If you wanted to buy an American-made beer 30 years ago, your choices were pretty much limited to those made by Budweiser, Miller, Coors, Schlitz and brews made by a few regional brewers and the odd microbrewery scattered across the country. In fact, at that time, The Boston Beer Company was just emerging from microbrewery status into a regional, and even national, player, as its signature beer—Sam Adams—began taking the country by storm.
Back then if you wanted to buy an American-made bicycle, your options were equally limited. There were a handful of major players who either manufactured or designed bikes and a smattering of smaller players with regional and/or specialized markets. If you owned a U.S. label bicycle in 1987 chances are it was a Schwinn, Trek, Huffy, Ross, AMF, Murray, Jamis, or Cannondale. Even if you were one of the early adopters of the beach cruiser’s resurgence back then, chances are it was made by Murray or Schwinn. But just maybe, if you were hardcore, you might have owned a Specialized Stumpjumper, considered the first mass produced mountain bike in the world, or perhaps even a Redline BMX.
Today, your American-made beer choices far exceed 3,000, as the number of craft breweries (which includes microbreweries, brewpubs and regional brewers) has soared to more 2,800, with many offering a wide selection of beer varieties. Florida alone now has about 150 craft breweries, with Miami-Dade County serving as home to eight microbreweries and brewpubs.
While not nearly as dramatic as the rise of the U.S. craft brewery market, the American bicycle market has also expanded, with the current number of U.S. brands standing somewhere in the neighborhood of 160, with almost all of the newer ones representing smaller players serving regional or specialized markets. Many of these micro-bikeries, as we’ll call them, serve a purpose similar to that of microbreweries, in that their products appeal to people looking for something beyond the ordinary. Microbrew connoisseurs seek out flavor beyond the generic watered-down foam passed off as beer by the major brewers. Micro-bikery customers, in turn, are looking for function, style, distinctiveness, and high quality that may not be offered within the major bike label mass-produced lines.
It may be a stretch to say that microbreweries and micro-bikeries are like brothers from different mothers, but in concept and customer appeal they certainly have their similarities. So, cousins, of a sort? The Milwaukee Bicycle Company, St. Petersburg’s Cycle Brewing Company, and Ottawa’s Bicycle Craft Brewery certainly think so, what with the former’s logo being a beer stein, and the latter’s being, well, a bicycle (Cycle Brewing only comes with the related name). And yes, we referenced a Canadian company, but the same beer and bike dynamics in America are taking place in Canada.
Anyhow, with this connection between microbrews and bikes in mind isn’t it interesting that microbrewery tours via bicycle have emerged of late as a fast growing segment of the brew tour market? While the trend hasn’t hit Miami yet, it’s certainly growing in popularity out west, with Colorado, Oregon and Canada’s British Columbia leading the charge by numbers of bike tour operators offering microbrew bike tours.
In fact, all indications point to these three places serving as pioneers of the trend. Some tour operators had so much success locally that they branched out. The proprietors of Portland’s BeerCycling, with its motto of “From Pint A to Pint B,” must have gotten tired of repeating its same old Oregon “beerway” tour, as it now offers tours in three other countries (and boasts of almost 2,500 different beers sampled). Beer & Bike Tours of Fort Collins, Co., has been expanding its tour offerings since its founding in 2008. With its mission of searching “out rides and routes that include rewarding cycling and stunning scenery with quality beer options that will make any beer lover happy,” the company now offers various tours in six states and three different countries.
Meanwhile, it appears that more and more bike touring outfitters are getting into the game, and adding microbrewery tours to their potential itineraries. And if an outfitter in an area you’d like to tour by bike, with some stops for liquid micro-brewed refreshments, doesn’t offer it outright, you can always suggest it as a custom-designed tour.
A word of warning if you are conducting a search for a bike and beer tour online: be sure to double-check that the beer and bike tour is actually by individual “bicycle” and not by a group cycle. These group cycles basically serve as a 10- to 16-seat moving platform that you pedal around town while either visiting various microbreweries or while pounding beer where allowed by law.
It’s quite a different animal than the microbrewery bike tours we’re talking about, as evidenced by Brewcycle Portland’s website, and seems to be popping up in cities across America (Miami now has two operators). It might have the micro beer, but we certainly don’t consider that contraption to be a bicycle.