Monday, July 11th, 2016

Bicycling and beer tasting in Tacoma

Ron Swarner

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BikeroBrew tour takes cyclists along the Prairie Line Trail in downtown Tacoma. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

A Saturday, July 2 afternoon bike excursion hosted by BikeroBrew offered participants a chance to explore downtown Tacoma breweries — and one distillery — while atop two wheels. With near-perfect weather and little traffic, the bicycling and beer tasting tour was a pleasant, fun experience.

And, it’s rolling again this Saturday, Aug. 16.

The afternoon kicked off at Old Soldier Distillery, where tour leader and BikeroBrew co-founder Christopher Stanis gave a brief description of the tour as well as went over safety precautions. Afterward, the old soldier behind the Tacoma distillery, Andy Fairchok, led a tour of his facility specializing in distilling corn whiskey. Head distiller Fairchok, who’s retired from the Army, isn’t the oldest soldier or the oldest distiller in the family, an honor his great-great grandfather held as quartermaster during the Civil War. We learned in inner works of whiskey and bourbon distilling, applauding a relationship with local farmers for artesian well water in exchange for spent wash and grains from the distilling process for crop spray and critter food. Fairchok’s business partner, Rodney Kaeding, retired from the Air Force, joined us for a tasting of their bourbon aged for about six months in small casks, an un-aged white corn whiskey and a traditional whiskey.

We shoved off from the Tacoma Dome District distillery making our way up to Tacoma’s Historic Brewing District for a Stanis’ street-side Tacoma brewing history lesson. We cycled at a leisurely pace, stopping occasionally to allow everyone to catch up or a history lesson on Tacoma’s railroad, underground tunnels and brothel days of years gone. Participants who weren’t regular cyclists expressed their appreciation for the beautiful Prairie Line Trail path, while veteran bike commuters were happy to find a route that avoided Pacific Avenue.

Terrence, a bicycling enthusiast and beer lover who discovered both while living in Ohio, had never attended a BikeroBrew tour, but he came out for this one because of the bike component. “I was curious how they’d do it, what route they’d take,” he said.

“It’s inspiring me to drink more,” his friend, Thea, jokingly countered.

Dunagan Brewing Co. owner and head brewer Jesse Dunagan greeted us at his front door on Commerce Street, but quickly disappeared for several tools so riders Rory and Brian could fix fellow BikeroBrew rider Emma’s failing bike. Dunagan gave a brief history of his brewery followed by detailed descriptions of his eight beers on tap. You must try the Coxswain Oat/Rye Stout and his Capetown Gruit.

In addition to the Tacoma history lessons and sweet-ass BikeroBrew headband, participants receive two, 5-ounce pours at each of the four breweries. I was three pours into the day when my camera gave out forcing me to switch to my phone’s version.

Our second Jesse of the day, Jesse Holder, directory of brewing operations at Harmon Brewing Co., gave us a detailed tour of the craft beer brewing process at the company’s production facility at the Harmon Tap Room. Afterward, the sun broke through the clouds as we sipped Harmon brews in their lovely outdoor beer garden. Emma’s face lit up when Stanis told us BikeroBrew owns tandem bicycles for future tours.

A ride downhill to the Tacoma Brewing Co. produced with more delicious beers and more tools for Emma’s bike, thanks to founder and head brewer Morgan Alexander. As expected, conversations became more lively, laughs erupting often. Rory built a pyramid out of spent beer glasses

After the longest bicycling stretch of road, we coasted into Wingman Brewers, a block away from where the three-hour that turned into four-plus hours tour began. With beers in hand, Wingman co-founder and head brewer Ken Thoburn led us through his brewery.

As the tour concluded, attendees agreed it was an energizing and educational experience. Considering how many onlookers and passing cyclists asked what we were doing and seemed excited about the brewery tour concept, BikeroBrew could likely have more participants for the next tour Saturday, Aug. 16. There are still slots available for Saturday’s BikeroBrew outing. Clicking “Register” at bikerobrew.com or the organization’s Facebook page will lead to an Eventbrite registration.

Whether you come primarily for the bike ride or the beer samples along the way, the brewing history and education at the tour’s heart makes for a worthwhile afternoon.

LINK: BikeroBrew background