By Alethea Smartt LaRowe
Seeking out breweries while traveling was already a lifelong hobby for Bobby Marcum. But while being a consumer is an important role, Marcum felt that he had more to contribute to the local beer industry. An avid bicyclist, Marcum originally wanted to own a pub cycle but he quickly realized that many of the brewery locations in the Willamette Valley are too spread out for that to be feasible. After seeing a Brewvana bus in Portland and developing a rapport with owner Ashley Rose Salvitti, Marcum was convinced that mode of transport was the perfect solution. “I essentially took the bus tour concept and tried to mold it around the demographic of the valley,” Marcum says. He gave his first tours during this year’s Zwickelmania in February.
Now just over eight months old, Ale Ways offers a variety of tours to suit all tastes. Operating on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, with pick-ups available at various locations in Salem and Albany, the all-inclusive tours offer transportation, beverage tastings, pub food, brewer talks and brewery tours, and a commemorative mug. One fun opportunity to explore several types of beverages is the “Pub Crawlvallis Tour,” which visits 2 Towns Ciderhouse, Mazama Brewing, and Nectar Creek, a meadery. Alternatively, the “Eugene Brews Cruze” is all about beer, with stops at Ninkasi, Hop Valley, and Agrarian Ales.
Marcum doesn’t assume tour participants are homebrewers or that they know how beer is made. Therefore, he structures his tours so that the first stop provides the background on making beer. At the next two stops, the brewers talk less about how beer is made in general and more about their personal background and why they make their beer a particular way. As Marcum observes, “When the group sits down in the pub to sample some beers afterward, they feel like part of a private club because they’ve had the unique experience of having met the person who made the beer they’re drinking as well as touring the facility where it was made.”
Tours are offered year-round with the aid of Gus and Frank, a 14-seat short bus and a Hummer, respectively. The bus has been configured to offer maximum comfort for tour participants. It has the look and feel of a mobile pub with the added bonus of customers being able to drink while riding, so the fun never stops. As Marcum says, “You can drink flights of beer all day and you’re going to feel pretty good. But my tours also give you the insider scoop.”
Marcum continues to establish good relationships with local brewers and business owners and is doing his part to attract more tourism to the Willamette Valley, especially Salem. “Part of my whole business model was to make it a destination,” he says. He also enjoys delivering a great experience to his guests. “It’s all about connecting with people and sharing the love of beer!”
Ale Ways Brewery Tours
Owner/Operator: Bobby Marcum
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.