From Pint A to Pint B
Some things just go together. A natural fit. Peanut butter and jelly. Hammers and nails. Craft beer and… bicycle tours? For Beercycling founder Evan Cohan, it made perfect sense. “Beercycling started for me out of necessity. I was working in a cubicle at an IT job, and I had a ton of neck and back soreness. I wanted to do something different. Beer and bicycle touring happened to be my two favorite things to do at the time, and so I just created my own escape from the day-to-day.”
Beercycling is an Oregon-based company that takes a very non-traditional approach to the brewery tours for craft beer enthusiasts. Cohan had gone on a trip to Belgium with some friends where they rented bikes and toured the country, marveling at the bicycle-friendly infrastructure and how many breweries there were in the area. Cohan recalled, “It just became more and more this dream I wanted to do. And then one day I realized there wasn’t anything preventing me from doing it. So I just dove in headfirst…for six years now, we’ve been doing tours there (Belgium) every summer.”
The first tour was just five people, all clients and friends, and was the “Flanders 10 Day Adventure,” which is still offered today, albeit with some modifications. Since then, the company has expanded and now offers three Flanders-based tours of varying lengths, two Italian tours, a Dutch tour (whose scenic routes include multiple tulip farms), an Ardennes tour (the most difficult, cycling-wise) and for the first time ever, a stateside tour, “The Oregon Beerway.”
After all of the success in Europe, Cohan believed it was finally time to offer an American-based tour, and felt there was no better place than his current hometown of Portland, Oregon. “Portland is the beer Mecca of the world,” Evan says. “This tour (The Oregon Beerway) is the tour I’ve been doing myself in my free time. It was a slower season in Europe this year and I just took it as a signal that maybe it was time to do something closer to home.”
The Oregon Beerway is a five-day tour that visits at least eight breweries (see below for descriptions) and offers cyclists 20-30 miles of cycling a day along the Columbia River. Despite the amount of cycling involved in his tours, Cohan’s aim was to create a unique experience for craft beer enthusiasts, as opposed to a beer-based adventure for avid cyclists. “It’s a comfortable tour. We’re staying in hotels, we have a support vehicle, this is just ‘active beer tourism.’ But we’re cycling every day, we give people a chance to earn their beer.”
Cohan has created a warm and inviting environment on his tours that has garnered a niche following. “That’s my favorite thing about this – the type of riders we’ve attracted, and the friendships that we’ve formed, both with the cyclists and the breweries we attend. We’ve had one guy go on five tours already. We had a couple get married that met on one of our tours.” Cohan also stresses the safety of the tours, despite any misgivings people may have about cycling while under the influence. “A lot of our brewery stops are later in the day. Most times the brewery is within walking distance of the hotel. And sometimes the brewery IS the hotel.”
As the business continues rolling, Cohan is open to expanding to other locations in order to tour year-round. “Beercycling is weather dependent, so right now we’re only working April through September/October. But I’d love to offer a tour in South America or New Zealand…I get hundreds of resumes from people who want to lead tours in their city.” Cohan says selecting the right location for a tour starts with the beer, then fine-tuning to a specific region and the breweries in between. “Then it’s all about the logistics, determining the best bike paths, finding hotels close to the breweries. I want there to be something interesting every day.”
Perhaps a South Florida Beerway tour isn’t that far away. The Tri-County area already features local stalwarts Funky Buddha Brewery in Ft. Lauderdale and the Due South Brewery in Boynton Beach, with new potential stops popping up every day. “People are able to educate themselves more today than ever before, so they’re able to learn about these masters of their craft,” said Cohan. “My favorite brewery is the De Dolle Brouwers’ in Flanders, Belgium. It’s just a husband and wife, and they don’t want to be Miller or Coors if it means sacrificing the quality of their art.”
For more information on the tours, or to see pictures and itineraries, be sure to check out Beercycling’s website, www.beercycling.com, “Getting You from Pint A to Pint B!”
Getting to Know Brew: The Breweries on the Oregon Tour
Hair of the Dog – A small brewery with a worldwide cult following. One of the older breweries in town specializing in stronger barrel-aged beers and vintage releases. Most of their beers are only available at the brewery.
Burnside Brewing – Burnside makes great IPAs, and always has an interesting new seasonal beer to try. A very well-rounded brewery.
Zoiglhaus – Newer brewery in Portland making primarily German style lagers, along with Northwest staples like IPAs. The brewery is large and spacious but also very warm and inviting and reminiscent of a German bier hall.
Edgefield – It’s a brewery! (and a winery, distillery, cidery!) The largest of a chain of breweries, Edgefield is Disneyland for adults – with a golf course, a movie theatre, and a hotel on-site. It’s an iconic Oregon destination.
Thunder Island Brewing – The brewery resides in the prettiest location of the tour, nestled right against the banks of the Columbia River. Another newer brewery featuring a solid range of beers and not just IPAs. There’s always something interesting on tap.
Double Mountain – The pride and joy of Hood River. Double Mountain has been consistently making world-class IPAs, sours, and Belgian-style beers for 10 years. They also make a world-class pizza!
pFriem – (pronounced ‘Free-um’) Another brewery located right on the banks of the Columbia River. pFriem is a family-run brewery specializing in Belgian styles and inspired by some of the same breweries Beercycling visits in Europe.