This month, we’re heading outdoors with the best drinks for the backyard, beach, and beyond. In Take It Outside, we’re exploring our favorite local spots and far-flung destinations that make summer the ultimate season for elevated drinking.
The alcohol industry is full of famous duos: tequila and lime, gin and tonic, rum and Coke. These couplings seem obvious, but others surprise and even confound us, consumers and industry pros alike. One such partnership is beer and wellness, two passions that seem to have little in common — but enjoy a remarkable amount of overlap.
A growing community of craft beer lovers believes active lifestyles and beer consumption can go hand in hand. Social media groups bond over love of hops and health; beer yoga classes are booked in more and more breweries; and fitness enthusiasts who once wrote off beer as too caloric to be combined with daily exercise routines are finding ways to combine them.
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Across the country, health-conscious beer communities are trending upward, taking their brews outside on hikes, camping trips, and beyond. For an inside look into this unlikely trend, VinePair consulted the founders of popular beer fitness groups who explain why malt and muscles are the perfect pair.
Beer and Fitness: An Unlikely Power Couple
Not everyone is privy to, or has even considered, combining 5Ks with IPAs. But beyond beer festival 5K walks, running clubs, and taproom yoga classes is a platform that showcases these all in one place: Work For Your Beer.
“When you talk about it outside cities that have a lot of these events, people look at you like you’re crazy,” Melanie Fox, co-founder of Work For Your Beer, says. The website features beer-centric events in several cities, mostly in North Carolina as well as other states across the U.S. and Canada. But when she and co-founder Alicia Valenski moved to Charlotte, N.C., looking for new social connections, they found these gatherings were more common than they realized. The two began building communities by attending beer yoga classes, beer run clubs, beer bootcamps, and more.
The only problem, at the time, was that most of these events took place at breweries scattered across the city, making it difficult to keep track of which classes took place where, and when. That’s how the duo came up with the idea to create a virtual calendar of all of the fitness classes at breweries in Charlotte.
“We thought, we can’t be the only ones who are searching for this. We can’t be the only ones who get excited when we’re in a bathroom at a brewery and see a flyer for another beer fitness event,” Fox says.
As it turns out, they were right: Work For Your Beer has since gained a substantial audience, leading an online directory and associated social media channels now with calendars in nine states, including North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and Rhode Island — and with plans to expand nationally.
While hops and hot yoga may seem to go together like oil and water, Fox believes that “breweries, in particular, are trying to nurture a community” and are also convenient gathering places. “The events are very natural at breweries because they have a lot of space most of the time,” she says.
Brewing Up Balance
For Brandon Montgomery, founder of Black Beer Travelers, blending fitness and craft beer is all about willpower. “I like to know that I’ve burned this many calories, or went to the gym this many times a week, so when I don’t want to think about it, I have this freedom of choice to drink what I want and eat what I want … because on the back end, I balanced that out,” he says. “It really stirs the adventurousness and the curiosity of us all to blend them together.”
Pursuing dual passions was also the impetus for Health and Hoppiness founder Amanda Steele, who created a beer and fitness account on Instagram to chronicle a personal health journey.
“The whole idea of finding balance started out as, ‘I need to earn my beer,’” Steele says, which meant running, going to the gym, and eating healthy to enjoy more caloric foods and beverages on the weekends. However, Steele says she has grown out of this mindset, which she now sees as unhealthy. “It’s almost like diet culture in a way,” she says.
With a heavy emphasis on inclusivity, it perhaps comes as no surprise that many beer and wellness programs are women- and minority-led. While Black Beer Travelers works toward making the outdoors and craft beer community more diverse, both Fox and Steele’s programs have invited connections with beer enthusiasts from all walks of life.
“I love being an inspiration for women who are looking to get into beer,” says Fox. In fact, she says multiple women have reached out to her, saying they’ve been inspired to pursue Cicerone certification training after attending Work For Your Beer Events.
Steele says these connections have created friendships and networking opportunities, allowing her followers to keep one another on track with their goals. “I use social media as a form of accountability, and also as a way to invite people to join me — people like me, who want that balance,” she says.
As a new generation of drinkers reaches for “better-for-you” booze — hard kombucha, low-alcohol and non-alcoholic beer, and so-called natural wines — it’s perhaps not so hard to imagine hop heads spending more downtime in downward dogs.
If Gen Z is any indication, these wellness-minded interests are bound to fuse even more tightly. Perhaps one day, we’ll see hard seltzer smoothies and smoothie IPAs in luxury gym bars. That is, if they’re not there already.