Tour de Brew

December 7, 2016, by Kerry McBride

Tour de Brew

You don’t have to look far to find a beer lover who also spends a fair bit of their time in the bike saddle, especially in Victoria. With a cycling scene packed with competitions, meets and weekend trips for the cyclist – whether of the road, track or mountain persuasion – more and more often there is a brewery waiting with a cold beer at the end of it. 

Kerry McBride speaks to people at three Victorian breweries helping keep the state’s cyclists well hydrated about the bonds between the two worlds.

When asking Bright Brewery’s new brewer Richard Chamberlin whether he was a cyclist like many of his fellow workmates, his answer betrayed the inevitability of cycling life in the Victorian High Country.

“Not yet.”

With the brewery situated near some of the country’s best mountain bike trails, and heavily involved in the High Country’s cycling community, getting on the bike becomes an essential part of living in Bright.

Having started at the brewery halfway through 2016, Richard has been introduced to the cycling way of life in Bright, but is yet to fully commit to his own bike, or find a preferred way of riding.

"It's definitely on the cards, but I just haven't quite made the jump yet."

In comparison, Bright founder Scott Brandon (below on the right) has been riding since he was 12, and marketing manager James Davidson has slowly been drawn into the world of mountain biking since moving to Bright from Melbourne.

“The reality is you can’t really not have a bike around here,” says James. “I rode up my first mountain last year and previously had thought, ‘Who the hell rides up a mountain?’, but it turns out that everybody does.”

Based in the tourist town of Bright, the brewery sits at the heart of the High Country Rail Trail, a cycling trail from Wodonga to Cudgewa that covers more than 100 kilometres.  A thirsty endeavour for anyone who wishes to undertake it.

For those looking for refreshment, breweries including Bright, Bridge Road, Sweetwater and others can be found dotted along the way, while Bright and Bridge Road regularly sponsor cycling events held throughout the region.

New mountain bike tracks pop up every couple of months, and with it the region’s reputation for good biking and good beer. Pairing the two things together was only natural, Scott says, as his own love of cycling blossomed before he had even moved to Bright.

“Before I moved here I used to help with trail building, so I’ve always been involved in it, and it’s one of the reasons I moved to the area. So for me, it’s always made a lot of sense to really make that a part of what Bright Brewery is all about, because it’s such an important part of this town.

“It’s important that the brewery reflects that.”

Over in Beechworth, founder and brewer Ben Kraus (below left) clocks up significant kilometres every week as he bikes around the High Country. On any one day, you might find him riding over to Bright or exploring a mountain bike trail, and on Wednesday he teams up with his mountain bike mates for a few hours of trail riding before settling down at a pub.

At the brewery, the love of cycling is clear, with free bike rental, cycling jerseys for sale and even a repair station for those who have hit the trails a little too hard.

“There is a great meeting point between mountain biking and craft beer, as well as road biking,” says Ben. “I’m sure you see plenty of guys biking around North Melbourne that stop in at a brewery or a bar after their morning ride – and it’s time for a beer.”

The connection comes from the idea of beer as reward, where a day’s hard cycling earns you a few cold ones at the end, he says.

“Whenever I’ve been mountain biking, I’ve been going hard all day. Being able to sit down and enjoy a beer with your mates at the end is one of the best parts of the whole thing,” he says.

“If I’ve been on a really long ride and I’m losing energy, all I’m thinking about to get me home is the beer that’ll be in my hand as soon as I get there.”

With the local tourism bodies in the High Country keen to promote both cycling and craft beer, linking the two together makes for some unique opportunities, Ben says.

“The other part of this story is that we love to collaborate with locals, from local wineries to food producers, and that means the cycling community too. It’s easy to do it, because my love for cycling is real and that makes our connection to cycling so much more than just a marketing choice.”

Cycling events are becoming a common feature on beer festival calendars, with trail rides, brewery bike tours and the like popping up on the schedule at Good Beer Week, Sydney Craft Beer Week and at smaller events across the country.

In Melbourne itself, Temple Brewing offers up the clearest indication of the mutual love-in between bikes and beer in the form of their Bicycle Beer – an easy drinking American style wheat adorned with bike handles on the label and a bell on its tap handles.

The brewery's sales and marketing manager Mark Waghorne sees the beer as reflective not just of cycling but also as a shout out to Brunswick where the brewery is based – an area full of cycle lanes and families riding bikes.

“When Bicycle was created, it was because of the cycling community around Brunswick. Since then, the cycling community has been following that up more than ever," he says.

“It’s been a major topic since I’ve been here, connecting the cycling community with the craft beer community. In some ways, it’s a really good way to get a more youthful crowd interested in some of those cycling pursuits, and craft beer is a fantastic fit for that.”

Since the beer was launched, Temple has become a staple of the city’s cycling scene, becoming the official brewery for several bike events, such as the Great Victorian Bike Ride. By partnering up with Bicycle Network, the non-profit cycling information service, Temple has also been visible at more family oriented events as well.

“We love doing more local stuff, such as supporting the Melburn Roobaix [a popular scavenger hunt style event] because it helps link into different parts of the community than just mountain biking might further out of town.”

So do the Temple brewery staff get out on the bike and join in?

“Not too often unfortunately, we’re usually busy hosting all the cyclists in the bar or at an event," says Mark. "It’s the summer of cycling, it never stops.”

About the author: Kerry McBride is a reformed journalist who has taken the well-trodden path from Wellington to Melbourne. Her love for bad puns is matched only by her love of hoppy beers and Hallertau Funkonnay.

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