Beer Run

Beer Run: Embracing local breweries by bike

Recently, a reader contacted me to say he had arranged a series of bike tours to local breweries on behalf of Sacramento Area Bike Advocates (SABA). He wondered if I would like to join him for one.

What? Is this a trick question? Of course I would.

Not only do I love to ride (and sometimes race) my bike, I see the bicycle as a great way to slow down, see and feel the city in a more personal way, sneak in a little exercise and have a little bit of fun. Parking is always easier, too. Beer, bikes, good times and easy living – it’s one of the new equations for the new and improved Sacramento.

So I met up with Peter Jacobsen and, after agreeing to do an abbreviated bike-beer excursion (Jacobsen actually had to attend another beer-and-movie event in Davis later that day), we headed from The Bee toward Track Seven Brewing, through Curtis Park and just across Sutterville Road, rolling into a small industrial section of town. It’s a leisurely three-mile trip.

Regular readers will already be familiar with Track Seven, so let’s sum it up this way: great beer, cool setting, lots of friendly people who love the place. This craft brewery, which opened over a year-and-a-half ago, has emerged as a neighborhood gathering spot.

While there, I enjoyed getting to know Jacobsen and talking about how far beer has come in recent years. His other beer-bike trips have included rides to two Rancho Cordova breweries, American River and Lockdown, which also has a taproom in Folsom. At Track Seven, we sat at a picnic table. A friendly guy next to me even insisted I take a sip of his Big Four strong ale to show me how smooth and balanced it was despite being 10 percent alcohol. That’s a typical example of the friendly vibe in craft beer, by the way. So I sipped. Big Four is big smooth. We talked some more, had another beer and then shoved off, heading over to New Helvetia on Broadway, 2.6 miles away.

New Helvetia is very bike-friendly. One of the partners brought back plenty of cool bike racing memorabilia from France and Belgium, and put it up on a wall. And the brewery just installed some nifty bike racks out front – they’re the shape of bottle openers.

We chatted with one of the owners, Dave Gull, and I ran into an old racing teammate I hadn’t seen in a few years. I had the Harvest Thunderbolt IPA (made with hops the folks at New Helvetia picked themselves) and a delicious cask-conditioned saison.

So, we’ve visited two breweries, met lots of folks and enjoyed high-quality, local craft beer. See how easy this is?

Then why am I about to make things hard? Because I suffer so you don’t have to. I had the bright idea to ride from downtown Sacramento to Winters for a couple of beers at Berryessa Brewing. Throw in an extra loop so I could do the lovely climb up Cantelow Road, and it would be a 100-mile trip. I needed the exercise. And I wanted to see how incredibly good the beer would taste after sweating a pint or two before I got to the brewery. I tweeted about the ride and managed to get folks to join me, including old friend Jennifer Fearing, state director for the Humane Society of the United States. We agreed on a moderate pace – and we would definitely be stopping to help any stray dogs, cats or barnyard animals along the way.

The ride was beautiful, especially in and around Winters. But it was getting hot and I ran out of water 15 miles before reaching Berryessa. I told the others that my first beer was going to be the best I’d ever had. I was sweaty. I was parched.

Berryessa Brewing is a great setting out in the countryside. I decided to start with a pilsner, figuring it would be smooth and balanced but not too powerful to start. It was, indeed, an excellent pilsner, but because I had exerted myself for 57 miles before downing it, it went straight to my head, and suddenly everything we said seemed 20 percent funnier. Then I had a Separation Anxiety IPA and loved it.

We went on to share a tasting flight, too. A few columns back, I let it slip that my last experience here was a bit of a bummer because one of the servers said the brewery was too busy to do the five small pours. This time was totally different, and the employees were very friendly. We all had lots of laughs and had a great time with excellent beer.

But there was just one catch. We still had to ride our bikes home!