists headed toward the Bucket Brewery in Pawtucket. On the way, Lanctot broke out marker boards for the start of some challenging beer-centered trivia.

Bucket co-owner T.J. O'Connor offered up the brewery's best beers, explaining the intricacies of the expanding brewery's "Rhode Scholar," the "Park Loop Porter," the "Thirteenth Original Maple Stout" and the "Pawtucket Pail Ale."

O'Connor showed visitors the painted red area on the floor that marked the size of the Bucket's original 370-square-foot space on Mineral Spring Avenue. He said he and other brewery owners are excited about the potential for what the Rhode Island Brew Bus could bring.

"This is exactly what we need as a new industry in Rhode Island," said O'Connor, a vehicle to "help push that tourism" and show off what the Rhode Island craft beer scene offers.

Prior to 2011, there were no known breweries in northern Rhode Island, said O'Connor, and there are only four today. The competitive beer industry remains a difficult one to break into, he said, and any sort of extra boost from an outside entrepreneur like Nangle will only help the cause.

Then it was on to Foolproof Brewing Company, another Pawtucket brewery that got its start in late 2011. Owner Nick Garrison had a similar story of rapid expansion, saying he and his team doubled in size this year and are well on the way to expanding again.

Garrison gave a history of beer and brewing as visitors tasted some of Foolproof's offerings, including the "Backyahd" India Pale Ale, the "Barstool" American Golden Ale, the "Raincloud" Robust Porter, the La Ferme Urbaine Farmhouse Ale, and the "King of the Yahd" Imperial IPA, and the "Revery" Russian Imperial Stout.

The Rhode Island Brew Bus will lend a hand to an ongoing effort to make Foolproof more of a tourist destination with such events as the upcoming "Augtoberfest," said Garrison.

The last stop was Woonsocket's Ravenous Brewing Company, easily the smallest of the four breweries visited during the "Beereakfast" tour.

Owner Dorian Rave showed off the brewery's famous "Coffee Milk Stout" and "Blackstone Pale Ale" before breaking out his newest creation, the barrel-aged "Imperial Red Ale." Rave said he loves that the focus of the Rhode Island Brew Bus will be on building relationships around a common interest.

The Rhode Island Brew Bus offers an intimate experience, with space for only about 14 passengers. Nangle said he checked out many older and larger buses, but in the end decided on a smaller and newer one. He and his father invested about $25,000 in buying the bus, painting it and decking it out with a beer theme.

The Rhode Island Brew Bus runs tours almost on a weekly basis on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays to such breweries as Bucket, Foolproof, Ravenous, Whaler's Brewing Company, Proclamation Ale Company, Newport Storm, Coddington Brewing Company, Trinity Brewhouse, Greenvale Vineyards and Sons of Liberty, among others.

Each tour includes visits and beer tastings at all breweries on the schedule, water and snacks on the bus, games and giveaways, an education in craft beer, and special food offerings. Pawtucket-based Bad Kat Kupkakes will be offering cupcakes for the tours that are made with the beers found at each location.

For more on the Rhode Island Brew Bus and its tours, visit www.therhodeislandbrewbus.com or find it on Facebook or Twitter.

Nick Garrison, owner of Foolproof Brewing, welcomes visitors during a Rhode Island Brew Bus Tour on July 11.
The blue brew bus.
Woonsocket resident Jon Lanctot leads a tour on the Rhode Island Brew Bus.