Brews & Cruise

Photo by Baxter Turain

Photo by Baxter Turain

Ryan Flynn

Long bike rides can be taxing, and after a 21-mile excursion on a bicycle, most riders want to refuel with a high-calorie, carb-heavy recovery meal. Some boil oats while others blend together a smoothie, but Team Athens Cycling Club member Colton Allen has a different solution: ice-cold beer.

“I finish every ride with a post-ride beer,” says Allen, an Ohio University senior. “When you’re out hammering on a bike, trying to keep up close to 30 miles an hour, that takes it out of you. If you want to actually sit down and talk to the guys after a ride, it’s what we do.”

Incidentally, beer and cycling go hand in hand in Athens, or rather, hand on handlebar. Allen often opts for a beer at Eclipse Company Store, located o the 21-mile Hockhocking Adena Bikeway, which circumnavigates OU and leads into Nelsonville.

Eclipse Company Store welcomes travelers with a bandstand and plenty of outside seating. Located in The Plains, the brewery occupies a large, rustic building that used to be an old general store. Now, it serves weary bikers as a beer hall and restaurant. With polished hardwood floors gleaming and the smell of locally- sourced foods such as eggplant tots and house-smoked barbecue in the air, Eclipse invites hungry guests. Chalkboards hang on the walls, listing over 30 beers on tap, all of which make up a staggering display of tap handles above the bar.

Eclipse is one of five microbreweries positioned along the bike trail. The breweries, which include Jackie O’s, Little Fish Brewing, Devil’s Kettle and Multiple Brewing Company, compile Brewed on the Bikeway, a craft beer and bike tour sponsored by the Athens County Visitors Bureau. The tour attracts visitors nationwide who want to sip authentic Athens brews while working up a sweat.

Bill Long and Kathy Kelly-Long are beer tourists from Fairfield County, Ohio, about an hour north of Athens. Bill is a seasoned Brewed on the Bikeway participant and regularly bikes the entire length of the bikeway.

“I’ve biked the pathway before without thinking of brews,” Long says. “Later, when we realized that there were breweries down here, we visited them.”

Long says his first time doing the brew ride, he loaded his bike with growlers and rode 15 miles south from Nelsonville to Little Fish Brewing and Devil’s Kettle in Athens. After siphoning off some of his favorite craft beers, he made the trek back home to enjoy his spoils.

Now, after trying every brewery, Long is a qualified brew-rider. He says he and his wife regularly visit Athens to combine their shared interests of craft beer and cycling.

“The fun of visiting the breweries is you get such a better variety than you would see if you just buy the beers in the store,” Long says. “They all have something special or something different. For beer, I like Devil’s Kettle the best. For trying new things and atmosphere, I like Little Fish the best. For the food, we like Jackie O’s.”

Kelly-Long shares her husband’s admiration for the variety of brews, and also says she enjoys the social aspect of the bike tour.

“A lot of the times you get to meet the people who brew [the beers] and talk to them and find out why they like doing what they do, which is fun,” she says.

Brewed on the Bikeway has acquainted her and Long with some Athens locals they otherwise wouldn’t know, such as Cameron Fuller, the owner and brew master of Devil’s Kettle.

Fuller, originally from Oakland, California, moved to Athens to work for Stewart Macdonald, an Athens- based global outfitter of guitar supplies, tools and parts. Utilizing a passion for woodworking, Fuller crafted guitars while pursuing his brewing interests by creating award-winning homebrews. In 2015, when Jackie O’s was the only local brewery, he saw opportunity to grow Athens’ craft beer sector.

Fuller fused his passions for craft beer and woodworking and created Devil’s Kettle, located off Columbus Road less than 10 minutes from uptown Athens. Devil’s Kettle’s screaming red paint and tall highway sign beg to be noticed. Guitars and local art hang on the walls. Dark red and black paint make up its devilish interior aesthetic. Fuller handmade the hardwood counters, shelving and multicolored bar top, painstakingly sizing and gluing all the pieces together to make the ideal finished product for his brewery.

“There’s probably a dozen different species of woods in this,” says Fuller, referring to the bar top. “It’s all wood that I acquired for the purpose of building custom guitars, but once I started the brewery I realized I don’t need to have this stash of awesome and expensive, exotic hardwoods.”

The Athens County Visitors Bureau approached Fuller to be a part of Brewed on the Bikeway in 2017. Since then, cyclists have made up a large part of Devil’s Kettle’s clientele.

“I definitely saw a big boost last year as soon as that bike path was open,” Fuller says. “Last summer there were days when I’d say at least fifty percent of my customers come by bike.”

Fuller attributes Brewed on the Bikeway’s success to Athens’ culture of supporting local businesses. He says there’s a certain appeal to Athens that draws tourists for more than just the university.

“There’s enough breweries here that motivate people to come into town for beer tourism,” he says. “You could spend a whole weekend just enjoying the local foods and drinks and culture of Athens.”