After the long, dry, joyless slog that is ‘Dry January’ I’m starting to very much look forward to sampling a long, tall, chilled pint of beer, once again.
Whilst I’m not a particularly ‘big drinker (at least not now my student days are long gone) there’s something alluring about being denied that makes you crave all the more. To make things worse, it’s January 30th and everyone in the office is talking beer.
Is this some sort of audio mirage? A coincidence? Are we all eagerly awaiting the end of January? Well, sort of. A couple of members of our VisitLiverpool team have just returned from a tour. But not your usual Liverpool tour – music, culture, history, Beatles, etc etc). A bus tour. A beer bus tour. The VisitLiverpool team get all the good gigs and from the sound of things they had an amazing time. (Jammy bar stewards)
My ears prick up further as the team merrily discuss their various samplings that they have enjoyed – all in the name of research, of course, and during the working day, no less.
I can feel myself turning green with envy, but I try to hide it, quietly and diligently typing away, seemingly oblivious. For me, there’s nothing quite like beer. As your Martinis shake and stir; your wines wax and wane, and your cocktails come and go, there’s something eternally pleasing about the good old traditional pint.
Lager. IPA. Ale. Stout. Cider. Bitter, there’s options aplenty, all within the framework of a humble pint – 20 fluid ounces of rich, deep, light, dark, fizzy, flat or foamy elixir, depending on your pint of choice, but all potentially intoxicating – alcoholic or otherwise.
Speaking of bitter. Why have I missed out on this beer bus tour? Perhaps I can muscle my way in, like a casually placed but unrelenting elbow at a busy bar. Then, my colleague, Suzanne, suggest that ‘Brewery Bus Tours Liverpool’ “would make a great feature… for the website”. Heads turn to me – I see an opening.
“Of course,” I casually chime in, nonchalantly, “I can help with that.” Couple of emails later, I’m booked in to interview Brewery Bus Tour Liverpool founder, Darren Gilligan. I suggest it might be good to interview Darren, as we join the bus tour, sampling a few scoops along the way.
Read on for more about the tour with a closer look at some of the pints that rank highly with Darren, his breweries and their tour patrons alike.
Darren, tell me how Brewery Bus Tours Liverpool came about.
“I’ve been working in hospitality for 30 years and I’ve worked closely with a number of the breweries, in one way or another, over the years, and they’re an amazing asset to our city and I believe we need shout about them more, to both residents and tourists.
“The beers they produce are top-quality and we really should be supporting these instead of the corporate giants who make mass produced beer that can feel a little soulless in comparison. With cost of living crisis and spiralling production costs in general, I believe it’s more important than ever to support local businesses and drink local beer.”
So where does the tour cover? What breweries are included? How were they selected?
The tour covers all nine Liverpool-based breweries, which are within a five-mile radius of the city centre. These include;
- Black Lodge Brewing
- Cains Brewery Village
- Carnival Brewing Company
- Glen Affric Brewery
- Handyman Brewery
- Liverpool Brewing Company
- Love Lane Brewery
- Top Rope Brewing
“All these breweries are featured in the tour, but which ones we visit on the day depends on the day of the week, time of day and month. I try to give them all a fair share to the increased exposure the tour gives them, across its four-hour duration. Each tour typically covers four or five breweries.”
Who are your typical customers and target demographic? How is this evolving?
“It’s absolutely anyone above the age of 18 really. We attract lots of corporate customers looking for a fun and highly-effective team-building expedition. Tonnes of social gatherings, of course, such as stag and hen do’s.
“In December we welcomed lots of Christmas Parties. They’re always a fun crowd. It’s the best way to get into the Christmas spirit. One area we are expanding into more and more are tours hosting overseas visitors, which Liverpool attracts in spades.
“What’s great about this particular business model is that our tours are great for any occasion. A day with your mates. A friend’s birthday bash. A family get-together – you name it. And with our tours you don’t just get to taste beer and great food but you also get a history lesson as you’re transported around about Liverpool’s 100-year brewing and nightlife culture, along with seeing some of the cities famous landmarks and this play incredibly well to tourists.
“Speaking to our customers and finding out what they’re interested in is a fantastic way to inform how our tours can evolve. For example, we’re planning on developing a ‘Legends Tour’ for Liverpool FC and Everton FC in the next few weeks, which I think will go down really well. I’ve also got some other ideas, which we’ll be announcing soon but you’ll have to keep an eye on our socials for those.”
What’s your personal stand-out pint from each brewery?
“That’s a tough question. Every time you go on our Brewery Bus Tour you get to try between 8-12 different beers, as part of the tour and oftentimes there’s a brand new beer to try, so the options are pretty extensive and vary all the time.
“To be honest, I’d feel bad naming ‘stand-outs’ because they are all so good and so satisfying in different ways. But if you really insisted and I had to pick just three right off the top of my head right now I would recommend the following…”
TOP ROPE BREWERIES – ‘I SCREAM THE VEGAN ICE CREAM’ PALE ALE RANGE
This range of ice-cream inspired pale ales feature fantastic fruity and classic dessert inspired options including a red velvet cake and raspberry ripple versions, to name just a couple.
BLACK LODGE – HUNDRED-DOLLAR VOLVO
This was their very first brew and it’s still an absolute classic pale ale. Definitely one to seek out.
AZVEX – UNREADABLE METAL LOGO
This is a 6.6% juicy IPA with a bitter finish, dry hopped with Citra, Mosaic and El Dorado. A real experience.
What makes Liverpool such a great place to start a business like this?
“Our city is producing some of the finest craft beers out there, along with establishing warm and friendly visitor centres, where patrons can sample the latest creations. These breweries are truly amazing. They aren’t just basic back street kits. They are industry leaders and many have Rolls Royce standard gear, enabling them to make the best pints possible in today’s market.
“Liverpool is fast-becoming the craft beer capital of the North of the UK. The city’s got so much going for it and the people who work in Liverpool’s diverse and inventive craft beer scene are so passionate about what they do, that it’s great to be a part of the vibe and to help bring the industry together.
“You can see and feel, just from walking around here that Liverpool is a place full of creative, passionate people that support one another and our business community is pretty tight-knit. It’s easy to make connections here and everyone is invested in Liverpool’s growth and prosperity, this makes business a lot easier.
Do you have any plans for future expansion?
“Well, we’ve only just launched so I’m just taking each quarter as it comes right now, but we do intend to have multiple Brewery branded buses parading around the city soon, to help spread the word and get our brand out there. And we want to expand the number of tours. We currently run two tours a day, commencing at 1130am and 4.30pm but demand has been so strong we’re keen to develop more soon.
How can people get involved and find our more?
“We encourage people to visit our website to find our more and book but also to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. We’re building a great community of beer lovers from all over the world and our social platforms are really a celebration of real beer and Liverpool, a pretty potent and fun combination.”
Alright, so I have had a fair few pints by now and it could be the beer talking but it’s safe to say that I genuinely loved talking to Darren and discovering the ‘Brewery Bus Tour Liverpool’ wares and I’d happily recommend a visit to anyone who wants to see Liverpool and sample the very best of our beer.
So forget your stomach-churning Eggnog, Baileys and Snowball excesses of December. Banish the memories of a t-total and totally sober January. Get your mates together and buy a bevy of ‘Brewery Bus tour Liverpool’ tickets today. Enjoy a proper pint of beer, in city made for socialising. Cheers!
Pease don’t forget to drink responsibly. For more information visit drinkaware.co.uk.