Beer Guy: Beer and Bikes

by Peter Bailey

I must come clean.

I’m a member of a shadowy, underground organization that has been wreaking havoc on city streets for years. We call it the Pedal Bike Pub Crawl (PBPC).

For the past six years, a group of normally quite responsible people have hopped on their bikes to ride from pub to pub on an Edmonton summer’s day. Five pubs in all, some classy, some dodgy. The route is carefully mapped by a couple, she with a Master’s in Recreation and Leisure Studies, he a CMA. The route must cross the river, can’t repeat more than one pub visited previously, follows trails and bike lanes as much as possible, and—of course—focuses on patios.

The pubcrawl is a real summer highlight, reacquainting me with my long-neglected bike and reminding me of Edmonton’s shy beauty and quirky charms. Without PBPC, I’m sure I would never have ended up biking with a motorcycle gang or dancing with homeless guys to ABBA covers in Churchill Square. And I’ve learned some things about beer in Edmonton— for instance, discovering that places like Remedy or Cha Island stock great craft beer.

If you think pedals and pints can’t be pals, you haven’t been to Portland. Or Colorado. Or Munich. In the early 20th century, Franz Kugler owned the Kugleralm, a tavern 12 miles outside Munich at the end of a cycling trail. One sunny Saturday in 1922, thousands of thirsty cyclists showed up at his bar looking for beer. Knowing he would soon run out of beer, Kugler mixed his beer 50/50 with lemon soda he had languishing in the cellar. Achtung baby, the radlermass beer style was born (in German radler means cyclist and mass means liter). Or so the story goes.

Biking brewery to brewery in Belgium is high on many beer geeks’ bucket lists. A 1989 bike trip through Belgium inspired Colorado homebrewer Jeff Lebesch, who returned to the States and founded New Belgium Brewing and launched their flagship beer, Fat Tire Amber Ale. There are similar origin stories throughout craft beer, with bike geeks becoming beer geeks. Indeed, craft beer and bikes have a similar culture, a devoted, sometimes cult-like crowd of true believers always ready to spread the gospel of good biking or good beer. Drink local, ride local.

A librarian friend of mine manages to do a perfect nerd trifecta, combining bikes, beer and books. The group, Cycling for Libraries, bikes from library to library in Europe, sleeping in hostels and ending up at a library conference.

This year, they are cycling from Oslo, Norway to Aarhus, Denmark, a distance of over 600 km. My friend assures me this is more fun than it sounds. He claims there is great beer everywhere they cycle.

I’ll have to take his word for it as I’m sticking with the Pedal Bike Pub Crawl: the bike ride from my house to Beer Revolution and then on to the Sugarbowl is less than six km, not 600 km.

Cycling Six-Pack

Beer, summer and biking make a delightful trio. Pick up these bike-friendly beers at better beer shops like Sherbrooke Liquor or Keg n Cork.

Fat Tire Amber Ale

Fat Tire Amber Ale

New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale Fort Collins, CO
Named after the fat-tired mountain bike New Belgium founder Jeff Lebesch used to cycle through Belgium on his trip inspiring him to found New Belgium. Fat Tire is a pleasant, biscuity and a bit sweet American amber with nothing Belgian about it except the name.

Lemon Hefeweizen

Lemon Hefeweizen

Alley Kat Lemon Hefeweizen Edmonton
For years Alley Kat has supported the MS Bike fundraising tour from Leduc to Camrose, entering an Alley Kat team and supplying all the beer for the nearly 2,000 riders. A perfect beer for those thirsty cyclists is this summer seasonal, an unfiltered hefeweizen with a hint of lemon zest.

Dale’s Pale Ale

Dale’s Pale Ale

Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale, Lyons, CO
Biking, especially mountain biking, is deeply engrained in the culture of Oskar Blues Brewery. They even started a bike manufacturing division called Reeb (beer backwards). Dale’s Pale Ale is a feisty American pale ale, famous for being the first quality craft beer marketed in cans.

Chainbreaker White IPA

Chainbreaker White IPA

Deschutes Chainbreaker White IPA, Bend, OR
Born as a brewpub in Bend, Oregon’s outdoor capital, bikes are in Deschutes’ DNA. The Chainbreaker name comes from an epic mountain bike race, the Cascade Chainbreaker. Mixing elements of a Belgian wheat beer with a Pacific Northwest IPA was true genius and makes for an outstanding beer.

Hopworks Lager

Hopworks Lager

Hopworks Lager Portland, OR
Portland is both beervana and bikevana, with hipsters on tricked-out fixies meeting up with spandex-clad road racers and Gore-Tex-clad off roaders at one of Portland’s many bike-friendly brewpubs like Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB). Their quaffable Czech pilsner satisfies all the bike tribes.

Tricycle Grapefruit Radler

Tricycle Grapefruit Radler

Parallel 49 Tricycle Grapefruit Radler, Vancouver, BC
Stiegl had great success bringing the German cycling beer, radlermass, to North America a few years ago. Parallel 49’s take on radler combines ruby red grapefruit juice with lager and tastes a little more malt-forward (aka beery) than the Stiegl. Perfect for a post-ride patio.

Peter Bailey is currently in training for Pedal Bike Pub Crawl VII. Please give him a wide berth. He tweets as @Libarbarian.

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