It’s a crisp fall day. Hundreds of participants ready at the start. And with the gun, they’re off — college students, young professionals, middle-aged athletes, young families, all darting for the finish. They run 10Ks, 5Ks, fun runs, 13.1s and marathons. Sometimes they walk.
And then they drink … (Well, not the kids, but you know.)
It’s a growing trend among outdoor enthusiasts: races followed by craft beer.
Both running and craft beer have enjoyed steady growth in popularity. According to RunningUSA, the number of Americans who run and finish recreational races has tripled since 1990. And while that number seems impressive, it’s nothing compared to the suds. In that same time frame, the number of breweries in the U.S. has multiplied tenfold.
The history of breweries in America is an interesting one. According to the Brewers Association, there were more than 4,000 breweries in the 1870s. Most were small and regional. That shrunk to numbers less than 300 from the 1950s through the ’80s, when a handful of “macrobrew” companies took over the industry.
But the curve has gone the other way of late. Today there are nearly 3,500 breweries in the U.S., and most of them craft.
And the craft-brew crowd seems to love the outdoors. The cities with the best access to recreation tend to have thriving craft-beer scenes: Minneapolis; Austin, Texas; San Diego, Boulder, Colorado; Asheville, North Carolina; Boston; Bend, Oregon. And the list goes on.
“This format is getting more and more popular. These runners are craft-beer fans, and if we were to have a big non-craft-beer sponsor, I would get so much grief and complaints from the runners. It’s also a good way for the smaller craft-beer companies to get involved in larger events and gain popularity with craft-beer drinkers,” says Jack Fleming, event producer for Jackalope Sports in Kennebunk.
They run a Trail Series that are fundraisers for land trusts and have craft beer waiting at the finish, as well as the Funky Bow Trail Hop, a 5K run on Funky Bow Brewery’s land with beer and flatbread pizza.
Fall happens to be a fairly wonderful time for both racing and sipping craft beer. Jackalope’s most recent, the Trust Trail Fest, in Kennebunkport, coincided with the peak of leaf-changing season.
OABI Detroit has grown out of an underground paddle. It stands for “Once Around Belle Isle” and is open not only to experienced standup paddlers, kayakers and rowers, but also to beginners. New Belgium Brewery does a beer garden after the race and then there are food trucks, creating the modern triumvirate of any modern outing.
“For us, OABI is more than a race; it’s a beach party happening in one of the most ironic beach destinations there is: Detroit. It’s a celebration of Detroit and the completion of a grueling 7-mile race around Belle Isle,” says promoter Joe Choma.
“I think the craft-beer industry was founded with a passion of the outdoors, an active lifestyle and wanting something a little more. Paddling and craft beer just naturally go hand in hand.”
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