Sometimes, it’s all about the bike. Sometimes it’s all about the beer. But more often these days, it’s about both.
Bicycling culture and craft beer culture are riding rising waves of popularity – and they’re increasingly riding in tandem.
Breweries are sponsoring cycling events, raffling bikes and giving their beers bicycle-related names – from the pioneering Fat Tire of Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing (conceived during a two-wheel trip through that country) to Deschutes’ new Chainbreaker.
And cyclists are turning pub crawls into pub cruises, organizing rides to and/or from favorite watering holes.
Some say the shared attraction comes from a shared attitude.
Both biking and craft beer buffs “are probably more independent, free thinkers,” said Manito Tap House owner Patrick McPherson, who recently launched a cycling club.
“Craft beer is an alternative to mainstream beer, just like cycling is an alternative to the mainstream mode of transportation,” said Mark Irvin, founder of No-Li Brewhouse, co-sponsor of a mountain bike racing series in Riverside State Park.
And, he adds, hard-core cyclists like to tinker with their bikes almost as much as they like to ride them – just like homebrewers fuss over fine-tuning their recipes.
From a health standpoint, biking burns up the calories in those carbs that come with more substantial brews. And who can deny the simple pleasure of a cold beer after a hot ride?
“It’s never going to seem like a good idea to grab a glass of Chardonnay to wash down the effort,” said Gage Stromberg of Spokane’s forthcoming River City Brewing.
It started sponsoring a River City Red cycling team – named after its planned flagship beer – this year through the Browne’s Addition bike shop Steve’s on Cannon Street. Biking season arrived on schedule, but the brewery didn’t.
“I have taken a lot of flak that the team came together before the beer came together,” Stromberg said.
Up to 50 folks gather at Steve’s to ride under the River City Red banner on weekends and holidays. Some of those rides will eventually shift to the brewery.
Despite what stereotypes might suggest, it’s far from a young man’s fancy. About three-fourths of the team members are 35 or older, Stromberg figures.
Since starting in May, the Manito Tap House Recyclers rides on Thursday evenings have drawn cyclists of all ages and skill levels, male and female, McPherson said. Saturday morning rides will be added Aug. 11.
There are separate routes for mountain bikes, road bikes and single-speed cruisers. After an hour or so, all the riders return to reserved tables at the Tap House to sip and socialize.
“We heard from a lot of customers, why don’t you do a running club, or a bicycling club,” McPherson said. “We finally just ran with it.”
The rides are only part of his commitment to cycling. The Tap House belongs to the Bicycle Benefits program, in which riders buy a $5 helmet sticker and receive discounts at participating businesses – in Manito’s case, 10 percent off food (except happy hour).
A second bike rack just went in this week, and borrowing a page from Portland’s cycling-centric Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB, for short), a repair stand with attached tools will be installed later this month.
Across town, on the first Sunday of each month, the Elk Vintage Cruisers Ride travels from that Browne’s Addition pub to No-Li and back.
“We show up (at No-Li) right at happy hour – it works out great,” said organizer Josh Scott, owner of the Time Bomb collectibles shop on North Monroe Street.
“They’re super-cool people, they let us bring our bikes inside. And the beer’s good, too.”
While 90 percent of the participants ride classic cruisers, said Scott, “you show up with a mountain bike, that’s fine” – though, he warns, you might just be tempted to pick up one of the oldies.
Vintage bikes are a shared passion of Hayden-based marketing consultant Jamie Lynn Morgan and her husband. Morgan organizes North Idaho’s Bikes and Brews rides, as well as such events as Coeur d’Alene’s Brewfest and Oktoberfest.
Her Bikes and Brews rides, in their second season, run the third Sunday of the month. July featured a visit to Wallace’s two breweries. This month’s ride will tour downtown Coeur d’Alene, while September’s route will follow the Centennial Trail to Spokane.
The first stop last year was a surprise strike on then-newly opened Budge Brothers, Morgan recalls: “We came in all sweaty and tired, saying, ‘We need something to drink!’ ”
October’s activities will depend on the weather, though Morgan said the group plans to keep gathering and quaffing through the winter – when, for a few months anyway, it will be all about the beer.