Northwest Indiana's craft brewing scene has grown so big they're giving tours.
The Illiana Brew Bus plans to take craft beer drinkers to local craft breweries across the Calumet Region, including St. John Malt Brothers, Bulldog, WildRose, New Oberpfalz, The Devil's Trumpet, 18th Street, One Trick Pony, Pokro, Crown Brewing, and Flossmoor Station. Customers are already booked, and the brew bus will hit the road as soon as the state of Indiana grants a license, owner Raquel McCormick said.
McCormick drank Miller Lite until she took a brewing class at Purdue University, which she signed up for because the wine-making class she really wanted to get into was full. Soon she was a huge fan of Three Floyds and Bell's.
"I became passionate about craft beer and visited craft brewers in different states," she said. "I came up with the concept of a service like Uber or Lyft, so you can go out and have fun without getting in trouble."
People pay $30 to $35 to visit three or four local craft breweries, which offer samples and light snacks. The samples are about an ounce or two each, not the traditional four ounces, because the intent is to try new beers and not to get drunk, McCormick said.
Those on the tour also can purchase pints and beer to go, which is stored in a cooler in the bus. The whole tour takes about three-and-a-half to four hours, and the stop at each brewery is about 30 to 45 minutes.
Craft beer aficionados can enjoy any beer they buy on the bus, as well as McCormick's "ultimate best eggrolls."
"Having a brew bus is further proof that Northwest Indiana has become a craft beer destination," said Robyn Pokropinski, an owner of Pokro Brewing, which opened earlier this year in Griffith. "We're excited to be a part of the craft beer movement in the region, and look forward to being a destination of the brew bus tours."
New breweries can be added in the future as they open, and McCormick hopes to expand the tour to wineries, including those in Southwest Michigan.
She hopes to introduce people to new craft breweries, get more diverse groups interested in craft beer, and also let out-of-town visitors maximize their trip by hitting up several breweries instead of just one or two.
"It's a memorable experience, trying all the different beers," she said. "You can meet other people with the same interest in craft beer, and get to know them and their friends."
Tours can be arranged by calling 219-595-9633 or emailing IllianaBrewBus@gmail.com.
For more information, visit illianabrewbus.com.