Few things wash down the sting of how much you just spent on running gear quite like a fresh pint of beer. Which is why we wish every running store or local bike shop had a taproom like Shoes and Brews in Longmont, Colorado.
Around the country, entrepreneurs are getting savvy about the fact that outdoors enthusiasts are suckers for a microbrew. If this is the first you’ve heard of breweries infiltrating gear shops, you’re not alone. The concept is relatively new to the United States, though it’s already common in Europe. In fact, Jessi Johnson, assistant manager at Shoes and Brews, says it took about a year for local customers to realize they were much more than a bar. And it's not just outdoor retailers getting in on the trend. The concept for climbing gyms with bars inside is also showing up stateside, like Rock Boxx, a bouldering gym in Salem, Oregon, with an attached taproom called the Crash Pad. “It’s a newer concept here,” says owner Cole Clarke, adding that it’s still a bit of an adjustment for climbers to sit down and have a brew after their workout.
Clarke and Johnson have a few big takeaways from opening their bar-themed gear shops (or gear-themed bars). One is embracing the “mullet mentality,” as Johnson called it. “We’re a retail business in the front, party in the back.” When you first walk into the store, you’ll find the singlets, hydration packs, and shoes you’d expect from a running shop. But step beyond that and you see the 1,000-foot brewery and bar stocked with 20 taps of Colorado beers.
It was also important to Johnson and Clarke to keep the ambiance family-friendly. High school runners are a significant contingent of Shoes and Brews’ clientele, and the Rock Boxx hosts lots of birthday parties for local kids. To ensure things stay PG-rated, neither business sells hard liquor. Of course, whenever you add drinking to a situation, things can get weird. But in the years that Shoes and Brews has been open, Johnson says they’ve never had a single rowdy customer. At worst, sometimes non-running locals come to the bar and leave signed up for a 5K.
Lastly, Clarke and Johnson say it’s important to keep the business fun. At Shoes and Brews, they’ll give you a pint for the price of your 800-meter time—there’s a track next door—so if you’re pretty speedy, you could possibly pay $2.50 for beer. They even host regular races and brewfests, because if you can’t have fun as the owner of a taproom and gear shop, what’s the point?
Here are a few other brew-serving outdoor recreation businesses.
The Hub and Pisgah Tavern, Pisgah, North Carolina
Part bike shop, part gear stop, and favorite watering hole of mountain bikers coming off the trails in Pisgah National Forest. Eight taps offer a range of local and regional brews, and there are cans and bottles for those looking for a wider selection.
Crow’s Feet Commons, Bend, Oregon
Get your bike fixed, have your skis tuned up, or just refuel with a beer or espresso. This Bend institution is a favorite hangout for the Gore-Tex set. There are 16 taps, plus wine—and this is Oregon, so they take both selections seriously.
The Stronghold Climbing Gym, Los Angeles, California
Built on the grounds of an old PBR factory, it would be sacrilege not to have a bar on site. Barbara’s at the Brewery is a full-blown restaurant and taproom. There are 20 beers on tap, including lots of super-hoppy IPAs.
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