Beer and bikes: a love story

May 18, 2013

Kristin Butcher

What is it about an ice-cold beer after a long ride that feels just right? Is it my body’s craving for carbs? An endorphin-induced urge for malt? 

In theory, beer and bicycling shouldn’t go together. Cycling is inherently a healthy activity. Beer, well, not so much (just don’t tell that to the Irish, what with their Guinness and all). Seriously, it would be more appropriate to crack open a bottle of carrot juice after our feats of physical exertion. But we don’t. At least I don’t.

In fact, when my legs are as exhausted as they are dirty from the day’s ride, I savor the anticipation of sipping a cold beer. Put the beverage in my dust-caked hand while I strip my shoes and socks and lean the bike against the truck, and I’m happy.

post ride

I’m not alone. Beer is to cyclists what dark chocolate is to yoginis. What gives? I asked two experts: a beer-maker who likes bikes and a cyclist who likes beer. Read on for insight from bike racer and Certified Cicerone (beer sommelier) Spencer Powlison and New Belgium Brewery’s Senator of Tour de Fat Non-Profit Relations, Michael Craft.

Beer is healthy-ish.

“From a scientific standpoint, beer’s carbonation makes it more refreshing,” says Powlison before mentioning lots of other beer health benefits. Beer contains B vitamins. It helps cleanse your palate. It can rehydrate you.

More, holding a beer has the potential to extend your ride, at least mentally, says Craft. “A bottle of beer is similar to the shape of your handlebars,” Craft observes. “If you’re going to hold onto something after a ride, you might as well count on some muscle memory.”

Beer and bicycles are “of the people, for the people.”

“Beer is the drink of the everyman (or woman). It’s the drink that English porters would have on their lunch break, the liquid that Martha Washington brewed at home for George, and the liquid ‘bread’ that Trappist monks have relied upon for eons as sustenance during Lent,” says Powlison. “Bikes are also made for the everyman. They are less expensive than cars and horses, easy to maintain, store and use.”

Hard work makes everything taste better.

Maybe the cravings for beer kick in for the same reason a greasy hamburger tastes like a four-star meal after a hard race. “Beer tastes good after a ride because you earned it,” says Powlison. Craft agrees. “Trust me, you rode your bike and I bet you smiled. You deserve a pint.”


Beer tastes great after a ride, or even during a ride, as Powlison demonstrates here.

Sometimes, the beer gives back.

For 14 years, New Belgium has hosted the bike-circus freak show known as Tour de Fat with proceeds going to local cycling groups. “Last year alone we raised a half-million dollars for bicycle advocacy across the country,” says Craft. “It’s our way to give back to a community that has helped us so much.”


Bike circus Tour de Fat at New Belgium's hometown of Fort Collins, Colorado.

In addition, New Belgium is wrapping their bottles of New Belgium Fat Tire and Ranger IPA with the People for Bikes logo to celebrate May as Bike to Work Month. “We make beer. Non-profits make magic," says Craft.


Thanks to New Belgium for showing their bike pride on labels this May!

Is this to say that teetotalers and non-drinkers are missing out on part of the cycling experience? Heck no. In the end, beer’s iconic status is just that: An icon. An image. A symbol of fun and frivolity and savoring the moment. And if you find that through carrot juice, soda or a box of wine, more power to you. Cheers!

 

Kristin Butcher is a freelance writer based out of Boulder, Colorado, she spends her time writing about people, the outdoors and, of course, bikes. You can read her column, Butcher Paper, in BIKE Magazine.

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