HOP­PING ON BOARD

Tour bus pro­motes state craft bev­er­age in­dus­try

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Lau­ren Hal­li­gan lhal­li­gan@dig­i­tal­first­media.com

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. » Area craft bev­er­age-lovers now have a new way to get around with the open­ing of new business Spa City Brew Bus.

The Spa City Brew Bus is a vet­eran owned and op­er­ated tour bus pro­mot­ing New York state’s craft bev­er­age scene.

The 24-pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cle trans­ports tour-go­ers to and from area brew­eries, winer­ies, dis­til­leries and cideries, where they en­joy tast­ing ses­sions.

In be­tween stops, the bus ride in­cludes en­ter­tain­ment such as games, trivia and karaoke.

“It’s a good time all around,” said founder Mike Ho­jnicki.

Along with hav­ing fun, Ho­jnicki likes his tour guests to learn a lit­tle bit about their bev­er­ages, too. “There’s a lot of ed­u­ca­tion go­ing on here,” he said. “I want peo­ple to re­ally learn from farm to glass - where this prod­uct is com­ing from.”

Spa City Brew Bus tours are led by a knowl­edge­able guide as well as a des­ig­nated bus driver.

Cur­rently, the com­pany of­fers sched­uled tick­eted tours and pri­vate tours within the Cap­i­tal Dis­trict.

Ei­ther way, the Spa City Brew Bus is an all in­clu­sive ex­pe­ri­ence. In ad­di­tion to trans­porta­tion with con­ve­nient pick-up and drop-off lo­ca­tions, the tour in­cludes all tast­ings at each lo­ca­tion and a sou­venir tast­ing glass, as well as snacks and wa­ter on the bus. There is also a cooler for bev­er­ages bought along the tour.

Pri­vate, cus­tom­ized tours can also be booked for par­ties cel­e­brat­ing birthdays, re­unions, bach­e­lor or bach­e­lorette par­ties and cor­po­rate events.

Ball­ston Spa cou­ple Mike and Heather Ho­jnicki started the business this sum­mer and be­gan book­ing tours last month.

Dur­ing Ho­jnicki’s ca­reer in the United States Air Force, he was part of a mis­sion in Antarc­tica. On the way there, Ho­jnicki and his group would stop in New Zealand where they took bus tours through the wine re­gion. “We al­ways had such a good time. We’d get like 20 of us to­gether, we’d rent a bus and we’d just drive around the coun­try­side. And I said ‘One of these days, this is what I’m go­ing to do.’”

Also dur­ing his time in the ser­vice, Ho­jnicki drove a shut­tle, so he was fa­mil­iar with be­ing be­hind the wheel as well.

Upon re­tir­ing from the mil­i­tary, started work­ing at a brew­ery and gain­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in the craft in­dus­try. He’s also pur­su­ing an as­so­ciate’s de­gree in craft beer brew­ing at Schenectady County Com­mu­nity Col­lege.

Ho­jnicki has suc­cess­fully com­bined his shut­tle-driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with his pas­sion for beer in cre­at­ing the Spa City Brew Bus.

The tours Ho­jnicki guides to­day are sim­i­lar to his fond mem­o­ries of New Zealand wine coun­try, but bet­ter.

The Spa City Brew Bus is meant to be more than just a mode of trans­porta­tion, but a VIP ex­pe­ri­ence.

“We want to be en­ter­tain­ment. We want peo­ple to have as much fun on the bus in be­tween these stops as they do at the stops,” Ho­jnicki said. “We don’t want to be just trans­porta­tion. We want to be an over­all ex­pe­ri­ence for peo­ple. We want peo­ple to feel like they’re special.”

In or­der to get max­i­mum en­joy­ment out of the 45-minute stops Spa City Brew Bus has a sys­tem. Each guest gets a num­bered VIP badge, glass and stick­ers for any pur­chases, so things can run smoothly. “It’s meant to be re­ally or­ga­nized to stream­line the process to try to give peo­ple more time to en­joy where they’re go­ing in­stead of deal­ing with the crazi­ness,” Ho­jnicki said.

Spa City Brew Bus works with around 75 dif­fer­ent busi­nesses, rang­ing from Para­dox Brew­ery in Schroon Lake and Sloop Brew­ing Co. in El­izav­ille.

Lo­cally, the bus has part­nered with Saratoga Brew­ing Com­pany, Druthers Brew­ing Com­pany, R.S. Tay­lor & Sons Brew­ery and Ar­ti­sanal Brew Works, among many oth­ers. “Ev­ery­body I’ve reached out to has been ex­tremely sup­port­ive,” Ho­jnicki said.

In the fu­ture, Spa City Brew Bus would like to ex­pand to op­er­ate seven days a week, and of­fer overnight trips to other ar­eas of the state. Ho­jnicki said he’d also like to branch out into other av­enues of trans­porta­tion.

Up­com­ing four-stop tours will be sched­uled for 6 to 10 p.m. on Fri­day and Satur­day nights. Tick­ets are $65 per per­son and can be pur­chased on­line.

LAU­REN HAL­LI­GAN -- LHAL­LI­GAN@DIG­I­TAL­FIRST­MEDIA.COM

Mike and Heather Ho­jnicki wel­come guests to “hop on” the Spa City Brew Bus, a tour bus pro­mot­ing New York State’s craft bev­er­age scene.

LAU­REN HAL­LI­GAN -- LHAL­LI­GAN@DIG­I­TAL­FIRST­MEDIA.COM

The Spa City Brew Bus is a vet­eran-owned and op­er­ated tour bus pro­mot­ing New York state’s craft bev­er­age scene.

PHO­TOS BY LAU­REN HAL­LI­GAN -- LHAL­LI­GAN@DIG­I­TAL­FIRST­MEDIA.COM

The Spa City Brew Bus can hold up to 24 pas­sen­gers.

At left, the Spa City Brew Bus has a cooler in the back for pas­sen­ger pur­chases col­lected along the tours. Be­low, sig­nage wel­comes pas­sen­gers on the Spa City Brew Bus.

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