Monday, August 26, 2019

When You Realize It Was All Worth It

The Reluctant Cyclist, Stealth, Sailor, Pedal Pal, Velo Junkie

It was a glorious, mid-August morning. The temperature hovered in the 70’s and the sun was on the rise while Velo and I waited for our compadres at Humble Monk Brewing in Northside. It seemed like a good place to start and end since I hadn’t been there before. To make it easy to follow along as the tale unwinds, here’s the route of brewery stops with approximate miles:

  • 3 Points Urban Brewery, 331 E 13th St, Cincinnati, OH 45202 - 4.8 mi
  • Braxton Labs, 95 Riviera Dr, Bellevue, KY 41073 - 2.5 mi
  • Darkness Brewing, 224 Fairfield Ave, Bellevue, KY 41073 - 0.5 mi
  • Taft's Brewpourium, 4831 Spring Grove Ave #1, Cincinnati, OH 45232 - 7.7 mi
  • Urban Artifact, 1660 Blue Rock St, Cincinnati, OH 45223 - 1.8 mi
  • Humble Monk Brewing Co., 1641 Blue Rock St, Cincinnati, OH 45223 - 200 ft

We were a small assemblage of urban riders on a purposeful trek. The Reluctant Cyclist (me), Velo Junkie (hubbie), Pedal Pal, Sailor, and Stealth (silent but deadly) were on a mission to find and avidly enjoy the perfect summer pint. We left the parking lot at Humble Monk about 10:30 a.m. with Velo pulling the chain.

It was my birthday ride. For those who know Velo and I, you know he plans some extravagant, ball-buster ride for his birthday in February. Something about riding the same number of miles as your age and stopping at a few breweries for relief. But this was my birthday, the summer skies were promising a 95 degree day, and I wasn’t going to play by such grievous rules. I had a much less tortuous route in store for those who wanted to share my day. How about half the miles and twice the breweries? Since the goal was to find the best malted energy drinks in the city, I called it my Birthday Bike Beer Binge and it was all about fun (and beer). We went from brewery (A) to brewery (B) as straight as the crow flies and didn’t try to loop in an extra 10 miles just to make sure we paid our dues.

The first stop was 3 Points Urban Brewery in Pendleton. The bartender thought our adventure was really cool and was glad we chose 3 Points to start. Now, here is where I fail as a journalist - I didn’t write down what everyone had to drink. I only kept a list of my beers, but mighty fine beers they were. My first perfect pint of the day was Cuddle, a brilliantly tart and lightly fruited sour that was a pleasure for the taste buds. Kind of coral in color, it was just as pleasing to the eyes.

As chance would have it, 3 Points is a hop and a skip from Stealth’s front door but, unaware of the route, he met us at the start and then, of course, had to ride back to his city block. “We love your company Stealth, so glad you could join us!” To the contrary, Sailor does not live in Cincinnati and he couldn’t wrap his head around the idea of a restaurant that serves whiskey and biscuits. Boomtown is one block down from 3 Points and definitely on the next group ride.

Stop #2 took us across the river to Braxton Labs in Newport, KY. It is always fun to ride across the bridges from Cincinnati to Northern Kentucky, so we rode the Purple People Bridge south toward Newport. Single file is required to avoid the crowds and Stealth continued to bring up the rear with Velo in the lead. Braxton Labs in in the back of The Party Source and a brewery we frequent regularly. They make a Sweet Potato Casserole beer that is to die for, but not available until almost Thanksgiving, so I settled for one of my favorite beers of this summer season, SummerTrip - a tart Berliner Weisse with a hint of passion fruit on the finish. Perfect for this sweltering summer day on a bike. The five of us were sharing a couple of big bags of chips, courtesy of Sailor, when Pedal got a call that he needed to head home for another celebration. We said good-bye to Pedal and now we were a group of four merry peddlers.

About a half a mile down the road was Darkness Brewing in Bellevue, KY, of which none of us had visited yet. We had heard great things and, due to the close proximity, couldn’t miss the opportunity to try it out. I had another awesome beer, ChristoThor the Blonde. It was the lighter beer for a brewery specializing in dark beers, but hey, Sailor imbibed in the Man on the Moo, a dark milk stout. I will be back to enjoy my own pint of Man on the Moo when the temps drop about 20 degrees, but today I was seeking fizzy-tart beers (is that a thing?).

Next on the route was Taft’s Brewporium, a large taproom out on Spring Grove Ave. This is a great destination because A) Spring Grove Ave. has bike lanes traversing almost the whole way and B) Taft’s has great beer. And on Sunday they have great food to go with beer. I believe our eyes were bigger than our bellies when we ordered the large brunch pizza with ham & more along with a side of garlic knots. My beer of choice at Taft’s was Salute Your Schwarz, a traditional Schwarzbier, and a mighty fine one, too. An appetizing dark color with the perfect hint of coffee, the ideal mate for brunch. Before pulling out of the parking lot we had to rig up some sort of bungie contraption to secure the leftover pizza to the rack on Stealth’s bike. It was too good to leave behind!

Stop #5 - Urban Artifact in Northside. This brewery has always been on my list of places to try, so I decided I would try it on my birthday. They specialize in sours, of which I have become a fan of late. The brewery is in the basement of an old church and eloquently provides sufficient bike parking. The selection of beers did not disappoint and I opted for a beauty called Photo Shoot, a sour gose fruited with grapefruit. Spectacularly refreshing, especially since the sun was high in the sky and the mercury had peaked.

Finally, we headed back to where the day began for our final malted beverage. It had been a fantastic day with good friends and I wanted the final stop to be new and memorable. Humble Monk Brewing did not disappoint. Lately some of the breweries have been experimenting with hard seltzers and Humble Monk offered a Pomegranate seltzer called Halo. It sounded spectacularly thirst quenching and dangerous at the same time. I will undoubtedly be back for this treat.

Sometimes it takes something as simple as a beer and a bike ride to bring friends and families together; to get us out into our community and discover our surroundings; and to realize it’s all been worth it.

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