By Kierstin Kloeckner
Happily researching the relationship between cyclists and breweries in the Midwest
It isn’t a secret, at least in the Midwest, that cyclists and breweries have this sort of symbiotic relationship. When you think of elite cyclists, oftentimes Lance Armstrong’s regime (sans blood packing, of course) comes to mind. Weighing out every carb, making sure there is a perfect pre/post-ride refueling and finding the ideal strength-to-weight number. Well, all of that sort of goes out the window when you have so many amazing craft breweries at the end of a ride or race. Lacking in vitamin B? They’ve got you covered. And I don’t care what anyone says, I “think” I ride better after a beer.
So what’s this draw that brings cyclists into breweries in droves? I’m going to say carb replacement, great taste and a spot to get together to be “bike nerds” without the judgment. This isn’t a one-sided relationship, mind you. Breweries around the Midwest understand how important we cyclists are to them, whether any staff on-site ride or not, and that’s why many of them are welcoming us with open arms. Simple things like providing ample bike parking, small discounts if we ride to the brewery and sponsorship for teams goes a long way. There are nights when all the bike parking is taken, and you find folks having to lock their steeds to sign and light posts at many of these establishments.
I first started noticing the kind gestures from breweries about six years ago when I approached Ale Asylum in Madison, Wis., to sponsor my all-women’s alleycat. They were very generous, as they had also been for many other non-profit events. It was around that time Dangerous Man, Fulton and Indeed Brewing of Minneapolis started popping up on my radar as well. All were hot spots for cyclists in the Twin Cities and all welcomed riders of any type.
After I put on my first alleycat, the breweries also started donating to things like Madison Bike Winter (an organization I’m also a part of). They were happy to give beer at cost to groups like us, knowing we’d remember it and support them in the future. Racing teams and cycling clubs also began getting sponsorships from breweries (such as the Fulton Racing team) around this time – having rides either start/end at the brewery or having kegs at the races for participants to enjoy.
Now I know what many of you are thinking, and what you might be concerned with, and that is a DUI. Yes, many states now consider driving a bicycle the same as driving a car, and if your blood alcohol level is high, you will get a ticket or worse. Here are my thoughts on it. If a cyclist is driving their bike intoxicated (something I don’t necessarily approve of), the chance of them hurting someone else is very slim. If they get into an accident, they will most likely be the one injured and should not be able to sue or collect damages if they are intoxicated. If they do end up harming someone, let’s say a pedestrian, they should be held at fault and should be fined. In a state (Wisconsin) ranked the highest for DUIs by MADD, I think we should encourage folks to bike, walk or bus if they’re going out to drink.
I’ll step off my soapbox now to focus on a few bike-friendly breweries in the Midwest. Although I would have loved to do an in-depth article covering the entire Midwest, I had to pick and choose from places I know, and focus mostly on the Madison area. To do so, I invited a bunch a beer loving, cycling friends to do a little urban spin to some of my favorite spots. Our journey began at Ale Asylum, a brewery that not only gives discounts for those with a Bike Benefits sticker, but also donates their yummy liquid carbs to bike events as I mentioned earlier. They were also one of the host sites for the 2010 National American Hardcourt Bike Polo Championships (held in their parking lot). Several of their staff over the years have been avid cyclists and it shows. Step into their tasting room in bike shoes and lycra and you’ll never feel out of place. You know a business cares about cyclists when they have not one, but two, bike parking areas for their customers.
There is also an Ale Asylum in Milwaukee, Wis., that gives discounts with a Bike Benefits sticker.
Our next stop was One Barrel Brewing Company, a nano brewery in the heart of the Atwood neighborhood. 1BBC started offering $1 first pints to those biking in on Thursdays (you must show your helmet to receive the discount) almost right after opening. Walk in any night and you’ll most likely see helmets and cycling bags next to more than half the customers. There’s even a bike hanging on the wall and it’s only a block off one of the busiest commuter bike paths.
Last on the list was Vintage, a brewery on the west side which also gives discounts through the Bike Benefits sticker program. Madison Bike Winter has chosen to hold many meetings here because of their kindness and generosity through donations and allowing large groups of cyclists to take over the outside patio or the meeting room in the front of the building. Their bike rack, on most warm evenings, is jammed full because of this, and their great beer.
Although I know several cyclists who choose not to drink, all of these establishments also offer non-alcoholic beverages, such as craft sodas.
Really, it’s just nice having a spot to gather with friends and talk bikes. Just about all of my epic rides and tours have been formed at a brewery, along with a list of future rides so long I can’t begin to go into details. These meeting spots are essentially a place to dream and enjoy great company.
The beer is just the icing on the cake.
Here’s a short list of other very bike-friendly breweries I’ve come to love:
Red Eye Brewing, Wausau, Wis.: Not only do they craft fine beer, but the owner is also a dedicated cyclist. He is extremely generous by showing up with beer each year for those riding Dairy Roubaix. His brewery is full of bike porn hanging on the wall!
Bare Bones, Oshkosh, Wis.: Once again, another brewery offering a discount with a Bike Benefits sticker. This newer brewery is right off the Friendship gravel trail and can be easily reached by bike from Neenah, Appleton or Menasha, as well as Oshkosh. Very friendly staff and huge bike racks welcome you.
Capital Brewery, Middleton, Wis.: Not just a brewery, but also the founder of the Capital Brewery Cycling Club. Cap Brew holds two weekly rides from their beer garden, which bring in up to 150 riders each night. They also sponsor several racing teams and donate to Bombay Bike Club and the Wisconsin Bicycle Federation. One of their beers was made specifically as a fundraiser for the Wisconsin Bike Federation! A great spot to sit outside and enjoy a beer after a long ride in the driftless area west of Madison.
Grumpy Troll, Mt. Horeb, Wis.: Lots of bike parking and only one block off the Military Ridge Trail. Also, Trail This bike shop will be opening next door in a few months.
Indeed Brewery, Minneapolis, Minn.: Very bike friendly with multiple beers named after bike related thing such as “Let it Ride” and “Midnight Ryder.”
Dangerous Man, Minneapolis, Minn.: Right next to Behind Bars bike shop and tons of bike parking.
Fulton Brewing, Minneapolis, Minn.: Not only a sponsor of the All-City cyclocross team, but they also put on the Fulton Grand Fondo each year.
Founders Brewing, Grand Rapids, Mich.: The largest supporter for the Barry Roubaix and a jump off point for regular road and gravel rides. This place shows its support for cyclists in countless ways.
Toppling Goliath, Decorah, Iowa: A destination brewery for those cycling in the Driftless and mountain biking in Decorah.
Singlespeed Brewing Company, Cedar Falls, Iowa: Has free Tuesday night “no-drop” rides leaving from the brewery. With the purchase of a $5 one-time wristband, Riders receive free beer following every Tuesday night ride.
Sidhe Brewing, St.Paul, Minn.: Just off the Bruce Vento trail and one of the stops for the Women on Bikes brewery rides.
Freeport Brewing, Freeport, Ill.: Right off the Jane Adams trail, which connects with the Badger State Trail and runs all the way to Madison, Wis.. A hot spot for those coming back from Freeport Bicycle Company rides (a bike shop located in the same neighborhood).