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River City Food Tours taps into year-round brewery tours, holiday lights tours

River City Food Tours taps into year-round brewery tours, holiday lights tours

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Richmonders Brian and Erin Beard started with food tours, but now they’ve added beer and holiday lights to their tours lineup.

River City Food Tours, founded by the Beards in 2015, acquired Richmond Brewery Tours earlier this year from former owner Tommy Miller. The couple also run Petersburg Food Tours, which started last year.

The brewery tour deal closed in May, but due to COVID-19, those tours have only recently begun. As part of the deal, the Beards got a 14-passenger bus, which they’re going to use for the brewery tours, but also for Tacky Lights tours later this year.

Prior to the acquisition, “we were certainly looking for ways to expand our offerings,” Beard said last week. When they were approached last fall by Miller about buying his tour outfit, “we jumped at it.”

Miller started the brewery tours in 2012 as a side venture. He said he’s always had an “entrepreneurial itch” to own and operate his own business and, when he saw the craft beer industry taking off in Richmond, “I pulled the trigger.”

While the tour company was successful, changing dynamics with family and jobs led Miller to pursue selling it. He said he sought out several suitors, including the Beards. Admittedly, he said, he didn’t choose the one that was most lucrative, but rather, “I picked the one that was gonna provide the best ownership ... to keep it going and take it to the next level.”

“They seemed like a good fit [and] I know that that’ll have a lot of energy,” Miller said of the Beards, adding that Richmond’s craft spirits scene — along with its already established craft beer industry — continues to offer growth opportunities for tour experiences.

Unlike the River City and Petersburg food tours, which are walking tours, the 3½-hour brewery tour will offer bus service to three Richmond-area breweries, including places like Legend Brewing, Richbrau Brewing and Strangeways Brewing. Guests will get tastings and behind-the-scenes tours. While the tours are normally public, they are private for now and for up to 10 people.

Brewery tours take place on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. The tour fee is $250 for up to 10 people, plus $35 per person.

“That’s new for us — we drive our guests around town,” Brian Beard said. But because they’re private tours, “it’s all people you know.”

The Beards are still doing River City Food Tours, but only in Church Hill, which is a mostly outdoors tour. Pre-pandemic, the food tours also explored Carytown and the downtown Arts District.

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