Bike & Brew tour a hit

Tourists bike in the Valley, then are driven to Alaskan Brewing Co. for beer tasting

Posted: Sunday, June 20, 2004

In Juneau, beer and bicycles have more in common than just the letter B.

The Bike & Brew tour, a partnership between Cycle Alaska and the Alaskan Brewing Co., is an 8.5 mile bike excursion that weaves through the Mendenhall Valley, climaxed by a chauffeured ride for beer sampling at the brewery.

"Basically we try to show them some of the sights out by the glacier and some of the sights of Juneau and then bring them back here for a little beer tasting at the end of the ride," said Joyce Waldman, who owns Cycle Alaska with her husband, Rob Waldman.

"We try to make them feel like they're with locals and that they're away from the ship and able to take in all the sights in a different way than maybe they would on a regular packaged tour."

Cycle Alaska has been providing bike tours and rentals in Juneau for nearly a decade. Several years ago Waldman was looking to enhance the Alaska experience for her patrons, so she brought up the idea to Alaskan Brewing Company co-founders Jeff and Marcy Larson.

"When I was putting this ride together, since I knew Jeff and Marcy, I just thought 'What would be a nice kind of component to add for the end of the ride?' And that was kind of how it evolved," said Waldman.

Marcy Larson said the bikers are "people who are really enthusiastic and that's the kind of people we like. People who are really engaged in living and being in the environment so those kind of people fit really well with our kind of brew."

Leo Novoa, the gift shop supervisor, who has been working for the Alaskan Brewing Co. for 11 years, said he looks forward to the daily visits from the Bike & Brew tour group.

"The interaction between them and us is great because the energy level is high and it's a small group where you can actually interact with each one," he said. "We call it the 'happy group,' or the 'happy time,' when they come."

White Bear Lake, Minn. resident Don Konps said he was attracted to the tour as much for the biking as he was for the beer.

"It was a great combination," he said. "The beer is excellent. It's a wonderful brewery. We've had three different kinds and they were all really good."

Matt and Alissa Grove of Philadelphia, Pa., decided to take a cruise to Alaska for their honeymoon to get a taste of the Last Frontier. Being outdoor enthusiasts, they thought the Bike & Brew tour would be a good introduction to Juneau.

"It was excellent. It was fun. It was relaxing. We saw a lot of scenery," said Alissa Grove. "We got a lot of benefits. We got some exercise, we got to see the glacier, so we really enjoyed it."

Novoa, an expatriate from Chile, said the Alaskan Brewing Co. helps provide some flavor to the community as a whole.

"I like to say that every time when you open a bottle of Alaskan Brewing Co. you get the soul of Juneau," he said.

"That beer, that liquid that is in that bottle has many, many, many souls involved and I think that is the reason why it is so flavorful, because it mixes so many characters and personalities."

The brewery is active at promoting safety and responsibility, said Novoa. The riders samples beer when they are done with their bike tour and are then driven in a van back to their cruise ships following the tour of the brewery.

"I think you can exercise and drink beer as long as you do in moderation," he said.

Waldman said she designed the route with safety in mind.

"Safety is very important to us," she said. "We strive to get people out and enjoy Juneau in a safe manner.

"I would classify it as an easy to a moderate ride in terms of the difficulty, but it gives them a chance to kind of get out and see things and ride and not feel threatened in terms of the terrain and the traffic," she said.

Waldman said she works diligently to promote a strong and healthy relationship between the tourists and local residents.

"We really believe that tourism and the locals can live together and not impact each other in a negative way," she said. "That is something that we are always mindful of and that we stress with our staff and also the people that are riding with us."

Although the tour is catered more to tourists, Waldman said she enjoys seeing locals come out on the tour.

"We get locals calling us when they have friends in town and then they either want to do a tour or rent a bike," she said.

Novoa said the brewery gets visitors from all around the world, but he enjoys seeing locals come in just as much as anyone.

"We want to bring the community to the brewery and tell them that what we're doing is something exciting and tasty at the same time," he said.

Web links

Visit Alaskan Brewing Co. on the Web at www.alaskanbeer.com, and visit Cycle Alaska's site at www.321Bike.com.



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