Bikes & Beers is returning to San Diego for a third year! It’s one of our favorite events. You can get tickets HERE (and we’re not even getting paid for saying so).
Saturday, March 26th, 2016
When I stumbled across an event listing for the Bikes and Beers North County bicycle ride between Belching Beaver, Lost Abbey/Port Brewing and Mother Earth Brewing my first thought was, “Yes, please.” At that point I didn’t know anything about Bikes & Beers Organization. I had never ridden a bike in North County San Diego. I had never considered that the words in the description of the ride as having “some hills and some flats” would be more than moderately hilly. I would soon be educated on all of those things.
I got onto www.bikesandbeers.org/, and got the contact for one of the founder’s, John, who got me in touch with Tim who was hosting this ride. Tim was kind enough to invite me along and give me some details. Namely, what is Bikes & Beers?
“Bikes and Beers aims to promote local cycling communities, improve bicycle infrastructure, highlight craft beer, and support local economies and non-profit efforts. Being involved means building your community in way that is more livable, sustainable, and enjoyable.”
video found at beersandbikes.org
That all sounds pretty good. And there was beer involved so Saturday at 9:30am I showed up at Belching Beaver in Vista. Immediately, I was taken by how many people were there. I had half expected this to be a small affair, but almost 150 people showed up total. And I learned their last event (spring 2014 in North Park, SD) had almost 700 participants. The ride cost $50 and included two samples each at Lost Abbey/Port Brewing & Mother Earth Brewing, a full pint at Belching Beaver and an “I Rode the Hop Highway 2014” pint glass to put it in. Not to mention the organization of the whole thing. At 10am I joined the first wave of riders heading to Lost Abbey/Port Brewing in San Marcos approximately 8 miles away. Ben,another of the 4 organizers, then Tim made some announcements about the ride and drawing attention to the ride’s charity recipient, San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy.
The SDRVC is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization “dedicated to preserving, protecting and restoring natural and cultural resources within the 55-mile long San Dieguito watershed.” This ride in particular was supporting the effort to complete the Coast to Crest Trail. 70 miles of trail for hikers, mountain bikers and runners extending from Del Mar to the Anza Borrego Desert. It starts at the Del Mar Dog Beach and winds it’s way East past Lake Sutherland to the Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve. Large portions of the trail are finished and the money raised from this ride would go towards completing unfinished portions connecting the finished portions. Bikes & Beers donates a minimum of 20% of their profits from each ride. I asked Tim about the charity portion of their organization:
“Charities are selected based on their contribution to their local cycling communities. We strive to select charities that are working toward building more livable communities through bicycle advocacy, natural resource enhancement and protection, and social support projects. A minimum of 20% is donated from each ride. Our Utah ride, the Tour de Brewtah, donates $15000 each year to charities.”
The ride itself started of up a hill. There was a bunched up, wheeling wave of about 40 heading up a hill. It was the first hill, but it wasn’t the last. Over the next 8 miles we bunched up, stretched out and kept moving forward like an octopus moving through the sea. At one point I just saw a long line of twinkling red rear lights stretched out along the long curve of the road in front of me. And I met other riders.
Bike people care about biking. They care about other riders. And generally, are pretty outgoing. In the first stage I chatted with Sean. He was riding with his wife Suzy who was rocking a badass tutu. He had a Surly Long Haul Trucker in maroon that was similar to my own LHT (in fatigue green) except it had an electronic assist. Sean has already had one hip surgery, and is scheduled for another. Yet he still commutes to his job as a teacher every day (as he has for 30 years) so he can be an example for his kids on making choices that are positive for the environment and ourselves.
Our first stop was Lost Abbey/Port Brewing in San Marcos, CA. There were bananas, water and granola bars waiting for us in the parking lot. And inside there were two samplers of beer each waiting for us. I had the Port Brewing Santa’s Little Helper Imperial Stout and the Lost Abbey Judgement Day. The stout was excellent. Went down super smooth, minimal aftertaste and just a hint of bitterness mixing with the swet. The Judgement Day Abbey-style “Quad” was good too, but I’m just not into the traditional Belgian-style beers lately. It definitely was smooth considering it’s 10.5% ABV.
Back on the road I joined up with a faster group of about 8 heading for Mother Earth Brewing in Vista, CA. We were separated from the main group but the signage from Bikes & Brews kept us on track for the most part as we rolled down and up W. Mission Rd in a nicely painted bike lane. I spent some time chatting with Mike and Angela who were doing the ride as a cool down from the previous day’s 47 mile mountain bike ride, and Walt who was the front half of a tandem bike (with Angela in the back). We talked beer, bikes and our happiness at avoiding the winter terrorizing the mid-West and East Coast already.
They were faster than I, and we got separated about halfway through stage two and for a moment I was alone. I should have been concerned but I was confident other riders would roll up and we’d figure out the route together. So I let my brain drift and my knees continue pumping me up and down the mild hills all along the route.
Mother Earth is in downtown Vista. A quaint open-air space with an attached home-brew store. Bikes and Brews had someone to watch our bikes so we didn’t have to lock up. I had their Imaginationland Golden Coffee Stout which looks like a Pilsner but drinks like a delicious stout. Based on the color I had my reservations but was really impressed. Then I had the ….. before heading out for stage 3, the final stage back to Belching Beaver.
Stage 3…sucked. It was much hillier than expected and later I’d learn it was hillier than even the organizers realized. It seemed to last forever. At one point I muttered, “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” to myself when facing another hill. But I survived. In total it was 24 miles. And at Belching Beaver I satiated my tired muscles with a pint of Peanut Butter Stout & good conversation with the other riders. It only took minutes to forget the hills and start getting excited for the next ride. I’m always impressed by the inclusiveness of the biking community but even more so on this ride with a representative of riders from all along Southern California. By the end I had traded information with a half dozen other riders, been helped along by half a dozen more and in the end felt good about promoting a ride that also benefited the biking community of SoCal.
Bike’s & Beers is just getting started. They’ve taken these rides outside of SoCal already hosting rides in Philadelphia, Salt Lake City and Denver with more to come. There will be another San Diego ride out of North Park in March, the Tour of Brewtah in Utah in May and other California, Arizona and East Coast rides to follow. And when asked what beer he’d take if stranded on a desert island Tim replied:
“Good question! Probably would be cans of Modern Times Fortunate Islands. Hoppy without the pucker factor, easy to drink a few, well-balanced with a tropical hint.”
Cheers to that and future rides.