The beers and the bikes go round and round
As a kid growing up in Tucson, there was nothing I loved more than riding my bike around the neighborhood. My favorite trek was to nearby Sabino Creek where I’d catch and release little fish using corn kernels for bait. If I had a few bucks of allowance money, I could undertake the epic journey to the nearby Circle K and buy a thirst-quenching cherry cola slushy.
Riding my bike meant freedom, adventure, independence, and good sweaty fun.
If you’ve lived in Tucson for any length of time, and have human eyeballs, it’s easy to see that there are others who feel the same. In fact, there are far more enthusiastic cyclists than myself, if the high spandex to leg hair ratio is any indicator. The good news for all of us is that there are better, hoppier beverages than convenience store slushies available these days for our post-ride refreshment.
In fact, one particular upcoming craft beer release was designed with that very goal in mind. Do read on.
Tucson proudly ranks at a “Gold Level” for bike-friendly cities by the League of American Bicyclists. This is in part because of organizations like Living Streets Alliance, Tucson Off-Road Cyclists and Activists (TORCA), Greater Arizona Bicycling Association (GABA), Project Bike Club, Sonoran Desert Mountain Bicyclists (SDMB), and many more, who regularly host rides, advocate for bike safety measures, and maintain trails and bike lanes.
Tucson is also home to the very special 137-mile-long Chuck Huckelberry Loop, a system of paved multi-use paths and buffered bike lanes that extends throughout and around town. Add 10 months of great weather to the mix and you’ve got a well-known mecca for cycling sports of all kinds, with ample opportunities for road riding, bikepacking, gravel grinding, or straight-up sending it.
While the tires and outfits clearly distinguish enthusiasts of these varied sectors of cycling, one thing that seems to unite them is craft beer, preferably locally brewed. As a post-ride carb load, adrenaline mitigator, and celebratory quaff, a quality craft beer beats a convenience store slushy any day. Let’s call it a perk of adulting.
Davíd Barcelo is a bartender at Tucson Hop Shop who regularly commutes to work by bicycle. There is an obvious overlap when it comes to people he sees riding bikes and people who enjoy craft beer.
“When I’m commuting around town by bike, I regularly see people who frequent Hop Shop and other beer establishments out there doing the same thing as I am,” said Barcelo. “We always wave to each other when we’re passing by.”
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He also noted anecdotally that after a neighborhood bike shop, the next best place to bring your bike when it needs a little mechanical tweak is a beer bar or brewery. “I’ve definitely had my bike worked on during the course of a bartending shift,” he said.
Bikes and craft beer clearly run in the same circles.
The conception of El Tour IPA
Chris Squires, co-owner of Ten55 Brewing Company, is keenly aware of the kinship between a pedal and a pint, as a great portion of his customer base (as well as some of his business partners and brewery investors) are as passionate about cycling as they are about the brewery’s excellent beers.
This connection inspired Squires to reach out to TJ Juskiewicz, who has been the executive director of El Tour de Tucson since 2020. Squires and Juskiewicz met up for a beer and hatched a plan for a major craft beer and cycling collaboration, focusing on that magical moment of post-ride refreshment cyclists crave and deserve.
“I personally think that cyclists were some of the early fans of the craft beer movement and that hasn’t changed over the years,” said Juskiewicz. “Cyclists like a good ride and then love to talk about it over a cold local craft beer.”
The craft beer conceived through this newly forged friendship would become El Tour IPA, the official beer of El Tour de Tucson since 2021.
El Tour de Tucson is one of the most well-known and celebrated cycling events in the country, registering about 7,000 participants of all ages and abilities every year. This year’s 39th annual race and fundraiser takes place on Saturday, November 19, starting and ending at the Tucson Convention Center.
Route lengths range from one to 10-mile fun rides to the 102-mile bruiser. When the road-weary riders get back to the finish line and peel themselves off their bike seats, it’s party time.
For the second year in a row, cyclists can cool down and reward themselves with an El Tour IPA brewed locally by Ten55 Brewing Company instead of a mass-produced lager typically seen at major sporting events.
“People come from all over the world to ride El Tour and we want them to taste Tucson, not St. Louis or Milwaukee,” said Juskiewicz. “We want them to celebrate their El Tour de Tucson accomplishment with an ice cold local beer.”
El Tour IPA is brewed with blood oranges and will be what is known as a session IPA, for its lower ABV of 4.6%. The beer is crisp with a splash of citrus, and light enough to crush more than one in honor of all your hard work (or just because). Life on two wheels becomes life on two beers, if you will.
“This is the perfect style of beer for this kind of event, with everyone on their bikes, especially with the hardcore cyclists doing the long route,” said Squires.
Squires told me that Ten55 Brewing Company will be the official beverage service provider for El Tour this year, and will have other beers like their easy-drinking Casa55, wine, seltzers, and much more at the race after party.
Where to get El Tour IPA before the race
Can’t wait until November to get into the El Tour spirit? El Tour IPA will be available on tap and in cans at restaurants, tap rooms, and grocery retailers across town later this month. Ten55 Brewing Company will be celebrating the return of this very Tucson IPA at a few local release parties.
El Tour IPA Release Parties:
- Pima County El Tour Loop de Loop After Party
- 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Saturday, September 24
- At Rillito Park and The Loop
- Tap & Bottle Downtown
- 5 – 8 p.m. on Tuesday, September 27
- 403 N. Sixth Ave. #135
- Tucson Hop Shop
- 5 – 8 p.m. on Wednesday, September 28
- 3230 N. Dodge Blvd. Unit H
An adventure by bike, followed by a refreshingly juicy El Tour IPA will undoubtedly resurrect the long-lost childhood joy you’ve been craving like a slushy on a hot day.
Ten55 Brewing Company’s downtown taproom has closed but we’ll keep you in the loop on its new location once we have details. For more information, visit 1055brewing.com.
Interested in getting free bike racks for your business? The Tucson Department of Transportation and Mobility generously provides free bike racks to any Tucson businesses that need them. Apply by contacting email@example.com or visiting the DTM website at tucsonaz.gov.