The Blue Ridge region is blessed with some of the country’s best craft beer, bourbon, and beautiful landscapes. Runs, bike rides, hikes, and even yoga sessions are often followed with beers, and trolley pubs and pedal taverns have long been popular throughout the region.
Now, beer is becoming part of big events, like the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon presented by Jim Beam in Louisville, Kentucky, on October 21st. With that race, “you’re not just running a half marathon; you’re experiencing a bourbon-filled fitness weekend,” says Race Director Michael Clemons.
Major cities across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic now host a Beer Mile, which involves runners drinking a beer at the start of each quarter mile. People train for this. “It was fun—and more challenging than I expected,” says Dan Pazmino, a DC area resident who ran the recent Naughtical Beer Mile.
Over the last few years, organizations such as Bikes and Beers, Race to the Taps, and Tour de Brew have begun partnering with breweries to provide local events that focus on giving back. Tour de Brew hosts cycling events that benefit both local bike-related charities and clean water initiatives in Central Africa.
Sam Accardi, owner and founder of Bikes and Beers, believes having a good ride and a beer at a popular, local brewery is a great way to “improve community and bring cyclists together” for a good cause. With every Bikes and Beers event across the country, Accardi is supporting local organizations that strive to “improve policies, laws, and infrastructure” surrounding bike riding both for work and play.
Locally sourced foods are the environmentally friendly trend, and alcohol is no exception. Over 4,500 new craft breweries have opened in the last year, with loyal patrons eager to support businesses in their communities. “Beer Yoga was so popular that we went from hosting it monthly to having a class every Tuesday night…and selling out!” says Emma Quinn, Marketing Assistant at Port City Brewing Company in Alexandria, Va. In nearby Ashburn, Alessia McIntosh, Co-Owner of The Dailey Method Loudoun, organizes a weekly run club in partnership with Lost Rhino Brewing Company. “Being able to support local businesses” is part of the charm, she says.
Craft breweries have the distinct advantage of being able to tailor events to the interests of their customers. The results include everything from Lost Rhino’s Barre and Brew to SweetWater’s Mountain Bike and Beer.
The number of runners in the U.S. is at an all-time high, with 64 million people reporting having gone for at least one run in the last year. Similarly, the number of people riding bikes has skyrocketed to about 67 million. “Brewery running clubs aren’t drinking clubs. They’re running clubs,” says Elizabeth Madden, Co-Owner of Mad Fox Brewing and creator of their run club.
People are “becoming more health conscious,” notes Courtney Beazell, Marketing Manager of Caboose Brewing Company. It’s not just running and cycling, either. Caboose has been visited by the occasional post-Crossfit crowd, and plenty of other breweries, wineries, and distilleries offer yoga, hikes, and even Barre classes. Still, even with millions reporting themselves as runners, riders, or yogis, it can be surprisingly difficult to find a friend who can relate to the wall you hit at mile 10 or the thrill of reaching a new personal best. That’s where the beer comes in.
Going for a run that ends with a beer isn’t about the drinking as much as it’s about enjoying a cool down in good company. Pairing activities with beer is “about camaraderie,” says Madden. People come together not only to engage in an activity they love, but also to “form friendships with supportive individuals who share the same interests,” she says. Doug Wright, Director of Merchandising at SweetWater Brewing Company, agrees, noting that “people love to get outside, enjoy the great outdoors, burn some calories, and then relax with some tasty brews.”
Ultimately, people are coming to these events for the sense of community, whether they are beer aficionados, star-powered athletes, or somewhere in between. From 2010 to 2014, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade occasionally joined Miami’s cycling event Critical Mass, which ends its monthly ride at a local bar. These larger events in particular are activities people can look forward to and feel good about—and not just because of the endorphins. Cheers!
9/30 Race to the Taps
Oskar Blues | Brevard, N.C.
10/13-14 Bourbon Chase (200-mile relay)
Bardstown to Lexington, Ky.
10/21 Bikes and Beers
Dogfish Head | Milton, DE
10/28 Race to the Taps
Wedge | Asheville, N.C.