The Nosh Pit: Will beer lovers pay to pedal?
06/01/2014 12:00 AM
06/01/2014 11:35 AM
Sacramento’s turned into a two-bike town. Make that two competing companies with bikes that are fashioned like pedal-powered party buses.
Sac Brew Bike hit the streets May 16 with a 15-passenger bike that takes a loop through the central city’s hot spots for beer. A two-hour ride includes pit stops at such watering holes as LowBrau, Der Biergarten, Rubicon and Tank House. The bike is the brainchild of Chris and Sarah Ferren-Cirino, a husband-and-wife team who are avid cyclists and met at UC Davis.
But they’ll need to make room on the road. Off The Chain Bike Bus Tours is coming to downtown in early August with a 15-person capacity, on-board misting system and other bike-related bells and whistles. Todd Sebastian and Jason Blessinger are Off The Chain’s co-founders.
These two bike companies didn’t expect their business plans to cross paths so soon.
“He called us a little panicked,” said Sebastian, about his initial conversation with Chris Ferren-Cirino. “But we had a good conversation. We have a different business plan.”
Neverthless, they share a concept built around 15-passenger bikes. These go far beyond a mere “bicycle built for two.” Think of these bikes like stretch limos that are self-powered via chains and pedals, with room for refreshments and a built-in stereo for bumping tunes.
Sac Brew Bike follows closer to the BrewCycle model, which partners with a variety of Portland microbreweries as stops on their circuit. In Sacramento, Sac Brew Bike typically launches from 28th and J streets before rolling toward midtown watering holes. Sac Brew Bike has also shuttled passengers to Broadway’s New Helvetia Brewing Co.
Sac Brew Bike plans on adding a second bike in the summer.
“Craft beer is exploding in Sacramento,” said Chris Ferren-Cirino. “We wanted to take advantage of that and combine it with our love of cycling. The reaction’s been extremely positive. People cheer for it (when we ride by).”
Off The Chain takes a slightly different route. Sebastian envisions his bike serving more general sightseeing purposes for tourists, cruising by the Capitol, the Crocker Art Museum and other downtown attractions of note. The bike would also embark daily on happy hour crawls, and can also be rented for corporate team building exercises.
“It’s a tight market, but it’s cool,” said Sebastian. “For a lot of people, the Brew Bike set that bar-hopping tone. We’re a little more diverse and more of a tourism attraction piece. It’s social interaction through pedal power.”
Off The Chain’s bike is still under construction. It’s being built on the chassis of a Toyota truck, and when finished will include leather seat belts, neon lighting and a full bar area in the middle.
But for those who plan on cracking a beer while riding either bike, not so fast. On-board drinking isn’t allowed, though Sebastian hopes to change this. He said he’s working with the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, hoping that imbibing on the bike will be allowed in the same way that it’s OK to drink while riding in a limousine.
“We’re basically a street-legal vehicle,” said Sebastian. “The only difference is a limousine has a motor.”
Sac Brew Bike, meanwhile, plans to focus on the craft-beer circuit, but is open to other types of tours, including coffee and dining crawls.
“We view it as a great way to go different places,” said Ferren-Cirino. “One couple is getting married and we’re taking them from the hotel to the venue on the bike. We can customize tours as well, but our main focus is beer and what’s within farm-to-fork (dining).”
All seats on Sac Brew Bike can be booked for $365 on Friday and Saturday, or $270 for Sundays through Thursdays. Individual seats can be had for $25 on Fridays and Saturdays, or $20 for Sundays through Thursdays.
“You can just book one seat and jump on like it’s a community table,” said Ferren-Cirino.
And soon, Sacramento will see if there’s enough room in this town for all these multi-passenger bikes.
“We’re happy to be the first to bring this to Sacramento,” said Ferren-Cirino. “Sacramento has a half-million people and I think the market can support another company. Time will tell.”
About This BlogChris Macias has served as The Sacramento Bee's food and wine writer since 2008. His writing adventures have ranged from the kitchen at French Laundry to helping pick 10 tons of zinfandel grapes with migrant farmworkers in Lodi. Chris judges regularly at food, wine and cocktail competitions around Northern California. Reach him at email@example.com or 916-321-1253. Twitter: @chris_macias.
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