Monday, February 15, 2010

San Francisco Beer Week Beer Run: And we have lift off.....

A couple weeks ago, I get this e-mail from Brian Yaeger who tells me of his plans with Philadelphia beer blogger Bryan Kolesar of Brewlounge to organize a beer run during San Francisco Beer Week, and asking me what I thought about it. I tend to initially react to things in "worst case scenario" mode, and my initial reaction is the thought of hundreds of runners clogging the streets of San Francisco and somebody getting hit by a car. After further and more rational contemplation, it seemed like the worst thing that could possibly happen is that just the three of us would show up. That seemed pretty good, so told Brian to count me in. After hashing out plans over e-mail between San Francisco, San Jose, and Philadelphia for a few days, lo and behold, we put together a little three mile fun run that started and finished at Magnolia Pub and Brewery on Saturday, February 13th, with the course running around the Golden Gate Park pan handle, and the into Golden Gate park itself, with the turn-around point at the Conservatory of Flowers.
Now the question was, with announcements on the San Francisco Beer Week website, Brewlounge, this blog, and some grass roots marketing by Brian Yaeger just a week before the run, who was going to show up? As the days passed by, a couple RSVP's trickled in, giving us confidence that we wouldn't be doing this all by ourselves. Unfortunately, the huge Mid-Atlantic blizzard that week grounded so many flights that Bryan Kolesar simply couldn't make it to San Francisco Beer Week at all.

So I'm standing on the corner of Masonic and Haight in front of Magnolia about ten minutes before the 11 am start, and look around for anyone else who looks like they're there for the run. A couple minutes later, this guy in a green Singha Beer T-shirt and baggy shorts comes bounding down Haight Street. I figure its Brian Yaeger, and as he gets closer, I see his socks are pulled up nearly to his knees and have the word "BEER" on them, and there's no further doubt that it's Brian.

My craft beer epiphany started less than three years ago, and the geographical nature of craft beer was one of it attractions. So reading Brian's entertaining book, Red, White and Brew about his road trip to explore breweries all over the United States was a milestone on my craft beer journey, and it was indeed a privilege to meet him. We shook hands and Brian shows me the bottle caps with the words "Beer Run" on the underside to serve as tokens to get a discounted pint at Magnolia. Magnolia Head Brewmaster Dave McClean graciously helped support the run, since Dave certainly didn't need any further distractions like a bunch of sweaty runners further clogging up the packed brunch crowd with a busy brewpub to manage.

By the 11 am starting time we're joined by five others from the surrounding neighborhood: Calvin, Trey, Nicole, Devin and Sophie. (If I got a name wrong or left someone out, sorry, and don't hesitate to correct me here.) So how did it go? Well, seven people who were mostly strangers became less of strangers. We all got our recommended 30 minutes of daily exercise. And at the end, we all got to support one of our local brewers. Brian quietly bought beers for everyone, so the run was good for his Karma. And the spirit of Bryan Kolesar was with us as he wouldn't let a little snow stop him from doing his own beer run. The Beer Run turned out to be one of those small events that make the world a little better place.

The San Francisco Beer Week video crew happened to be at Magnolia when we finished, and were quite intrigued by the concept of beer run as a San Francisco Beer Week event. They shot a brief video interviewing Brian and myself. I'm glad Brian did most of the talking, since he's clearly a natural and articulate speaker, and I barely had the foggiest idea of what to say when put on the spot like that. Inside Magnolia, we met Chris and Merideth of The Beer Geek , who were also pretty interested in the concept of a beer run, and told us they'd like to participate next year, even with little or no prior running experience. At the end, Brian and I figured we probably get 40-50 people for a SF Beer Week Beer Run with a just few more weeks of advance preparation and promotion, as the Beer Run idea clearly resonates with the craft brewing community. Even for a runner like myself who enjoys craft beer, I couldn't help asking myself why.

There's the obvious connection that beer is simply great to drink after a run, since it cools you down, and provides well needed hydration and carbohydrates. A Wine Run, Whisky Run, or Cocktail Run seems rather contrived, and quite frankly, a bit ridiculous. A Beer Run just seems natural for some reason. But I think there is a deeper connection between beer and running, which has to do with the egalitarian nature of both the sport and the beverage.

One of my favorite running quotes is from an old Nike commercial: "There are clubs you can't belong to, neighborhoods you can't live in, schools you can't get into, but the roads are always open." Virtually all running clubs and races are open to anyone young or old, big or small, and do not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, origin or talent. The stop watch never plays favorites, and running is an affordable activity to all but the very lowest income levels.

The worlds finest beers are still an affordable luxury to most, and beer has a long history as the People's Beverage. Whether used as payment to workers building The Pyramids, or used as an equalizer to help ease the racial tensions in the high profile Beer Summit, beer has a long history of shedding elitism and breaking class barriers, bringing wide cross sections of society together. I find it interesting that a good pair of running shoes, running shorts, socks, and a T-shirt costs about the same as the typical home brew starter kit.

Well, enough attempts at deep thoughts for one day. I'm already getting hyped for next year's SF Beer Week's Beer Run!


  1. Is there anything that can stop me from running with you guys next year?! I had a nice run amongst 8 foot towers of plowed snow and roads with no shoulders to them. But, it was still bittersweet thinking of the gathering there in the Haight with Magnolia's beer and Toronado's barleywines awaiting the finish.

    I'm glad that things worked out well and that you all made some new friends in beer and running.

    Though, I'm still waiting for the Kodak moment of Brian and his knee-highs!

  2. Sounds awesome - I might have to recreate during NYC Beer week this Fall.

  3. I got a bit misty-eyed reading this. Next year: 30-strong!!!

  4. Sounds like fun -- I want to do a beer run during Chicago's craft beer week in May. Who's in?

  5. Interesting perspective on beer and running.