American Craft Beer Week ended last month, but the relationship between the outdoor industry and craft breweries is just getting started. In May, for example, Anchor Brewing Company announced that some of the proceeds from its California Lager will go to the National Parks Conservation Association and the California State Parks Foundation, expanding packaging to cans for greater outdoor versatility.
But it’s the following four gear brands that have taken the beer-gear marriage to another level.
Last November, clothing company Patagonia recruited New Belgium Brewing—best known for producing Fat Tire Amber Ale—to help it produce a beer honoring 40 years in the business. Adhering to the California-based company's famous commitment to organic products, California Route Organic Lager uses Cascade organic hops to produce a tawny-colored, medium-bodied brew with a malty character and earthy hops. The name, California Route, is a tribute to the famous route on Mount Fitz Roy, originally climbed by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard in 1968. Note: The beer is hard to find—try Patagonia retail stores or around Fort Collins, where New Belgium is based—but it's worth the search.
You've may already have tried the popular hefeweizen made by America's ninth-largest brewer, Portland-based Widmer Brothers. In solidarity with the city's bicycling community, Widmer joined the Bicycle Transportation Alliance to help provide safe bicycling routes in the area. And he decided to treat members of the organization to a new brew developed specifically for the occasion. Teaming with KEEN Footwear, Widmer came up with the Full Fender Brown Ale, a light, malty English brown. Unfortunately, Widmer only distributed the small batch to business leaders who attended a March BTA meeting. We can only hope Rob Widmer's love of cycling (he bikes to work every day) leads to larger-scale collaborations with the community in the future.
Carhartt, whose line of workwear is the fashion of choice for many hipster bros, called in its fellow Michiganders at New Holland Brewing Company to conceptualize and produce a beer from Michigan-made ingredients. The brew is slated for wide release this fall. "Carhartt is the epitome of craftsmanship," New Holland's president, Brett VanderKamp, said in a press release. "The same dedication to hard work and creativity that we admire in farmers, chefs, artists, and other brewers is exactly what you'll find at Carhartt. They reflect the same devotion to quality raw materials, artisan processes, and delivering remarkable results as we do."
Woolrich, Inc., a company that’s been producing outdoor apparel since 1830, partnered with Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in June to produce a limited batch of custom beer matched with a clothing collection. The beer—dubbed Pennsylvania Tuxedo—was brewed with spruce tips from, you guessed it, Woolrich, Pennsylvania. Named after the red and black wool outfits made famous by woodsmen in New England, the rye pale ale debuted as draft-only at Analog-A-Go-Go, Dogfish’s music and beer fest, on June 13.
Then there’s the apparel and merch, including a classic chambray men’s button down, a throw blanket made from 100 percent wool, and beach hat and coozie. It’s all designed for a day in the sand, where you can sit back, relax, and crack open a cold one. Preferably from Dogfish.
“Dogfish and Woolrich have very similar DNA’s,” says Dogfish Head president Sam Calagione. “We’re both family-owned, east coast companies committed to our communities, obsessed with celebrating nature, and using the best natural ingredients we can get our hands on.”
Clean your glasses and prepare for the perfect pour, because these shared values mean more collaborations between craft brewers and quality gear outlets are coming.
You can practically swim through the humidity and there are tsunami heat waves rising off sticky tar roads. But that’s not going to stop you from pounding the pavement this summer. Rather than suffer, equip yourself with hot weather running essentials and get your feet into one of these quality pairs of shoes. You’ll leave those heat waves in the dust.
We’ve got one word for this neutral trainer: fast. The Fresh Foam is the quickest shoe here—a soft, bouncy platform with a slim fit and a bare minimum of structural pieces. We love the stretchy upper and four millimeters of drop, which gives you enough forward lean to keep you effective on your toes but also lets you sink back into the heel on mellower cruises. Efficient runners will fault the soft forefoot, but for the rest of us the Fresh Foam is a slipper with booster rockets. 8.8 oz; 4 mm drop.
The Clifton is a minor miracle of design. It comes with Hoka’s signature double-thick foam suspension, yet it boasts a floats-on-your-foot weight of less than eight ounces. That’s lighter than many minimalist shoes. The feel? Quick, lively, and smooth rolling, thanks to the rockered midsole and a supple, form-fitting upper (the best we’ve seen from Hoka). Given the trend toward maximalist shoes among high-mileage and heavier runners, the Clifton will be one of the summer’s hottest. 7.9 oz; 5 mm drop.
For slow and steady fitness runs, the Ride 7 is a godsend. Dropping half an ounce from last year’s version, it has the marshmallowy plushness of a cushioning shoe but weighs just 9.4 ounces—light enough for smooth turnover, despite the pampering upper. Midfooters and light heel strikers will be happy with the moderate drop, though heel pounders will probably want thicker suspension in the rear, and efficient runners might find the squishy foam a tad sluggish. 9.4 oz; 8 mm drop.
Think of it as a running shoe in a compression shirt. Under Armour fashioned the Speedform Apollo’s upper from one unstitched piece of stretchy fabric—an impressive feat that delivers a slim, snug, supportive fit. The thin midsole is fast, but eight millimeters of drop help ease the strain on your Achilles. Close to the ground and weighing a mere 6.5 ounces, this shoe absolutely motors. Cheesy laces and a few cosmetic blemishes belie how well this shoe performs—especially in its featherweight class. 6.5 oz; 8 mm drop.
The Sequence is a real-deal stability shoe, but one that doesn’t feel like it comes with a prescription. Adidas’s popular Boost midsole material—a bouncy alternative to foam that doesn’t firm up in cold weather—gives it zip. The Sequence is built low to the ground, and a full-length brace of denser foam (Adidas calls it Stable Frame) helps it feel sturdy underfoot. The moderately lean upper will seem constricting to wider feet, but we loved the snug, seamless fit. 10.9 oz; 10 mm drop.
Like the Saucony, Brooks’s Glycerin 12 is a staunchly traditional cushioning shoe for mainstream fitness runners, but it offers a firmer and more energetic ride. At nearly 11 ounces it never felt fast, but it was snappy and responsive—we lost very little forward energy with each foot plant, making it a good choice for runners who want a stable, efficient platform. In short, it’s plush but doesn’t overdo it. Wide-footed runners will relish the roomy midfoot and toe box. 10.9 oz; 10 mm drop.
If your friends’ lack of kayaks keeps spoiling your dreams of organizing flotillas in nearby lakes, weep no more: last week, a small group of New Jersey men formally quit their jobs to focus on The Outdoor Exchange (OX), a subscription-based gear closet.
The brainchild of outdoor enthusiast and startup veteran Dariusz Jamiolkowski, five-week-old OX gives subscribers access to a catalog of high-end, expensive gear. Basic subscriptions to OX (there are a few options, the cheapest of which is $100) allow users to rent one item per week. You can rent more items at 10 percent of each additional product’s value. OX recently started an Indiegogo campaign to boost its membership, and expects to be “fully operational” by July, after which point basic subscription costs will double.
So far, most of the rentals come from New Jersey (OX is based in Fairlawn), but subscribers hail from California, Colorado, Florida, and even England. Jamiolkowski estimates the young company rents about 10 items per week, and he hopes to attract more than 1,000 total subscribers by the end of summer, mainly by preaching the company's cause at big events like the Philly Folk music festival and relying on word of mouth.
But while OX is still young (currently it only has a couple hundred paying members), it's run by seven business- and tech-savy teammates whose resumes are padded with names like Lockheed Martin and Novo Nordisk. Jamiolkowski officially left his position as Handybook’s vice president of finance in February after being accepted into startup incubator TechLaunch, while marketing lead Adam Hackett quit his day job on June 6.
That team has come up with a unique gear-sharing model. Unlike GearCommons—another peer-to-peer program that depends on its users to supply gear—OX stocked its warehouse full of gear by working directly with manufacturers and distributors. The majority of the 300 products in its inventory were provided by companies like Black Diamond, Hobie, Maverick, and Folbot, a foldable kayak manufacturer. It's a relationship that benefits both parties.
“The issue (Folbot’s) having is that they have a great product, but it's hard for somebody who hasn't been in a foldable kayak to spend $1,200 on a foldable kayak,” Jamiolkowski said. “So we're putting butts in the seats for these guys. We're gonna get people to try the product and nine out of 10 people are gonna try it and say it was great, but one person is gonna end up purchasing the kayak...And our customers are going to be happy because they get to use a premium product at a low entry-point.”
The company is still working out some kinks, including how to streamline shipping costs. For New Jersey residents, OX will drop off and set up gear at trailheads within 25 miles of its warehouse for $20. But the idea of spending $100 a year on shared gear doesn’t sound as good if you have to pay an additonal $200 in shipping.
This week, OX began testing what its founder calls the Trailblazer Program. For a set $74 per year, subscribers can ship all their rentals for free within the continental United States. Ultimately, the team hopes to open local warehouses where subscriptions are most concentrated to help defray costs.
You may be wondering, “What happens if the gear gets damaged?” Well, Jamiolkowski and his team have set up a system to incentivize good gear treatment. OX rates both customers and gear internally when products are returned. If a customer gets low enough marks, she can’t rent gear anymore. “In order for this to work, it's gotta work both ways,” says Jamiolkowski. “Have you seen Meet the Fockers? We're building the Circle of Trust.
“We have families to support and mortgages to pay for, but we strongly believe in what we're doing, based on everything we've done so far to build a very successful, not only business, but a community for outdoor enthusiasts,” he says.