Monday, October 28, 2013

Happiest Hour: Thirst Gear

Posted By on Mon, Oct 28, 2013 at 4:30 PM

Fall has descended in all its chilly glory, and we're frantically searching for ways to keep warm between pints of craft brew. Nothing works better than getting the blood flowing with a little pedal workout.

This week: Thirst Gear

Pedal power: During a trip to Portland, Ore., a few months back, Five on Black owner Tom Snyder and his brother Alex found themselves entranced by Brewcycle Portland, a company that books tours between the city’s craft breweries via a multi-person “beer bike.” These bikes first caught on in Europe in the late ’90s before popping up in major U.S. cities like Minneapolis and Chicago. It seemed like a mode of transportation tailor-made for Missoula, so the Snyders commissioned one from a manufacturer in Bend, Ore. “We knew someone else was going to do this,” Alex says. “Missoula’s needed a bike like this. It was only a matter of time.”

Sit back and pedal: Thirst Gear, as the Snyders are calling it, books tours to Draught Works, Flathead Lake Brewing Co., Tamarack and Kettlehouse’s Myrtle Street taproom. The bike looks something like an oval table on wheels, with 10 pedal stations and two extra seats along the sides. A bench on the back fits three additional passengers, and Thirst Gear provides a company driver for each booking. While there’s no drinking allowed on the bike (yet), Thirst Gear’s drivers are required to stay sober so you can drink your quota at the breweries without worrying about a DD.

Slow your roll: On a recent test run, the Snyders and several friends rode the Thirst Gear bike up Higgins and along side streets to Draught Works. The pedaling proved easy, and Tom pumped music from a portable stereo near the driver’s seat. Over pints, one volunteer test pedaler summed up the fledgling company as “powered by pedals, fueled by beer.” After 45 minutes—the per-brewery stop time Thirst Gear plans to stick to for its tours—the crew rolled on to Tamarack. Given the bike’s top speed of about 5 mph, the four-block trip down Orange Street may have caused some consternation among motorists. But most honked, cheered or laughed, intrigued by Missoula’s latest boozey pursuit.

Get onboard: You can book your Thirst Gear tours online at thirstgear.com, or visit the company’s Facebook page for more contact details. Also look for the bike in the Nov. 2 Day of the Dead parade.

Happiest Hour celebrates western Montana watering holes. To recommend a bar, bartender or beverage for Happiest Hour, email editor@missoulanews.com.

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