Matthew – So how did you come up with the idea for Brew Cruz?
Annie – Last summer I was back in Boulder, Co (where I went to college) for a close friend’s wedding. Nearly everyone in the wedding party was a craft beer enthusiast, and genuinely excited to be spending a weekend together. The best man arranged for the local historical tour bus, ‘Billy Banjo’ to take us to three local breweries in Boulder the Friday before the wedding. It ended up being this absolutely magical day! I returned to Santa Cruz, and realized that with the local boom of amazing breweries and pour-houses and beer-centric community, there was certainly a market to create this business. I bought an old school bus, and Brew Cruz began!
Matthew -What was involved in getting the bus transformed to what it is today?
Annie – Refurbishing the bus was truly a labor of love, and took about 7 months to complete. ‘Betty Jane’ (as she is affectionately called) is a 1989 Thomas International, which was a pretty incredible chassis to work on. These buses are built for durability, and when I purchased her she only had 146,000 diesel miles on her. With the help of friends, we gutted the entire interior of the bus and worked from the ground up. The talented Scott MacDonald (contractor) and I built custom Douglass Fir bench seats, and trimmed all the original windows. We built an inset for a refrigerated cooler, cup-holders, laid a Maple wood floor, and put in decorative vents. Another friend of mine and I roll-painted the entire exterior of the bus, and sprayed the trim gold. My family friend and I glued and screwed Gunstock Barrel hardwood panels onto the sides of the bus to replicate the look of a ‘Woodie’. I matched the original interior bus paint, and re-touched the ceiling. An upholsterer helped me with the plush seat cushions, and I decorated the rest of the bus to feel beachy and comfortable, like someone’s little wooden living room. Finally, my mechanic and I put in new batteries, a new starter, and did an entire head job on the 7.3 8 cylinder engine… that was probably the most challenging (and unexpected) part…
Matthew – What happens on a typical tour?
Annie – Our tours start off with the history of craft beer culture in Santa Cruz and the surrounding area, and discuss the individual stops we’ll be making for the day; ie. why each place is unique, how they got started, what their motivation was, and what beers set them apart. With each tour, the route changes depending on which breweries we decide to visit. Brew Cruz passengers are allowed to bring their own beers to try on board, so typically we’ll open a bottle or two to share in small cups, and discuss as a group as we set off. When we arrive at each brewery, we’re greeted by knowledgeable staff, and, when available, have the opportunity to take a tour of the premises. A pint is included for each Brew Cruz guest, at each brewery. When we’re on the bus, we do beer trivia, listen to music, and enjoy the sights and sounds of beautiful Santa Cruz. Guests love to ask questions, wave to passer-byers out the window, and share an educational, unique experience inspired by some pretty flavorful craft beers out there right now!
Matthew – Have you always thought of yourself as an entrepreneur?
Annie – I’ve never been one to follow the straight and narrow path, although I never thought I’d be a commercial bus driver at age 30 either! My 20’s were largely spent exploring- both the world and micro-community around me, and who I wanted to become as a person. Most of that growth took place in San Francisco, where I was constantly inspired by people doing the things they actually wanted to do! The belief that I could potentially create something I loved (or at least enjoyed), while making a career out of it, was always at the forefront of my thought process, but I was too diffident to execute it. It sounds cliche, but when the idea came for Brew Cruz, it finally felt like the right time to go for it, without hesitation…create…fly, fail, whatever– as long as I was doing.
Matthew -Does living / working in Santa Cruz County influence what you do?
Annie – Santa Cruz is a magical place, with such an abundance of raw, natural beauty everywhere. It’s the type of place where you watch nightly sunsets with neighbors, and strangers. It’s both progressive and liberal, and traditional and familiar. The craft beer community down here is doing such exciting things. In addition to creating award winning beers, they offer people a place to gather together. The breweries host and support local businesses and charities. They’re involved with schools and musicians. You can bring your families and dogs to watch classic movies, or play cards in the sun– all while drinking a pint! It’s all very nostalgic and time-honored, indicative of what breweries and brew-pubs are rooted in. Working alongside this environment greatly influences me, and what I set out to create every time passengers hop aboard for a Brew Cruz.
(There is a rumor that Brew Cruz will be sharing beer at the next Event Santa Cruz one year anniversary night September 18th at The MAH…)