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Beyond the Brewhouse

On Tap and on Bikes at Sea Otter

When you visit our Chico, CA, brewery, you’ll see bikes everywhere, in one form or another. It might be Beer Campers pedaling one of our beer bikes. Certainly outside our pub you’ll see plenty of local commuters locked to our 5-gallon-keg bike racks. Someone might even be pumping up tires or adjusting a chain at our public bicycle maintenance station.

Cycling is part of who we are, what we like to do and, lucky for us, Chico has a rich, vibrant cycling community with bike-friendly paths and lots of great country roads and trails to explore. When Ken Grossman first visited Chico in the 70s, he was on a cycling trip with friends; not too long after, he moved to town and worked as a bike mechanic at several shops. It’s no surprise then that plenty of other brewery staff use two wheels to get around.

This allegiance to human-powered sports is what inspires us to get involved in events like the four-day Sea Otter Classic, a bike-a-palooza festival held annually in Monterey, CA. In just two weeks, April 18-21, we’ll be back on the coast and in the saddle. We’ve sponsored Sea Otter since 2005, and beyond serving cold beer to the tens of thousands of athletes and fans, most every year a group of employees competes.

“If you’re into cycling at all, it’s a mecca,” said Mandi McKay, our assistant sustainability coordinator.

Competition categories range from road and mountain biking to cyclocross and even BMX in select years. (Not to mention that Sea Otter hosts the largest consumer bike exposition in North America.) Mandi first completed the event’s Gran Fondo road century in 2010, and for the past two years she’s competed in the women’s cross country MTB race. In 2011, she landed in the top three for her age group in the beginner tier. Last year she stepped up to intermediate and finished in the top 10—nice, Mandi!

Atop the adrenaline kick, Sea Otter has a way of connecting riders with new friends. Among a myriad of other responsibilities at the brewery, Mandi helps coordinate our recycling initiatives, and she happened to meet the City of Monterey’s recycling and outreach coordinator—himself a Sea Otter competitor—who she now shares a beer with each year at the event.

Community just happens everywhere at Sea Otter, said Lau Ackerman, our agriculture supervisor. (He’ll take a break from training our estate hops to their trellises to visit Monterey.) But while chumming around with amateurs is great, cycling’s hotshots aren’t far away either.

“Bumping into pros, that’s always fun,” said Lau, who’s been cycling since the early 80s when he and his buddies built their own single speed mountain bikes. Today his garage is full.

“There’s always another bike I gotta have,” he said.

Lau’s first time at Sea Otter was in 2010, but it had been on his bucket list for a decade. Cross country was his first competition and in 2012, he added cyclocross into the mix. This year Lau plans to get back to his roots with a single speed MTB race.

Crossing a Sea Otter finish line long before Mandi and Lau was Brian Grossman, who’s now helping lead our North Carolina brewery. As a young gun in 2001, Brian competed in road biking and left enough folks in the dust for a place on the podium.

The list of brewery athletes who venture to Monterey doesn’t stop there; this is only a snapshot. Our long-haul truck crew, events team, marketing department—Sea Otter lures quite a range of Sierra Nevada cyclists, and for good reason. The same thread of bike love is woven through every pro, amateur, and fan in attendance. There’s competition, sure, but the blanket of goodwill at Sea Otter covers all. A grease and mud-covered blanket. As it should be.