New Belgium Brewing Co.’s Tour de Fat is not a single bicycle “tour” across the West, but it sure would make an interesting beer trip. Start in Lawrence, KS, angle down into Texas Hill Country, head north through the Rockies, on to Seattle, then back to Montana, and down through Colorado to Flagstaff, AZ.
If you find yourself on the Tour de Fat route without a bicycle, they'll let you in anyway.
Of course, you’d have to set aside almost six months, since Tour de Fat 2002 has expanded to include 12 stops and runs from April into October. It’s 12 separate local festivals rather than a single ongoing event. Each one is a little different, but all include the riding of bicycles and the drinking of beer.
Not surprisingly, all the beer at the afternoon parties is from New Belgium Brewing. The good news is that New Belgium makes pretty good beer, and each “ballyhoo of bikes and beer” is held in cities where flavorful beer is easy to find.
The Stats for Fat
Tour de Fat began in 2000 with six stops, and visited seven cities in 2001. New Belgium served 52 barrels (more than 1,600 gallons) of beer to about 10,000 people along the way last year, raising nearly $40,000 for nonprofit organizations in the host cities.
“We wanted to work with established groups within the community who will put the money to good use,” said Bryan Simpson of New Belgium, who attended every Tour de Fat in 2002 and 2001 and now shares organizing duties with David Kemp.
“We figured you could spend the same amount of money on advertising and not have the same impact or do as much good for the community,” Simpson said.
At this year’s first stop, in Lawrence in April, the benefiting nonprofits were Lawrence Mountain Bike Club and ESSA (Environmental Studies Student Association). That’s pretty typical.
“It’s a good way of unifying the bike communities. We get road bikes, mountain bikes, vintage cruisers,” he said. “A lot of times, it’s bike people who otherwise don’t get together.”
Each event begins with a variety of noncompetitive rides–longer road rides, events for mountain bikers, chances for cruisers to show off, and opportunities for families with younger children to bike together. Kegs are generally tapped at 11 a.m., with festivities following in a local park. Only last year’s gathering in Albuquerque, NM, was on downtown streets.
No Bicycle Needed
This year’s bicycle Olympics feature races on clown bikes, barrel races, a slow ride and a paperboy challenge that includes tossing newspapers at targets. In other words, don’t go looking for a beer festival. Activities generally end by 6 p.m. (except for the Texas gathering in May, which spanned two days and included camping).
Any get-together where so many people arrive by bicycle is going to be locally oriented. However, if you find yourself on the Tour de Fat route without a bicycle, they’ll let you in anyway. And if you are thirsty later in the evening, the tour conveniently stops in places with several quality watering holes.
Here are a few quick suggestions in cities along the remainder of Tour de Fat 2002. We’ve picked one beer and one establishment in each town, which clearly isn’t fair–but we could choose 10 and 10 (or 100 and 100 in Seattle) and it still wouldn’t be fair. Don’t feel compelled to limit your choices to our suggestions.
To signup to participate in Tour de Fat, visit the New Belgium web site at http://www.newbelgium.com.
Fort Collins, CO (July 20)
This is the home of New Belgium Brewing, but you’ll get to see the brewery during Tour de Fat. Coopersmith’s Pub & Brewery (No. 5 Old Town Square) is right downtown and was one of the first brewpubs to open in Colorado. Beer choice: Sigda’s Green Chile Beer.
Eugene, OR (Aug. 10)
This is a chance to visit the original Steelhead Brewery & CafŽ (199 E. Fifth Ave.), which has grown into a chain. We’re suckers for places with easy chairs, particularly when you can settle into one with a beer such as Steelhead’s Wee Heavy Scotch Ale in hand.
Boise, ID (Aug. 17)
At Ed’s Abbey (650 Vista Ave.) it’s hard to resist the fact that owner Ed Carfora tries to keep several lambics on tap. However, the attraction here is horseshoes or darts, and we recommend whatever is on hand pump or Deschutes Mirror Pond Ale, a perfect match.
Seattle, WA (Aug. 24)
Latona Pub (6423 Latona Ave. NE), preferably when there is live music. When in Seattle you want to drink Northwest craft beer, and that’s all they serve here. Plenty of hoppy choices, beers that take no prisoners, and we’re going with Diamond Knot IPA.
Missoula, MT (Sept. 21)
Be forewarned and pick the time you go carefully, because The Rhinoceros (158 Ryman St.) is a college hangout where they’ve screwed the barstools to the floor for good reason. Can’t resist those 50 taps, though, and a chance to drink Moose Drool Brown Ale from the local Big Sky Brewing Co.
Boulder, CO (Sept. 28)
The counter-culture paintings on the wall at Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery (1535 Pearl St.) are a trip back in time. Hope that the Hog Back Doppel Bock is available, but be aware it is a dangerous beer at a mile high. Otherwise, consider the Chocolate Stout.
Durango, CO (Oct. 5)
With the selection available at Lady Falconburgh’s Barley Exchange (640 Main St., downstairs), you’re going to have more than one beer, but start with a local, Ska Brewing’s Ten Pin Porter.
Flagstaff, AZ (Oct. 12)
The smoke-free Uptown Billiards (114 N. Leroux St.) is well known in pool-playing circles, and the 38 beers on tap are as meticulously kept as the full-size tables. Lots of imports and national brands, but ask for something regional (such as Oak Creak from Sedona or Rio Salado from Tempe).