At last count there were more than a dozen breweries, distilleries, cideries and brewpubs in Longmont alone, let alone the rest of the county. How can a curious day-drinker visit more than one of them in a day?
In Longmont, the answer is a trolley tour with a bunch of friends and strangers. That’s the idea behind Longmont’s Brewhop Trolley.
Six years ago, Dave Lewis and his wife Radha bought a trolley and started selling day passes for drinkers. Hourly stops to breweries and distilleries makes the loop into a choose-your-own-adventure of Longmont establishments. Within a couple years, the Brewhop Trolley grew to three trolleys—Molly Trolley, Dennis Hopper and the Big Lebrewski—to add private charters and more to the trolley routes.
From noon until 8 p.m., the Brewhop makes a loop around Longmont starting at 300 Suns Brewing near First Avenue and Main Street. From there, the trolley makes more than a dozen stops in a tight loop, returning to the start of the loop in about an hour. Riders can hop on and off all day, spending as much time at the breweries as they’d like before heading off to the next stop.
Like most of the service industry, the Brewhop took a major hit with COVID shutdowns. The trolley took a two-and-a-half-year hiatus during the pandemic, only offering private charters until COVID restrictions leveled out.
“We were shut down for a couple months doing anything until businesses started reopening to outside dining, but there were a lot of restrictions in place,” Lewis says.
With 25 to 30 riders at any given time, Lewis felt it would be unfair to both patrons and businesses when not everyone would be able to visit under capacity restrictions. The weekend loop went dormant, though Lewis carried on with private charters and wedding parties.
“We shut down the loop until we felt comfortable that there wouldn’t be any restrictions put back in place, and then we’ll make a determination on bringing back the loop,” he explains. “We just delayed and delayed because we weren’t sure.”
The hiatus has come to an end now, with the Longmont Loop making a triumphant return on Saturdays, from August to November this year.
There have been a few challenges getting started again, Lewis says. Bars and breweries have a lot of new staff since the last time the loop was running regularly, so new relationships had to be made so that bar staff weren’t overwhelmed by a couple dozen patrons descending on them at once during an already busy Saturday. Still, Lewis and the Brewhop staff are excited to be on the road again beyond the private charters.
Lewis spends a lot of time researching what events are happening at each stop during the weekend, from live music to food trucks and everything in between to give the trolley riders an idea of what they’re in for besides tasty beverages. Events are posted on the Brewhop’s social media pages, as well as a whiteboard on the trolley itself.
Though the loop runs for a solid eight hours around 13 stops, there’s no way to reasonably hit each location and still have a functioning liver the next day. In addition to personal health, Lewis wants guests to have fun while still being respectful to the staff at each establishment.
“What I tell people when they get on the trolley is that it’s going to be a long day,” Lewis says. “We recommend not trying to double fist beer or cocktails at each stop.”
Lewis and the other Brewhop drivers keep an eye on their riders, making sure that they aren’t overly intoxicated. The point, Lewis explains, isn’t to treat the trolley like a booze cruise, but to visit and enjoy the atmosphere at each place, hopefully discovering a new favorite local spot along the way.
For first time trolley riders, Lewis recommends getting to wherever your first stop is early enough to sample a beverage there before getting onboard. More importantly, parking in some places can be limited and breweries are rightfully concerned about having enough spaces for patrons visiting throughout the day.
Lewis has recommendations for parking, but mostly encourages trolley riders to avail themselves of a local rideshare service.
“We highly recommend ride shares to and from—or call your mom to pick you up—so we’re not putting you or the public in danger after having a great day,” Lewis says. “That’s the last thing we want.”
Fortunately, each Brewhop trolley has water available and at least half the stops offer full menus or bar snacks, Lewis says.