Sponsored by our partner, Athletic Brewing Company
Non-alcoholic craft beer is lighting up like wildfire in the U.S. — especially among athletes who take racing so seriously that they’re not willing to risk setbacks booze inevitably brings to training. For Spartans who just die for the taste of a cold one after a hot, brutal sweat sesh, N/A brew (loaded with carbs and electrolytes to support recovery) is a solid option. No headaches, no hangovers.
Athletic Brewing Company, our craft brew partner who takes micro-brewing next level and creates the tastiest N/A beers around. Unlike other conglomerate breweries who strip the alcohol at the end of the brewing cycle to make their 0.0% beverages, Athletic thoughtfully tweaks the craft brewing process throughout, preserving bold body, without sacrificing flavor. It’s beer made for endurance athletes, by endurance athletes.
The good news? They’re expanding, and you’ll be able to get their product coast to coast. Because the popularity of Athletic’s brew has only skyrocketed, they quickly outgrew their Stratford, CT location and are about to cut the ribbon on a brand-new second location in San Diego, CA. Bonus: like true badass athletes, they’re celebrating by biking across the country from CT to their new location. (Duh.)
Why a Cross-Country Bike Ride? Because... Why NOT.
Mason Gravley, Athletic Brewing Company’s Lead Adventurer, head of its ambassador program and host of its podcast Without Compromise, says the idea to ride across the country came about at last year’s holiday party. When the new location in San Diego was announced, it became clear to Athletic employees that — true to enduro fashion — they had to celebrate full send.
“We wanted to do something athletic, adventurous and symbolic from our CT brewery to the SD brewery, which was inevitably coast to coast.” he says. “That's the thing about Athletic Brewing, we literally sell non-alcoholic beer for a living so any other crazy idea we come up with feels a lot more possible than what we're already doing.”
Coast-to-Coast Bike Ride, By the Numbers (in a Pandemic)
Ten riders — mostly badass enduro Athletic employees and ambassadors — are currently churning out 300(ish) miles each, over a total of 37 days and just over 3,100 miles, to make it happen. They’re carrying a baton and pedaling in relay fashion from the Connecticut brewery through Cleveland, Chicago, Des Moines, Omaha, Denver, the Grand Canyon, and Los Angeles, and plan to finish in San Diego on Sunday, September 6. “Once they finish their segment, we are trying to line it up to where they physically hand off the baton to the next rider,” says Gravley. “Once the baton makes it to San Diego, their names will be engraved on it, and it will live on as a tap handle in our new brewery.”
Each cyclist commits to a segment, and muscles out seven to 10 hours per day on the bike to keep with a 110 miles/day pace. The Athletic van (run by Gravley and his coworker, Nick Brown) supports along the way. Gravley and Brown provide food, hydration, and navigation and shuttle support. Each rider is only with the van for their segment, so the whole operation is set up safely for pandemic conditions.
“We felt that this was a great journey to be able to do despite the pandemic,” says Gravley. “We can easily keep our distance out on the road with the towns we bike through. Being such a small team, it's very easy to stay safe, healthy and isolated. This wouldn't have been possible with a big group ride. Also, we felt it would give our community a positive story to focus on after months of negativity and generally bad news.”
Food (& Brew, Of Course) to Refuel During/After a Long Day’s Ride
Gravley says they’re making the best out of this road-and-bike trip with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, stocking up at local high-in-fiber fruit stands and hitting grocery stores for protein-rich meals along the way. Nutrition has been in flux based on what’s available.
“We are truly in the middle of nowhere at the end of a lot of these days. I'm currently talking to you from a tiny town in Nebraska,” he says. “It's way out there. We're definitely crushing a ton of Athletic brews throughout the day, and at the end of the day.” The N/A Golden Ale has been a crowd favorite as a low-calorie (50 cals per can) crisp, refreshing thirst quencher during a hot day of riding.
Overcoming Obstacles and Embracing the Adventure
A tropical storm won’t even stop these guys. The Athletic crew kicked off the ride without fail in Hurricane Isaias, which tore through east coast states earlier this month. Then, they’ve faced tornadoes in Chicago, as well as severe lightning, steep mountain climbs, pounding rain, heavy traffic and gale-force headwinds throughout.
“Today we did 125 miles and tomorrow is 115. It's not easy,” he says. “It takes a ton of determination to complete a journey like this, especially when you're the one pedaling. All of the praise goes straight to the riders!”
In Nebraska, when we talked at their journey’s midpoint, Gravley said they had just looked at a map to evaluate their progress (after all they had already been through), and noted they were only halfway there. “It was a mind-blowing realization,” he says. “It's like when you're climbing a mountain and you look down and realize just how far you have come, but then you look up to see just how far you still need to go.”
Embracing an epic undertaking like this directly parallels Athletic Brewing Company’s mission to become known as the best non-alcoholic craft beer in the world, he says. “We've come a long way in the last few years, but we also know that the journey has really just begun,” he says. “It's an exciting time to live without compromise and chase audacious goals.”
The ride so far has been far from what he expected, but that’s exactly where the adventure is, he says. “A lot of us ask for adventure until it happens to us. Then we don't want it anymore,” Gravley adds. “You need to literally and figuratively roll with the path ahead. There will be so much out of your control, but it's ultimately up to you to keep pushing the pedals.”
As for the grand opening in San Diego early next month, during pandemic conditions? It’s unclear as to how exactly they’ll be able to celebrate in traditional brewery-style. “We will be doing something as we get closer,” he says. “This trip has already taken so many unexpected turns that it's hard to say the specifics of an event for when we arrive. I'll probably drink an Athletic brew straight through the baton though!”
Athletic Brewing Co. is donating a portion of all online sales to the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund to support industry employees directly affected by COVID-19. Place your order today at athleticbrewing.com and get 20% off your first order with code UNBREAKABLE20.