A few years ago I visited Belgium as part of a beer-focused active tour: we spent the mornings hiking or biking and then visited breweries in the afternoon and restaurants in the evenings. One of my favourite experiences was the day we biked through the hop fields of southwest Belgium, meandering along farm paths and quiet rural laneways until we reached our destination: the St. Sixtus Abbey, home to a Trappist brewery that makes one of the world’s most famous and rare beers, Westvleteren. After parking our bikes we sat in the sunshine on the patio at the visitor’s centre and celebrated the ride with a fabulous beer.
Beer and bicycles have gone together ever since the invention of the bicycle. If you’ve ever had a radler, you can thank Bavarian innkeeper Franz Kugler, who in 1922 built a bicycle trail that ran for 12 miles from Munich directly to his beerhall, hoping to lure cyclists from the city. He combined beer and lemon soda in equal measures and called the new drink a Radlermass, which translates into a “cyclist’s litre,” so the cyclists could have a drink still be able to make their way back to Munich without falling off their bicycles.
An ideal way to combine cycling and craft beer is a bike tour between breweries, and here in British Columbia, there are plenty of excellent ways to do this. After all, what better way to burn off the calories from all that beer you just drank than to bike to another brewery and drink more beer!
Even if you are not an avid cyclist, it is easy to cruise between a few breweries within the city limits of Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna or Penticton, for instance. And if you are a little more ambitious, there are lots of longer tours as well.
In Victoria, there are ample opportunities to cycle between breweries, whether it’s an easy jaunt to two or three brewpubs in the downtown area or something more ambitious. Victoria has a well-developed bicycle trail network with several breweries conveniently located close to the bike paths. Lighthouse Brewing and the Four Mile Brewpub are both short detours off the E&N Rail Trail in Esquimalt and View Royal respectively.
Last summer, I rode to Sooke with some friends on the Galloping Goose Regional Trail. We started at Spinnakers Brewpub for some “pre-hydration” and then rode for about an hour to the Axe & Barrel Brewhouse in Langford where we enjoyed lunch and a beer sitting at a sun-soaked picnic table outside the brewery. The second half was mostly spent riding through the tranquil forest or along the photogenic shoreline of Roche Cove in East Sooke, before we stopped for refreshment at Sooke Oceanside Brewery and then continued on for a few more kilometres to get to Sooke Brewing Company. We stayed overnight in an AirBnB in Sooke and then rode back the next day, stopping at the Four Mile before heading home to our families. All told it was about 110 km round trip.
Another longer ride I enjoyed followed the Lochside Regional Trail up through the Saanich Peninsula. We stopped at Category 12 Brewing in Saanichton, then continued on to Howl Brewing just above the Victoria International Airport, and then returned to Victoria with a final rest stop at Twa Dogs Brewery/Victoria Caledonian Distillery. Final distance: 73 km.
There are so many breweries in Vancouver that it is almost impossible to go for a bike ride without cruising past one. Bomber Brewing and Off the Rail are both located on Adanac Street, one of the city’s main bike routes, and each caters to the cycling crowd. Bomber even went to the trouble to install an air pump (under a sign that reads “free beer air”) so you can keep your tires pressurized.
In Kelowna, it’s easy to cycle between the breweries in the burgeoning Downtown North-End Brewery District, which is home to Kettle River Brewing, Red Bird Brewing and Vice & Virtue Brewing (with a couple more in the works). BNA Brewing and the Tree Beer Institute are not too far, and if you’re more ambitious, try the new Okanagan Rail Trail, which runs all the way from Kelowna to Vernon and passes close to Freddy’s Brewpub, Boundary Brewing and Wild Ambition Brewing. You can even ride all the way to Vernon and visit Marten Brewing there, cycling past orchards, wineries, golf courses and lakes along the way. Penticton’s breweries are also easily accessible by bike, with the Kettle Valley Rail Trail as a great option for a longer ride.
Kamloops is a great cycling town with many nearby mountain bike trails. The downtown area has three breweries within cycling distance: Red Collar Brewing, the Noble Pig Brewhouse and Alchemy Brewing. The Rivers Trail bike path connects to the North Shore, providing easy access to the Red Beard Cafe (a great tap house) and the soon-to-open Bright Eye Brewing. Iron Road Brewing is at the top of a fairly steep hill, but it’s a good après-ride option for mountain bikers enjoying the many trails in Kenna Cartwright Park.
Cycling is a popular activity In the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island, especially in Cumberland, which is a mecca for mountain biking. With Land & Sea Brewing now open in Comox and a third operation called Ace Brewing set to join Gladstone Brewing and Forbidden Brewing in Courtenay, there are some great options for bicycle brewery tours there, as well. More ambitious riders could add Campbell River’s Beach Fire Brewing as a destination about 50 km north of Courtenay.
Out in the Kootenays, there are some great routes on various converted rail trails. One option that includes brewery visits would be the North Kootenay Lake–Silvery Slocan Super Side Trip (part of the Selkirk International Loop system of trails), a 177-km trail that connects Nelson’s three breweries with Kaslo, home of Angry Hen Brewing. The Rivers, Dams & Mines Super Side Trip runs from Nelson to Trail (Trail Beer Refinery) and Rossland (Rossland Beer Co.); plus, there’s the craft beer oasis known as the Lion’s Head Pub in Robson near Castlegar.
Time to put on your cycling shorts and helmet and hit the road. A brewery awaits at the end of the ride!
Book A Tour
If you are without a bike of your own, some bike rental companies offer beer-focused tours, including the Pedaler’s Hoppy Hour tour in Victoria (ThePedaler.ca), which takes riders to three different breweries over the course of a three-hour, 9.5-km ride. In Kelowna, Smile Cycle Tours (SmileCycleTours.ca) offers a 15-person “community bike” brewery tour. Canadian Craft Tours (CanadianCraftTours.ca) offers the same sort of community bike tour in Kelowna as well as Vancouver. Cycle City Tours (CycleVancouver.com) also offers a Vancouver Craft Beer Tour using e-bikes.