Photo courtesy of The Grand Cru

California Cyclists Give New Meaning to the Phrase “Biker Bar”

By Derrick Peterman & Photos courtesy of The Grand Cru

Beer has long been recognized as a reward for hard work and/or any kind of adventurous activity, and that seems especially true for cyclists of every stripe, from hardcore roadies to fat tire aficionados. While this list is far from exhaustive, the following is a regional breakdown of some watering holes that shouldn’t be missed.

Santa Cruz

“Our weekly rides from Wilder Ranch usually end at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing or burger. Restaurant on Mission St.,” responded Mark Davidson, President of Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz when asked where riders go for a beer in Santa Cruz.

Indeed, all the cyclists we spoke to mentioned these places for a good post-ride brew in Santa Cruz. This might have something to do with the fact that these establishments are on the west edge of town and therefore the first places most bikers approach from the surrounding trails and roads.

Adding to the convenience factor, Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing sports a strong line-up of organic beers, while burger. serves burgers (duh!) and boasts an impressive tap list of over 40 beers, from some of California’s finest breweries. When at burger., Mark Davidson highly recommends local favorite 831 IPA by Capitola’s Sante Adairius Rustic Ales as the ideal post-ride beer.

Riders coming from the Capitola side will find plenty of good company at Seabright Brewery, home to the popular Blur IPA, now available in cans.

Sonoma County

It’s a well-known fact that Sonoma County isn’t just about wine. Some of the finest breweries in the world make their home in the wine country, and not surprisingly the cycling scene is huge. Lagunitas Brewing, in northern Petaluma, is a popular biking destination. “There’s nowhere I’d rather be after a long beautiful ride than the Lagunitas Beer Garden,” declares Israel Figueroa, one of the co-founders of The Grand Cru (see sidebar.) “It just has such a great vibe and it’s nice to sit out and enjoy the live music they usually have on weekends…I’m partial to their Little Sumpin’ (Ale) but there are always new experiments on tap.”

Russian River Brewpub in downtown Santa Rosa is another popular destination, known the world over for its hop bombs like Pliny the Elder.

The Grand Cru

For Israel Figueroa, a unique bike club was started by combining his long time passion for beer with a discovery of cycling. As he recalls, after finishing graduate school in Chicago, “I moved to San Francisco and started exploring the beer scene here. Around the same time an old college friend bought me a Bianchi off of Craigslist and introduced me to cycling. At some point I thought it would be a good idea to combine my two new hobbies.”

Looking for a reason to explore Northern California’s well-known breweries, he began organizing rides with friends and soon put an e-mail list together back in 2008, starting the organization that became The Grand Cru, a reference to a Belgian beer style.

The Grand Cru’s most recent event was the 2013 Tour de Biere, a 20 mile ride through San Francisco’s East Bay, which included stops and brewery tours at Drake’s Brewing, Linden Street Brewery, Trumer Pils Brauerei, and Pyramid Alehouse, with the proceeds of the ride going to the East Bay Bike Coalition.

In addition to rides through the countrysides of Marin and Sonoma County, The Grand Cru does a lot of urban cycling through San Francisco. As Grand Cru co-founder Colin Elliot explains, “San Francisco has many wonderful breweries and lots of great biking opportunities. A few of our favorite destinations are Magnolia, 21st Amendment, and Speakeasy. Another frequent rest stop is Park Chalet, which is conveniently located along the Great Highway in Golden Gate Park.

We are excited to see new breweries and brewpubs popping up all over the city, and we will soon have a wealth of options for future Grand Cru rides.” — Derrick Peterman


It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that many road rides originating at Sycamore Pool in Chico’s Bidwell Park end up at Sierra Nevada Brewpub. Mountain bikers, on the other hand, tend to cool off at the various taquerías at the edges of town. “There’s a wonderful riding community in Chico,” states Erika Bruhn, who like many Sierra Nevada employees is an avid cyclist. For post-ride refreshment, Erika normally chooses Sierra Nevada’s flagship Pal Ale, except during hot summer months, when she turns to Sierra Nevada Summer Fest Seasonal Pilsner.

Marin County
In talking with a few riders, three places in Marin County came up repeatedly: Iron Spring’s Pub and Brewery and The Gestalt Haus, both located in Fairfax, and Marin County Brewing in Larkspur.
As Phi Yip of The Grand Cru explains “We find ourselves riding through Fairfax quite a bit, and Iron Springs Pub and Brewery is VERY conveniently located. “ Phil enjoys Iron Spring’s Kent Lake Kolsch when stopping there on a ride, which he describes as “refreshing but without enough alcohol to compromise the rest of the ride.”

“The Gestalt Haus is this little place that serves really great sausages,” an enthusiastic Erika Bruhn of Sierra Nevada told me. As for beer, they have a wide ranging bottle list of German and Belgian selections, and was named one of the top 10 bars for cyclists in the world for 2012 by Outside Magazine, who described the place as best for ‘hippy, crunchy, aggressively progressive mountain bikers.”

At Marin County Brewing, you’ll typically find at least a couple mountain bikers on the patio cooling off from an afternoon on the trails of nearby China Camp State Park.

San Luis Obispo

The Bike Happening occurs the first Thursday of each month in San Luis Obispo. It’s a friendly mass of a few hundred riders gathering to ride through downtown, a city tradition which started in June of 2000. Today, the Bike Happening starts at San Luis Obispo’s Mission Plaza, but originally, the ride began at Central Coast Brewing.

“As it grew to a few hundred riders, we started getting into trouble and the ride had to be moved,” explained Jim Aaron, manager of Central Coast Brewing, who along with the brewery’s owner George Peterson, is an avid cyclist.

Central Coast Brewing supports several organizations in the San Luis Obispo biking community, including the Central Coast Concerned Mountain Bikers, the Free Ride and Sustainable Trail Association, the SLO County Bicycle Coalition, and The Bike Happening, which originally launched from their brewery.

Jim Aaron enjoys both Central Coast’s Pale Ale and Lucky Day IPA after a ride. Yishai Horowitz of All Out Events, an area outdoor event organization firm, is a big fan of their Chai Ale, a Blonde Ale infused with Chai spices.

Adam Lamoreaux pouring beer at Linden Street Brewing. Photo courtesy of The Grand Cru.

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is home to an eclectic mix of cafés and road side stops that riders often frequent. I asked Kevin Joell, Sierra Cup Race Director for the Reno Wheelmen where cyclists go for the post-ride beer and via email, he responded “…one that immediately came to mind is the new Tunnel Creek Cafe in Incline Village. It’s located at the bottom of tunnel creek road where many riders finish after a ride on the TRT or Flume Trail. Mountain Bike Hall of Fame member Max Jones opened it last fall and will be operating Flume Trail Bikes out of there starting this summer. It’s a cool little joint with beers on tap and some food items.”

Kevin also mentioned Mott Canyon Tavern and Grill near the bottom of Hwy 207 and the Kingsbury Grade. It’s not near a trailhead but it would be on the way back to town for anyone using the Kingsbury North or Kingsbury South Trailhead at the top of the hill.

Finally, Kevin also recommends The Divided Sky, a small unassuming looking place located in Meyers, just south of South Lake Tahoe. He notes it’s “a popular stop for riders returning from the Big Meadow/Christmas Valley area or a day at Kirkwood’s Bike Park. It’s a small bar with good food just off Hwy 50 near the intersection of Hwy 89 South.”

Photo courtesy of The Grand Cru

Photo courtesy of The Grand Cru

Photo courtesy of The Grand Cru

Photo courtesy of The Grand Cru

Photo courtesy of The Grand Cru