Drinking Vacation With Ruth Berman and Mike Arra's Beer Bon Voyage

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Ruth Berman and Mike Arra love beer. So much so that the two busy Boynton Beach-based chiropractors decided to make a second living out of it.

How? By organizing beer vacations, of course.
If you need a vacation and love beer as well, Beer Bon Voyage, their South Florida-based specialty tour company for craft beer enthusiasts, may just be the perfect pairing for you and that next pint.  

Since 2009, when Beer Bon Voyage was founded, Berman and Arra have been working diligently to create amazing destination vacations that focus on brews and the international locales that make them best.

The business venture seems a natural next step for Berman, the CEO and self-named BBB (Brains Beyond the Beer) of Beer Bon Voyage. She's been planning travel tours with friends and family for more than ten years, and even made her passion a profession when she joined Boynton's SunBird Cruise and Travel in 1998, the same year she also became certified as a licensed tour guide.

"In the past [I've] had a lot of fun traveling and taking groups on vacations. One day [Arra and I] thought, 'Why not do this just for beer?'" said Berman, during a recent interview with Clean Plate Charlie. "A light bulb went off, and I thought, 'This is what I need to be doing.' It was my calling."

As for Arra, a longtime beer lover and collector of all varieties, the business decision is also a match made in heaven. After all, what better way to honor their shared passion for sipping pilsners and downing drafts than by giving others the chance to visit breweries and pubs all over the world.

With Beer Bon Voyage, you get more than just the beer; you also get the culture. And that's really what makes any vacation memorable -- just as long as you don't black out after every stop.

Here's what Berman and Arra had to say about Beer Bon Voyage:

Clean Plate Charlie: Who is the Beer Bon Voyage vacationer?

Beer Bon Voyage: Anyone who loves beer! Even couples. And if your spouse doesn't enjoy [beer the way you do] that's OK too. Our tours aren't just about beer. It's about the culture of the [place] we're visiting. We dine out at amazing restaurants, and go to area museums and attractions -- there's even shopping.

Have you always had a love of beer?

No. I was a Gray Goose girl! But Mike got me more and more into beer...after years of sampling [his craft beers from his home collection]. I slowly developed a palate for beer. Then I realized beer pairs better with food than wine does, so that was it for me. The rest is history.

What was your first vacation destination, and how was it? 

Our first [international] tour was in Belgium. Last year marked the first year Beer Bon Voyage began offering guided beer tour vacation packages, and it was a hit. You can read about it on our Website [www.bonbeer.com]. We can't wait to do it again. This year, we're also working on expanding destinations, with plans for Ireland, Italy, Germany and England in the works.

What about someone looking for a tour closer to home? 

Beer Bon Voyage does local tours, as well -- what we call "Beer Safaris." Our first was last year, to breweries throughout Tampa. We'll be doing that again this year [in February] and, soon we'll be adding St. Augustine.

What do people get on a tour they don't get going solo? Is it just more bang for your buck?

That, but more importantly, the tour makes it possible to do things you would never get to do on your own. We've had the most amazing time touring breweries and sampling beer we would never have been able to if it weren't for the tour group. We've built up some pretty awesome connections [overseas as well as locally]. So you're meeting the brewer sometimes, the owners; you're getting everything VIP.

Vacationing in a group is also easier. Everything is put together for you -- no worrying about where to go, how to get there, or how you're getting back.

After being in business for nearly two years, Bon Beer Voyage has already made a few milestones. Tell us about them.

We've been working hard to create partnerships with national and international craft beer experts and travel companies during the planning of our five upcoming tours for 2011. 

We were also awarded the 2010 British Airways Business Opportunity Grant [over] several other businesses as the company the airline chose to assist in growing their enterprise. 

In addition, CIE Tours International [a nearly 80-year-old company and industry leader in quality Ireland and British tours] has announced it will be partnering with us for our Ireland excursion later this summer.

When is your next tour? 

The first tour of the year will be our Second Annual Tampa Beer Safari Weekend, which will be held from February 18-20 at a cost of $475 per person [based on double occupancy]. 

DETAILS: The two-night getaway includes accommodations in historic Ybor City; visits and tastings at the award-winning Cigar City, Saint Somewhere, and Dunedin breweries; a visit to Tarpon Springs; transportation to breweries and tour sites; two breakfasts; a beer-paired lunch; and two gourmet beer-paired dinners to be hosted at Bernini's in Ybor City and Fleming's Steak House. Transportation to and from Tampa is the responsibility of the participants. A limited number of tickets for the Fleming's dinner will be available to those not participating in the tour at $75 per person. This price includes the four-course beer-paired meal, tax, and gratuity.

Other tours this year include Tuscany, Italy, and St. Augustine, Florida. Call 1-888-U-GO-BEER (888-846-2337), visit BonBeer.com, or email info@bonbeer.com for more information on the Tampa Beer Safari Weekend or other Bon Beer Voyage specialty beer tours.

Follow Clean Plate Charlie Facebook on Twitter: @CleanPlateBPB.

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