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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”