Beer tours by bicycle: Next stop, Belgium
Regular readers of Road Trips for Beer may remember when I wrote about Evan Cohan and his summer bicycle-and-beer tour of microbreweries in the Northeast U.S. and adjacent areas of Canada. Well, Evan has been doing more than pumping pedals since then. His website beercycling.com served as a forum for him to share the details of his road trips; he’s now developed the site into a full-blown beer tours by bicycle business with the motto: “Getting you from pint A to pint B.” His first scheduled beer tour is in Belgium. Evan was kind enough to agree to an interview with Road Trips for Beer about his new venture.
Road Trips for Beer: Evan, you started beercycling.com as what appeared to be a personal blog to chronicle your beercycling adventures. Now, it has evolved into a full-blown guided outdoor adventure site. Were you working toward this the entire time, or did you have an “epiphany” of sorts? If so, when and how did that happen?
Evan Cohan: The website was actually started by myself, and a friend, Joel Bennett, who lives in Southern
California. Our primary goal was just to get out, get some exercise, and taste some great beers in the process. We were having a lot of fun discovering local routes, getting our friends excited about going on day rides with us, and eventually planning a huge tour in Belgium. The thought of working as an outdoor adventure company was something that gradually evolved over time. We were simply having too much fun to keep it all to ourselves. We’ve been lucky enough to work with a bunch of great people, met lots of professionals in the beer/bike industry, and felt like it was time to take this project to the next level. We’re very excited to be able to offer a unique tour experience to our potential customers. As of now we are the only bicycle touring agency in Europe that focuses on beer-themed bicycle tours.
Can you tell us a little of what was involved with the process of transforming beercycling.com into a site that offers guided tours? Were there any unexpected hurdles to jump?
It’s been a long, challenging process, but we’ve been lucky to have lots of help. First, our website was transformed in order to facilitate our needs as a tour agency. Second, lots of planning went into our itinerary, routes and accommodations, contacting breweries, and working with our bicycle vendor in Brussels. We’ve tried to set everything up to be as comfortable as possible for our clients. Planning a trip on one’s own can be a ton of work, and we’re happy to do all the leg work so everyone can just show up, ride, and drink without having to stress about all the small things that go into traveling in a foreign country. Of course there are also tax, insurance, liability, etc., items that we’ve had to address as a company, but we’re now in a great position and ready to start doing tours for anyone interested.
You have three tours lined up – Northern Belgium, Oregon and Colorado. Can you give us a glimpse into what other tours you might like to arrange in the future?
The Oregon tours should be off the ground soon, and the Colorado tour is still in the R&D phase. Eventually we’d like to include tours in Southern Belgium (Wallonia), Germany, and Quebec. Belgium will always be our “premier tour” as it is a destination for beer lovers like nowhere else in the world.
Could you tell us a little bit about the Belgium tour?
The magical land of Belgium is a pretty special place for beer lovers. Belgium-style beers are my personal favorite. The first Belgium beer I ever had was “Hoegaarden”, a white ale, and I eventually developed a taste for the darker Abbey ales. The fun thing about Belgium is how much this good beer is engraved into their culture. Whether we’re visiting a huge beer cafe, a small dive bar, or even a local’s house, beer is always a primary focus, whether it be in the selection, the large number of different types of glasses used, or as a subject of conversation. It’s all around, and it’s all delicious. The brewing history in Belgium goes back hundreds and hundreds of years. Back in the 1400s, Germany, their neighbors to the East, enforced what is known as the German Beer Purity Law, or “Reinheitsgebot.” This law stated that all beers must ONLY be made with water, hops, and barley (“yeast” had yet to be discovered). Belgium brewers though, not being German, were free to experiment and add other ingredients to their fermented beverages. Typical Belgium beers also include candi syrup, spices or fruit, among other things, to obtain a wider variety of tastes. The focus is on quality, and not quantity. I’m a BIG fan of German beers too, but judging by the size of their glasses (German 1 liter vs. Belgium 10 ounces) you can see what I mean. Our tour focuses on trying a wide variety of these beers at locations all around North Belgium. We’ll get exposed to very old traditional brewing processes, and also more modern experimental brewing techniques. We’ll have a chance to go into small bars and chat with locals, and also absorb the countryside and all of its scenic beauty. Ten days is not a long time to see everything, but we do our best to give everyone a proper exposure to the area, and also include lots of free time for exploring independently outside of the group.
Anything else you would like the readers of Road Trips for Beer to know about beercycling.com?
We also believe that a “Road Trip for Beer” is the perfect way to travel. Whether it be by foot, bike, car, boat, plane, pogo stick or piggy back, there’s nothing more fun than getting out of town and learning about beer. Safety is one of our primary concerns however. Drinking and driving is not something we promote, and lots of precautions are put into place for our tours in order to avoid unsafe conditions. We hope your readers will be encouraged to get out and discover all they can about this delicious beverage. It’s such a fun time to be in this industry as there is always something new going on, a festival to attend, or a road trip waiting to be started. From all of us at beercycling.com, thanks so much for reading!
If you’re interested in booking or learning more about Evan’s tours, go to www.beercycling.com for details. Thanks to Evan for taking the time for this interview.