By James Reddicliffe
There are a lot of negative physical stereotypes associated with drinking beer. Everyone has heard of the dreaded “beer belly” and apparently I.P.A can give you man boobs. Then of course, there is the counter to that-- light beer! Most people have seen the Michelob Ultra commercials with beautiful people sweating profusely and then “enjoying” a 94-calorie, hop-less water beverage. So what about the group of drinkers that wants it all?
For the folks who want to drink the best beer but still be fit, a trend has emerged: the beer runner. Beer. Runners. Unite! Is a group that encourages runners to get together and share beer after sweating it out on the track or in the park. Currently they operate in New York and Atlanta and are looking to expand to more cities. Runners in the former gather at McCarren Park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to get their reps in before retiring to Beer Karma bar and bottle shop for some hoppy refreshment, although this running group is only loosely affiliated with Beer. Runners. Unite! and is operating generally independently.
On MLK Day I hustled to Beer Karma slightly before 7p.m. to meet the group for a track workout. Dan Lamonaca, the owner of Beer Karma, is an ultra-marathoner who has a passion for running and beer which he generously shares. The workout for the night was listed on a chalkboard and consisted of a 1.25 mile fast warmup, 2X400 meter sprints, and a hard 1.25 miles at the end. It sounded intimidating but doable.
About 10 runners were there to brave the cold, and the workout of the day. Breath steaming, chests burning and hearts pounding they made their way around the nearly empty track. There were many ages, skill levels and both genders represented and ultimately everyone finished the entire workout with high fives and quickly moved to add layers and get back to the bar.
Lamonaca said that he loves running the club at a local level as opposed to as a satellite of a national group because it gives him the freedom to design workouts and hold runs, even if certain members aren’t available to meet. The camaraderie was evident this past week as runners sipped their discounted pints, discussed the beer scene and snacked on jerky made from venison hunted by Dan, and pizza foraged from a nearby delivery spot. It was a great way to start the week, and could easily make Mondays less scary.
Other recent workouts included a 5K on New Year’s Day, and, on other dates, intervals featuring 800M runs followed by four quarter-mile sprints, and to finish, another 800M. To dull the pain and rehydrate afterward, there were featured beers from breweries such as Hudson Valley, Nightshift and Threes Brewing offered to runners at a discount.
As Is, another New York beer bar, provides discounts for runners after they run with Paragon Sports, the iconic Manhattan running store. You can leave your bag at the bar, run with the Paragon running clubs and return after for happy-hour specials. Their draft list currently includes IPAs from Finback and Interboro, Farmhouse ales from LIC Beer Project and many more impressive selections.
The probable originator of these formal running clubs, Mikkeller Brewing and its founder Mikkel Borg Bjergsø (there is some debate about who started it all), have chapters of the Mikkeller Running Club all over the globe including in Brooklyn. If you aren’t in Barcelona, Copenhagen, Singapore or Toronto, head over to Strong Rope in Gowanus on the first Saturday of the month to jaunt around Prospect Park or Greenwood Cemetery and receive a complimentary beer of the day.
It would seem to be no surprise that with group fitness on the rise, beer drinkers are joining the movement. CrossFit and ClassPass have both skyrocketed in popularity in the last few years and there are apps like Strava that turn exercise into social endeavor. On meetup.com there are currently 737 members of the “Brooklyn Beer Runners” group and there are even organized 5K races that double as beer festivals such as the Brew Hop on Roosevelt Island and “The Chosen Run” put on by Schmaltz Brewing in Clifton Park, N.Y.
Ultimately craft beer lovers are of course just people who exercise and enjoy gathering with friends over a drink. With group fitness and craft beer more popular than ever before, this trend is in it for the long run.