Bikes and Craft Beer – Exploring a Passionate Relationship

Posted by: Timothy A Nemeckay Publish Date: Apr 03, 2017

Ales Beers Ciders
Bikes and Craft Beer –
Exploring a Passionate
Cyclhops Bike Cantina in Longmont, Colorado
There’s no denying the relationship
between craft beers and
mountain biking is a strong—
and delicious—one.

As someone interested in mountain biking and reading this magazine, it’s a safe bet that sometime today, you popped open Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and saw at least one image or post of some riding buddies posing unclipped from their bikes, holding aloft a few bottles or cans of fine beer. While it’s quite a ubiquitous scene that might seem cliché to some people, there’s no denying the relationship between craft beers and mountain biking is a strong—and delicious—one

Cycling is fundamentally a healthy endeavor, so it doesn’t necessarily make sense that beer is so often closely associated with mountain biking. Of course there are many mountain bikers who don’t drink beer, and one could easily make the case that most beer drinkers around the world wouldn’t even think of throwing a leg over a bicycle. Other cycling disciplines also seem to have their own association with alcohol, but none of those relationships are as strong and deep as the marriage of craft beer and mountain biking. There is an incalculable number of examples of bicycle jerseys with brewery logos, bicycle events sponsored by breweries, and teams and clubs supported by brewers. You’ll also see many bicycle-inspired beers and beers named after bicycles.

While brewers have definitely capitalized upon such a relationship, it can hardly be considered exploitation. Besides, it’s not a stretch to say mountain bikers have benefitted more from relationships with breweries than the other way around.

Such relationships go beyond marketing. Many craft breweries in the United States have a strong cycling thread woven directly into the fundamental fabric of the company. “There’s lots of us in the company that come from all walks of riding. We all get together when the weather is good, and we try to ride together when we can. It’s pretty organic amongst the people here,” explains Mark Carter, director of events and philanthropy for Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton, Delaware.

Dogfish Head brewpub in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Dogfish Head has long supported all sorts of cycling, but it has recently upped their game by throwing some money and their considerable cachet behind the Urban Bike Project in Wilmington, Delaware. Housed in the old Wilmington Mounted Police stables, the Urban Bike Project is a nonprofit initiative that promotes cycling as an environmentally friendly form of community development. The organization teaches kids about bike safety and helps them buy their own bikes. The Urban Bike Project also receives donated bikes in various states of disrepair, fixes them and turns them around for members of the community who rely on bicycles as their sole means of transportation.

The 2009 Singlespeed World Championship mountain bike race was held in Durango, Colorado. It’s a well-known fact that this race is more of a healthy celebration of mountain bikes than a serious competition. As with any great celebration, the beer flows strong and swift before, during and after this race.

The official SSWC ’09 post-race party was held at the Ska Brewing facility located on the outskirts of Durango. Long an active supporter and participant in mountain bike culture, the Ska brewery was a logical location for the party.

Dave Thibodeau is president and co-founder of Ska Brewing and was a mountain biker before he started brewing beer. He sees a logical correlation between people who love mountain biking and great beer. “You’ve got somebody who really enjoys being on singletrack high up and getting the most out of their surroundings. It’s the same thing when they’re drinking beer. You’re not gonna go waste that experience by having a Budweiser when you can really get in deep with something that’s had a lot of effort put into it.”

Tröegs Brewery in Hershey, Pennsylvania

Tröegs Brewery in Hershey, Pennsylvania, has also started to can some of its beers. Jeff Herb, marketing media coordinator for Tröegs, explains how canned beer works well with mountain biking: “Craft beer drinkers are into cycling, hiking, camping and a variety of other outdoor activities. Since craft beer is important in their lives, drinkers never want to leave home without their favorite beer.”

While mountain biking was one of the inspirations for Oskar Blues choosing cans over bottles, the brand’s involvement in cycles goes much deeper.

For example, Oskar Blues recently opened the Cyclhops Bike Cantina in Longmont, Colorado. Cyclhops is a busy taco and tequila sit-down restaurant that also houses a full-service bike shop and retail base for the Oskar Blues brand of mountain bikes known as Reeb Cycles. Katechis started Reeb Cycles in 2011 after his bike was stolen. Offering at least four dirt-specific handmade steel or titanium bicycles, the Reeb brand is no marketing gimmick hack. Hand-welded by Chris “Soultrain” Sulfrain, Reeb Cycles are high-end frames that manifest the independent and innovative spirit running through Oskar Blues at a micro level as well as all of mountain biking and brewing on a macro level.

Cyclhops in Longmont, Colorado

It can easily be argued that mountain biking and craft brewing were born in response to, or as a revolt against, a larger, less interesting version of themselves. Bicycles are inherently fun objects. Beer is also something that has an intrinsic value of fun or entertainment. On a commodity level, they both can bring a lot of joy to a lot of people, independent of each other.

Yet, as with most things, there are people who wish to distill more purity out of something they’re passionate about to create something more unique, personal and fun. They want a little more variety. Mountain bike pioneers started in the late 1970s as a group of oddball rebels in blue jeans who started by modifying existing bikes to make cycling more fun by riding them where bikes rarely went.

Similarly, craft brewers started around the same time when Jimmy Carter threw open the window on homebrewing when he signed H.R. 1337 in 1978, making it legal for people to brew small batches of beer (or wine) for personal consumption. The seeds for both revolutions were planted then and grew from there.

“Craft beer is a smaller category within the beer market as a whole. Mountain biking is kind of that way also. Mountain bikes haven’t been around as long as other types of bikes. They’re both kind of, to a degree, subcultures of something larger. Which pairs them up pretty well,” elaborates Mark Carter from Dogfish Head.

Trek headquarters in Waterloo, Wisconsin

Sam Foos is a brand manager for Bontrager, which is part of the Trek Bicycle Corporation. Foos explains how the passionate and fraternal connection between craft beer and mountain biking also has a place within larger bike companies. For starters, I was surprised to learn that there are at least two kegs of fine beer on tap at all times in different parts of the Trek headquarters in Waterloo, Wisconsin. Combined with 236 acres of mountain bike trails across the street from the office, things become more clear. Foos goes on to say, “Every Wednesday, we go out to the trails, work on them, ride them and then hang out and drink beers when we’re done. We wouldn’t have these trails without Trek. We don’t promote this culture, it’s just what we do every week.”

New Belgium Brewing headquarters in Fort Collins, Colorado

(EXCERPT ). For the complete story visit:
Editor’s note: This story first appeared in Dirt Rag Issue #176, published
in April 2014. It’s technically a “Blast from the Past” story, but is still (and
probably always will be) relevant. Words by Jeff Lockwood. Photos
courtesy of Dogfish Head, New Belgium Brewing, Oskar Blues, Trek and
Tröegs Brewing.

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