In just a few short years Norfolk has become a great little craft brewery city, with different independent breweries dotted throughout the west side of the city.
There’s only one glaring problem for people that want to experience multiple Norfolk breweries in one day: getting between them without a designated driver or racking up the Lyft fares.
A group of local creatives think they might have an answer. They’re calling it the NFK Hopper “Brew Bus,” and it is setting off for its pilot run later this month on March 25.
“From the energy of local brew community,” an organizer, Paul Rice, said of his inspiration for the project. “(We were also inspired by) urban planning issues like the lack of walkability and public transit, a need to build and promote our nightlife to not just attract young people but keep them here, and groups, like my own friends, who love to bar hop and brewery hop.”
The NFK Hopper is slated to run on a 20-to-30 minute loop between O’Connor Brewing Company, Coelacanth Brewing Company, Bold Mariner Brewing and Rip Rap Brewing. For now it will be a regular charter bus, but if the group can get the concept off the ground the plan is to buy a dedicated brew bus.
“I work at Hatch during the day so I was also inspired by the local energy in our entrepreneurship community,” Rice said. “We’re very much taking a startup mentality in building the Hopper. So the 25th is our test launch, and it’s our final step to validate this idea. If we get great turnout, we’d love to get the Hopper going for the whole summer and expand to more places. If we don’t see a lot of support or interest then we won’t be able to justify continuing.”
There are some natural places the route could expand to, including down the line where the Tide could one day go, to Old Dominion University and the Naval Base. Who needs light rail when you’ve got a lit bus, complete with a soundtrack provided by LAVA Music Festival?
“There are several other places that make sense,” said Rice, who notes that no drinks will be allowed on the bus. “Obviously the Chelsea District with Smartmouth and Benchtop, not to mention all the amazing establishments on Colley Avenue.”
Rice’s partners on the project are Dan Porter, a creative consultant and videographer, and Dave Ritt, who is the creative director at Hatch. The three own and run NFKVA, the parent for NFK Creatives, NFK Munchies, and NFK Hopper. The three of them met, by chance, at Hatch, and the entrepreneurial union blossomed from there.
“You’ll meet other awesome people at the stops and on the bus,” said Rice. “I encourage everyone to make new friends. Rinse and repeat.”
If the NFK Hopper successfully launches and grows, it could be a missing link that helps unite the local nightlife and brewery industries — while also getting drunk drivers off the road. (Here at AltDaily we encourage you to drink responsibly.) Concepts like this have been greatly successful in other markets, including Richmond. Is it Norfolk’s chance to level up?
“Go have fun at the brewery and do your thing,” said Rice. “When you’re ready for a change of scenery just head out to the (stop).”