Brewvana And The Rise Of Portland’s Female-Run Brewery Tour Empire
When I was recently in Portland, Oregon, I had the opportunity to take a craft beer tour with Brewvana, the predominantly women-led beer tour company that features decked-out green-and-white converted school buses (Angel and Rosie), edible stomach-hardening pretzel necklaces and insight from some of the more knowledgeable female beer connoisseurs in the city (though they have recently been adding some Y chromosomes to the team), which is saying something in Portland, a town that boasts 74 craft breweries in its metro area. And, yes, given the above, when Brewvana’s buses pull up and its customers roll out the front doors, everyone around takes notice.
Though they offer a number of different tours throughout the week, my particular “Friday Behind The Scenes Tour” was led by the knowledgable and personable Margot Ripley — a Portland native whom I randomly ran into while hiking in the Columbia River Gorge two days later — and featured stops at some of the more well-known breweries in the city, including Buckman Brewery, Laurelwood Public House and Brewery, Widmer Brother Brewery and Upright Brewery. Needless to say, the tour was a welcome introduction to a city that I had been in for less than 90 minutes before tasting my first brew.
Other than the obvious beer tastings at each stop, we were also lectured on the ins and outs of the brewing process, as well as given the opportunity to meet and ask questions from representatives of some of the brewers at each stop. At Laurelwood, owner and brewmaster Mike DeKalb welcomed us into the back of the house to observe the brewing process close-up, which involved them getting their seasonal Green Elephant IPA ready for imbibing (mellow malt character, big hoppy overtones).
Not only was the experience uniquely “Portland,” but I also got to learn a lot about the massively successful local beer scene, meet some great people who all share a love of good beer, and also catch up with one of my favorite young entrepreneurs in the world, Brewvana’s owner and founder, Ashley Rose Salvitti, whom I had the pleasure of meeting initially here in New York.
The above video from Portland-based videographer Mike Vraneza features Ashley, the brains behind the entire operation, as she goes about her normal work day. Salvitti, who is from Upstate New York by way of North Carolina where she went to school and obtained degrees in Art and Psychology, also recounts the story of how she started a business of touring breweries, something she knew little about at the time she started the tour company.
As anyone that’s spent a few minutes with Ashley knows, her enthusiasm and dedication is contagious, and if you don’t want to drop everything and start helping to spread the gospel about Brewvana or pitching in to help fix the bus when it breaks down (which it has been known to do, but not so much anymore — don’t worry), then something’s seriously wrong with you.
Of course, as she hilariously explains in the video, lack of experience or lots of capital didn’t stop her, and when life handed her a faulty transmission one heavily scheduled weekend, she made a kegger and borrowed a van to keep the tours going.
Salvitti’s story, like many people’s in Portland, is one that is unique to a city that has an incredible ability to inspire people to pursue their dreams, to think differently and to keep going when other people say something can’t be done — common themes you hear time after time from entrepreneurs all over Stumptown who have decided to strike out and start businesses as varied as manufacturing artisanal chocolate to selling vegan dog shampoo.
Next time you’re in Portland, which is hopefully soon, be sure to block off some time for a Brewvana tour for what will likely be one of the highlights of your trip. You’ll probably walk away from it with a newfound appreciation for the city’s craft beer scene and the people behind it. And at the very least, you’ll walk away with a few great beers in your stomach, a great way to experience any city, but especially Portland.
[To learn more and to book your own Brewvaana tour, please visit their site here. Though Brewvana provided this particular tour to me on the house, tours range in price from $59 – $85, and private tours are available upon request.]
Matt Stabile is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of TheExpeditioner.com. You can read his writings, watch his travel videos, purchase the book he co-edited or contact him via email at any time at TheExpeditioner.com.