Thirsty work, cycling. Fortunately in Breckenridge in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, they have the answer. You bike to a brewery. Several of them in fact, and to the Breckenridge Distillery, which claims to be the highest distillery in the world. Despite the fact that Breckenridge in winter is one of Colorado’s leading ski resorts, most of the summer cycling is flat. Well, flattish.
We gather outside the bike shop on the edge of Breckenridge to get fitted for our bikes and have a trial run around the car park. It’s a hot late afternoon in June, with blue skies and your skin yelling for sunscreen. We’re handed water bottles and encouraged to drink from them regularly. But beer and bikes? A safe combination?
‘Absolutely,’ says Pamela Keller of At Your Pace Biking, one of our two tour guides. ‘As long as you keep yourself hydrated with water. And the breweries we visit all serve small sampler glasses, so you can drink as much or as little as you’re comfortable with.’
And before you can say ‘IPA’, we’re away. Breckenridge is very bike-friendly. In 2014 the town was awarded Gold Medal status by the League of American Bicyclists as one of the most bicycle-friendly communities in the USA.
After just a minute or so of town traffic, we’re headed north along the Blue River Recpath, which runs for seven miles and embraces cyclists, joggers, dog walkers, and hikers. The level stretch of cycling brings a welcome cooling breeze, with the river on one side and the Rocky Mountains all around. With a guide up-front and another bringing up the rear, we’re free to cycle as fast or as slow as we like, though clearly the front-runners are keen to get to the brewery.
When we get there, after a short and slightly uphill stretch, it’s easy to see why. We sit in the sun outside Broken Compass Brewing while our tour guides attend to our needs and bring out flights of beer for the group to share. It’s the kind of sight to bring a huge grin to any beer lover. Among the choices we have an IPA, a Double IPA for the hop-heads, a Hefeweizen, a Coconut Porter, an Irish Red, a Chocolate Coffee Stout, an Imperial Bourbon Brown, an Agave Wheat Beer, and a strange-sounding but wonderfully spicy Raspberry Chili Beer, which proves to be the hit of the flight.
‘Wednesday’s the best day,’ says Pamela. ‘They do Wacky Wednesdays, when the brewers just have some fun. Last week they did a tiramisu beer.’
Instead of visiting another brewery, we cycle instead along another easy, flat stretch to the Breckenridge Distillery.
This isn’t just the world’s highest it’s also won a barrelful of awards over the years. Only that morning as I was enjoying a trail ride at Tumbling River Ranch the lead rider there, Brendan, had told me that Breckenridge made the best bourbon he’d ever tasted.
‘It’s not cheap,’ he said, ‘but boy is it good.’
Brendan was right about the bourbon, as thankfully we were able to try a sip as part of our tasting of some of Breckenridge’s spirits – spiced rum (yum!), gin, a chili chile vodka (yum-yum!) and plain vodka among them.
As I rode back into Breckenridge – now downhill – I thought what a winning combination this was – not just bikes and beer but bourbon as well. I’ll drink to that!
As well as Breckenridge, At Your Pace also offers bike and beer cycle tours in Denver, Summit County, Glenwood Springs and Carbondale, and Boulder. They also offer a Colorado Wine Country bike tour. Full details on their website: https://www.atyourpacebiking.com.
For more information about Breckenridge see www.gobreck.com.
For information on Colorado, visit www.colorado.com.
Photos courtesy of At Your Pace, Donna Dailey, and Bri Seifert.