Dirt Rag Magazine

Beer and Bikes: Oskar Blues and its home-brewed REEBs


American cyclists know full well that beer and bicycles go as well together as 90-pound European roadies, white Spandex and strong espresso. Along Colorado’s Front Range, one company takes that pairing particularly seriously, building bikes in the same way it brews beer: one at a time, with a guiding ethos of fun, craftsmanship and quality.

REEB DR-1-2

Oskar Blues beer started brewing in 1998 in the basement of its namesake grill and bar in Lyons, a small town a few miles north of Boulder, and has since expanded into a nationally known, award-winning brewery.

The founder, Dale Katechis, gained fame in 2002 when Oskar Blues became the first U.S. craft brewer to can its own beer. The beer was Dale’s namesake Pale Ale—a pleasingly bitter, refreshing brew now commonly found in many a cyclists’ backpack from Colorado to North Carolina. Oskar Blues only keeps a few days worth of canned beer in cold storage at a time, rather than a few week’s worth, so that your can of Dale’s Pale Ale, or whatever, is as fresh as possible.

REEB DR-2

A love of riding bikes was always part of the picture. Katechis explained that the original Oskar Blues restaurant location (in Lyons) was driven in large part by the proximity of great mountain bike trails. That is why Oskar Blue’s first eastward expansion was to North Carolina, adjacent the famous Pisgah trails. “We like riding there, so we decided to build our brewery there,” said Katechis with a wry smile.

Sounds like a good business plan, to me.

REEB-13

Oskar Blues started building bikes in 2011. The now-famous story of why is apparently true. Katechis had his bike stolen and decided he’d like to build himself a new one. He and Chad Melis, a former professional mountain bike racer and the brewery’s original communications guy, had been kicking the idea around for a while. After the theft, “Dale slapped REEB LLC on my desk and told me it was time,” said Melis. “I was REEB’s first employee.”

REEB is “BEER” spelled backward. It built 10, steel singlespeed hardtails with Gates belt drives in the first year. When “Outside” magazine got its hands on one and praised it highly, Melis and Katechis had an “oh shit” moment, realizing they were going to have to figure out how to build a lot more bikes.

REEB-9

The answer was Chris Sulfrian, formerly of Generic Cycles and Black Sheep Bikes. In the beginning, he maintained Generic Cycles while welding the REEB frames in his Denver shop. A couple of years ago, he sold his equipment to Oskar Blues and became an official employee in Longmont, a stone’s throw from the main brewing operation.

Sulfrian now focuses entirely on hand-building and powder-coating each REEB frame from either U.S.-made True Temper steel or Canadian-made titanium. He builds about 17 or 18 frames per month, with each taking three to four hours. The company is up to eight models, including a fat bike, all-mountain hardtail, gravel grinder/touring frame, cyclocross bike and a dirt jumper.

REEB-39

REEB-53

In 2014, REEB partnered with True Temper to create an American-made series of custom steel tubes that would help its frames reflect the modern components seen on many bikes today, from room for a 31.6 mm dropper post to different chainstay bends for plus-size tires and oversized downtube tubing for stiffer front ends.

“Our beer is hand crafted so the frames are, too,” said Melis. “We wanted to maintain the high-quality, American-made vibe from the beer to the bikes.” Even in the company’s Mexican restaurant, CyclHops Cantina, the decorations and most of the furniture are hand-made in Colorado by bike-loving artists from reclaimed materials. For example, the hops logo sign is built from shovels that had been used to help rebuild trails damaged by an historic flood in 2013.

REEB DR-1

Top: Chris the builder. Bottom left: Tim Moore. Bottom right: Todd Buck.

The bikes are sold through The Bike Shop at CyclHops. Tim Moore runs the show and takes your REEB order over the phone. Todd Buck is the main mechanic and sometimes frame painter. Most of the bikes are sold outside of Colorado with a choice of custom or standard builds, and stock frame sizes can roll out of the shop in as little as a week. Yep—you can get an American-made frame in about seven days. And you get to pick the paint color.

The craziest bike the guys said they ever built up was a titanium fat bike—the TyREEBdonkadonk—with a Pinion gearbox, Lauf suspension fork, carbon everything (including rims), 5-inch tires, dropper post and red anodized parts that rang up in the neighborhood of $10,000. It was hanging in the shop while I was there and it drew a great deal of attention.

REEB Pinion fattie-1

Earlier this year, in what was described as essentially another “Why the hell not?” moment, Oskar Blues and REEB started building a bike park not far from the brewery, adding to what a local artist had started scratching out on his own. The REEB Ranch West at Hops and Heifers Farm was developed with Alpine Bike Parks to offer a pump track, big jumps, flow course and slopestyle courses. It is private property only for Oskar Blues-hosted showdowns, but a public access membership plan is in the works for 2016, one that likely involves volunteer hours, a tiny bit of cash and lots of beer. The vision is to create not just riders, but a collective of caretakers and feature designers.

REEB-37

I asked Melis the philosophical question about why bikes and beer go so well together. He thought about it for a while, then said, “Craft beer and mountain biking are both creative things. Trail riding and beer brewing have an adventurousness in common.” Both require a personal touch, an individual style.

“Beer is simple; it only has four ingredients and it’s social just like mountain biking; they both draw people together,” said Katechis. “The bike is my way of connecting to the earth in a way that I can feel free.”

I’ll drink to that. More from REEB. Full gallery below.

REEB-14

I’m not going to bother with a review of Oskar Blues beer because it would take forever. They’re all good. Two of their strongest—Old Chub Scotch Ale and G’Knight Imperial Red IPA, each a hair over 8 percent alcohol—are some of my favorite beers in existence. I know that straight-up IPAs are en vogue right now, but when and if you can find either of those beers, put on your big-kid pants and give them a try.

Galley

Print

The Ultimate Ride to the Ride, Part 6: Missouri and the Katy Trail


Catch up: A cross-country bike tour with a twist: Chris Reichel is riding his mountain bike from Colorado to North Carolina and hitting all the best trails along the way. If you missed earlier installments of the Ultimate Ride to the Ride, see them here.


R2R Mo1By Chris Reichel

I never thought I would say this but, leaving Kansas City was hard. Moving on, with Kansas sufficiently in my rear view mirror, I knew that mountain bike trails would become much more common as I headed east. Saying goodbye to friends old and new, I set out across Missouri with another ride–along partner, the infamous Cog Fairy, Shanna. We had hundreds of flat miles ahead of us and the theory was that if she rode her singlespeed, she would go about the same pace as me towing the trailer. It was a good idea … in theory. But in reality, it just resulted in her dropping me and having to wait at every town for me to catch up.

In the late 1980’s, the railroad companies grew tired of repairing flood-damaged sections of tracks along the Missouri river and re-routed all trains to other tracks. The right of way was to be abandoned. Instead, following the lead of other communities in the state, the entire line was eventually acquired by Missouri and turned into a state park/recreation trail. The Katy Trail was born.

In total, it is 237 miles of flat, car free bicycle pleasure. Probably the coolest part about this route is how bicycle-friendly all the towns are (with the exception of one). There are a variety of inns, motels, restaurants and bars scattered along the route. You can also camp for free at the trailheads at the end of each day, if you so desire. It seemed like everyone in the towns wanted to talk about our ride and every single one of them credited the Katy Trail with providing a significant economic boost to the surrounding area.

R2R Mo4The first objective of this leg was to get to Columbia, Missouri, in time for my birthday so that we could get a proper hotel room, enjoy the local breweries and ride some singletrack. We were a little behind schedule, due to all of the distractions along the trail. We started referring to these distractions as Trail Sirens: wonderful small town novelties that would lure us in with their sweet song of comfort food and ice-cold beverages, then steal hours of our day.

My personal favorite was all of the music we would stumble upon. It could be an old timer playing his guitar on a porch or a whole band playing inside the local breakfast joint at 7:00 a.m. Music was everywhere and it always made my day.

R2R Mo2By the time we arrived in Columbia, it was dark and pouring rain. The rain was surprisingly warm so it wasn’t too terrible, although the lightning was rather unnerving. Soaking wet, we pulled off the bike path and into the welcoming arms of Flat Branch Brewery. Great beer, food and a warm bed felt like high-class living. But unfortunately the rain would not let up until well into the next day. I’m not one to rut up a trail system in the rain, so there would be no mountain biking for me on my birthday. A few beers at another little brewery were a sufficient backup plan before rejoining the Katy Trail.

Leaving Columbia, we were treated to the best Trail Siren yet. Cooper’s Landing is famous amongst Katy Trail veterans for, of all things, its Thai food. Right there, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, is a small Thai food truck situated amongst some campsites and a general store. With big views of a bend in the Missouri river, tasty food and a super friendly vibe, this place is well worth stopping for.

R2R Mo3By day three, the monotony of a flat trail was starting to get old. There are very few opportunities to stand up and coast and your sit bones pay the price. We developed a rhythm of stopping every so often to walk around, nap, destroy absurd amounts of ice cream and shoot pebbles with a wrist rocket my buddy Burnsey gifted me before we left KC.

The trail seemed to be extra flat along the eastern half. We trudged on, swatting mosquitoes and dodging countless baby frogs, newly hatched from the nearby swampland. A side trip was made to the quaint state capital, Jefferson City, to visit Prison Brews. It was a worthy detour.

As we got closer to St Louis, the amount of bike traffic steadily increased. It was amazing to see so many people utilizing the bike path. With the added people came an increase in questions about the ridiculous rig I was towing. My explanation was always greeted with a smile and a “good luck.” But by that time, I was already about half finished with the trip. Spirits were high and I didn’t really need luck. I just needed to keep pedaling.

R2R Mo5The final day on the Katy Trail began with a message from an old friend saying that he was at a trail system near St Louis hosting a mountain bike demo. When I looked up the location, it was only a few miles off the route. We would be there by late afternoon with just enough daylight to get a good ride in with friends.

The Lost Valley trails were quite a treat after five days of flat, crushed limestone. We had a blast chasing each other through the singletrack on this small but action-packed trail system.

The Katy Trail was such a unique experience that I would recommend it to any cyclist looking for a mellow, multi-day ride. Free camping along the route and super friendly towns make it the perfect gateway drug to bike touring. A couple hundred miles of car free riding doesn’t hurt, either!

Keep reading

Continue reading about the journey in part 7

Print

Don’t Miss: Old Man Winter Rally


Oskar Blues’ Old Man Winter Rally had a wildly successful first year in 2015, with nearly 700 riders from Tour de France participants to 10-year-olds on fat bikes, and is set to go even bigger in 2016. The event takes place in Boulder County, Colorado, on February 7, 2016, and you’re invited.

EClark_150208_0371

 

Choose either the 50km or 100km route of dirt, snow, sweat, and beer. The 50km option offers a scenic spin along the paved and gravel farm roads on the east side of the Foothills Highway. The 100km route promises leg-burning climbs, bone-chilling descents, and an exhilarating adventure in the dramatic canyons west of Boulder. Whether you tackle it on a road bike, cross bike, mountain bike or fat bike is entirely up to you.

Every participant (1,000 are expected) can look forward to luxury aid stations with heat and eats, a hot meal and a cold beer at the finish line, and a rousing post-ride party with live music, contests, and a massive raffle. Funds raised from the event will go toward local trail maintenance via the Oskar Blue Can’d Aid Foundation. Register now.

Photos courtesy of Eddie Clark/Adventure Fit/Oskar Blues.

 

EClark_150208_0475 EClark_150208_0660 EClark_150208_0635

Print

The Ultimate Ride to the Ride – Part 5, Hello Single Speed Kansas City


Catch up: A cross-country bike tour with a twist: Chris Reichel is riding his mountain bike from Colorado to North Carolina and hitting all the best trails along the way. If you missed earlier installments of the Ultimate Ride to the Ride, see them here.


By Chris Reichel

I didn’t have much of a schedule or timeframe for this trip, but the one place I really wanted to be was Single Speed Kansas City. I begrudgingly left Wilson Lake, Kansas, on a 95-degree afternoon and pointed it toward Kansas City. That same morning I also got a message from my buddy James wanting to know where I was, because he wanted to meet up and ride along. James owns the bike touring oasis, Newton Bike Shop in Newton, Kansas. It is conveniently located smack dab in the middle of the Trans American touring route. One part bike shop and one part hostel, it’s a great place to take a rest day in the middle of the country. Although I was about 100 miles north of his shop and it was the busiest time of year, James still snuck away to ride with me for a couple days.

singlespeed-kansas-city-2015-1

James is one of those guys that has contagious stoke and it was just what I needed. The miles and heat were finally starting to grind me down and it was great having his positive energy around. We proceeded to laugh, drink beers, curse the wind and pedal our way across the prairie for two days. When we finally went our separate ways outside of Salina, my batteries were recharged and I was ready to knock out the last miles to KC.

singlespeed-kansas-city-2015-3

Single Speed Kansas City was born out of an internal feud amongst the singlespeed community over who would host Single Speed USA for 2015. What resulted was the best solution to any feud, ever. The race was held one week before Single Speed USA in Wisconsin and, if you were an ambitions driver, you could make both events back to back. I was really looking forward to this event. I would be hanging out with the 8-Lumens crew members, who know how to ride some bikes and throw a party. They would not disappoint.

singlespeed-kansas-city-2015-5

I arrived in KC to a surprise delivery from Oskar Blues Brewery. They must have thought that I looked thirsty riding across Kansas so they sent an actual truck-load of beer for me to share at the event. That’s enough to bring a man to tears after towing a trailer for 600 miles.

We all met at a bar downtown on Friday night for a little registration party and some socializing. The night then degraded into a local-led group ride around the industrial side of town. Stairs were ridden and new friends were made. It was the perfect warmup for a proper singlespeed death march the next day.

singlespeed-kansas-city-2015-7

Saturday morning came too early and I was sufficiently late for the start of the race. Riding across town, following the map on my phone, it was hard to believe that there were mountain bike trails around. But much to my surprise, when I arrived at Swope Park, there was just that. Punchy, rocky and technical singletrack right there in the middle of Kansas City! I jumped in the course a half-hour late and went for a little mountain bike ride while everyone else raced, including stalling out at a classic heckling spot on one of the final climbs. It was complete with a drummer and a guy playing the dobro.

singlespeed-kansas-city-2015-8

After the race was finished and awards were handed out, the after party moved to the Pirate XC skills course, a Kansas City tradition and the sick brainchild of frame builder Sean Burns. We faced a mini time trial on skinny bridges, teeter totters and over a series of small jumps. It was more fun than should probably be legal and the winner received the biggest prize of all: bragging rights.

singlespeed-kansas-city-2015-10

Kansas City knows how to throw a bike party and the trails inside city limits are downright amazing.  I wanted to stay a little longer but St. Louis was calling and 300 miles of Missouri was standing in the way.

singlespeed-kansas-city-2015-4

About the author: Chris is the chief stoke officer and head cat herder at drunkcyclist.com.  He has recently escaped the grip of Corporate America and set out to see all that FUNemployment has to offer a mountain bike addict. Follow him on Twitter: @dirtybiker, and Instagram: @dirty_biker

Keep reading

Continue reading about the journey in part 6

Print

Exclusive: REEB partners with True Temper for new steel mountain bike tubeset


reeb-29er-2

Having been building for just three years, REEB has already built as many bikes in 2014 as they did in all of last year. As an natural progression of its American-made steel and titanium bikes, REEB Cycles has announced a new partnership with True Temper and Henry James to create a new, exclusive steel tubeset dubbed True Temper ABT that will be exclusive to REEB bikes.

The new steel is going straight into all REEB bikes, the first of which is the new REEB SFP 29er, a hardtail built for aggressive trail riding. The front triangle uses what REEB says is America’s first 31.6mm steel seat tube and 1.75-inch down tube. The seat tube is perfect for dropper seat posts and the big down tube creates the strength needed for longer fork options. Like all REEB bikes it will be able to run with gears or singlespeed, and in this case a Gates Carbon Belt Drive can be fitted.

Read the full story

Print

Oskar Blues Brewery to open beer and bike ranch in North Carolina


oskar-blues-bike-ranch-4

Oskar Blues Brewery hails from Colorado but has made western North Carolina its second home, first building a brewery there in 2012, and now it will open a 145-acre farm as a beer and bike vacation destination.

Located about eight miles from the Brevard-based Oskar Blues brewery, the former Shoal Falls Farm soon will be a haven for mountain bikers, a place to grow hops, pasture land for spent grain-fed cows, and a music and event space, all against the beautiful backdrop of Dupont State Forest.

Read the full story

Print
Back to Top