NOLA Beer Bus is Reinventing the Old-Fashioned Pub-Crawl

Launched in December 2023, NOLA Beer Bus allows riders to visit any or all of 10 local breweries without driving, ride sharing, biking or taking public transportation.
Founder Elizabeth Bates created Beer Bus as a win-win for those interested in supporting local businesses in a mindful way.

“I had the pleasure of meeting the great team behind Cajun Fire Brewing when I moved back to New Orleans about 10 years ago,” she said. “So, when I ran into them about a year and a half ago, I was excited to hear that they were working on opening a tasting room in New Orleans East. I walked away from our conversation thinking, ‘I’d love to support them…how do I do that responsibly?’ Either someone needs to be a designated driver, or you could play ‘ride share roulette,’ as I like to call it, which gets expensive and can be unreliable. Overall, I wanted a safe, flexible and affordable option, so my next thought was, ‘There just needs to be a bus line that goes to breweries,’ and the more I thought about it, the more I talked to other people about it, the more I was convinced that this needed to exist.”

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Bates cites her professional history in launching businesses as giving her the tools she needs to manage the ups and downs of running a business.

“I’ve had a few of my own startups over the last 20 years or so, including a residential cleaning service in Southern California that I sold prior to moving back to New Orleans,” she said. “This business was the most similar to Beer Bus — having a lot of people and places around town to coordinate on any given day. I’ve also supported many, many founders on their own journeys through building and running a startup accelerator program…Truly, the biggest takeaway from my professional background is the perseverance and hustle it takes to get something off the ground. On tough days, I have a lot of examples of founders who’ve overcome much bigger obstacles than I have so far in order to realize their dream.”

Still very much a “scrappy start-up,” Beer Bus gives Bates a lot of hats to wear as the company begins to gain traction with riders and on social media. While she is currently a solo operator, she has plans to expand, starting with additional drivers.

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“We have started with one van, and similar to our staffing, plan to expand this in the next quarter as well,” she said. “Ultimately, I plan to have multiple buses running on one route so that our riders can choose between all the amazing breweries we have in town, while having the flexibility of a bus coming by every 30-45 minutes.”

While managing the business can be hectic, for Bates, interacting with riders, both on the bus and online, is all part of the party. Bates’ love of breweries and craft beer makers is apparent as she works closely with each brew stop to make sure the experience is good for all.

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“I spent a lot of time prior to launching Beer Bus talking to people — brewery owners, brewery team members, beer nerds, etc. — to understand what people wanted and if this unique business model made sense as a transportation alternative,” she said. “We collaborate with each of the craft breweries to some extent. We rely on them to place our ‘bus stops’ outside so people know where to hop on, and there has been a lot of social media love! In the near future, these collaborations will get even better; people can expect to see some events that uplift the industry.”

NOLA Beer Bus stops span the city, including Crescent City Brewhouse in the French Quarter, Port Orleans in the Irish Channel, Zony Mash Beer Project and Secondline Brewing in Mid-City, and Skeeta Hawk on the Lafitte Greenway.

“I’ve played with the routes quite a bit and have landed on two that are working really well right now: our Uptown and Mid City / Bywater routes,” Bates said. “We offer stops at the vast majority of the most beloved breweries and brewpubs in the city, while maintaining a total loop time of about one hour.”

NOLA Beer Bus accommodates riders of all abilities.

“Equity and accessibility are important to me, so it was key that Beer Bus had a wheelchair accessible option,” said Bates, “which meant finding the right van and building my own skill and knowledge working with the wheelchair lift.”

Surprisingly, this creative mode of transportation also welcomes all ages.

“Our local breweries are kid-friendly,” said Bates, “and as a parent, it was a dream to have a safe transportation option for a fun day out.”

NOLA Beer Bus operates Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 8 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Passes range in price from $10 for a single ride to $30 for an unlimited day pass and $54 for an unlimited two-day pass.

Beer Bus appeals to groups as well as tourists.

“We have had parties on board — birthdays, bachelor, and bachelorette parties — as well as solo travelers or couples who just want an easy way to explore the craft beer scene here in New Orleans… I think of Beer Bus like the long community tables in large beer halls — you never know who you’ll meet, but it’s a fun way to meet.”

Bates sees Beer Bus as forging a path to a new way of conducting not only pub crawls, but expanded bar tours beyond breweries.

“I believe this hop-on, hop-off bus line model is the future of alcohol tourism,” said Bates, “so while my plan is to continue scaling and improving this service in New Orleans, I also plan to expand it to brewery, winery and distillery regions across the country to bring a safe, flexible, affordable and fun transportation alternative anywhere people will inevitably be imbibing.”

I’ve been surprised how much people love stickers! We have sticker ‘badges’ on board that I give out as people hop back on after each brewery, and I just love the joy in people’s faces, regardless of their age. I haven’t had someone turn down a sticker yet!

– Elizabeth Bates

NOLA Beer Bus
@NolaBeerBus // 504-264-3474


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