Events are a common tactic in the marketing arsenal of craft breweries and they come in alot of different shapes and sizes. An Eventbrite survey found that after a beer event, 99% of participants will recommend the brand to a friend and half will buy beer on the spot. Festivals, tastings, knitting, sewing, yoga, painting, movie, sports watching, crawls, games, takeovers, story time, music, comedy, trivia, and cook-offs are just some of the many themes used for events. Fitness is another kind of theme that I find mildly ironic, although I like to pair my beer explorations with walking, hiking, or bicycling whenever I can. I’ve never done so in conjunction with a brewery event though. An opportunity came when visiting friends in Houston — they invited me to take part in a fun run that is part of a brewery run series that gets them out to visit craft breweries across the southeast of their state.
It’s a pleasant, early-spring Saturday morning in southeast Texas and cars are piling in to a dirt lot next to the Middleton Brewing Company. Some people are stretching backs and legs using their bumpers as footholds. Others pin bibs displaying entry numbers to each others shirts. Still others make their way through the dust and weeds toward the brewery where a five kilometer fun run through the surrounding hills will soon be starting. The reason for the gathering is one of the installments of the Texas Six Pack, a fun run series that takes participants to craft breweries throughout southeastern Texas.
The “six pack” is really a series of eight fun runs but participants need only to complete six of the eight in order to complete the six pack. The Middleton event in March was the first of the series that runs for the rest of the year to December. Each event has a different host brewery and town and each donates a portion of proceeds to a local charity in the town where it is held. The registration cost per event is $30 but there is a break when you register for the whole series ($210 for eight events). Participants receive a commemorative t-shirt, pint glass, and coupons for four half pints of beer at each event and can earn an additional medal and commemorative t-shirt for completing the six pack.
I’m not aware of a similar series in my home state, but I wondered how common this kind of program might be throughout the country. A Google search identified similar running series’ in thirteen states: Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Montana,
southern New Hampshire & northern Massachusetts, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. In addition, I spotted a couple of multi-state series, Craft Brew Races (six races around the country each with a beer festival with multiple breweries represented) and Great American Brewery Runs (a series of nine races in the eastern U.S.) A common denominator is that all of these are set up by running event organizations in cooperation with breweries rather than being run by the breweries themselves. At the Middleton Brewing Company, it was clear that the race organization was handling all of the race logistics, the registration and timing of the participants, emceeing, and the post-race awards activity. The brewery was able to focus on what I’m sure they cared most about — serving up good beers and hosting the participants after the race.
Out on the course, most people seemed to be running but some were walking and others were combining the two methods. Participants wore a small plastic chip attached to a shoelace that registered their starting and finish times when they crossed an electronic sensor mat at the start/finish line. An elapsed time was computed for each participant and medals were awarded based on age groupings and gender. Unclaimed awards were then distributed by random drawing giving even people like me a chance to carry away a medal.
A good crowd stayed around after the event using up their beer coupons and socializing. To sum up, people get some exercise, reward themselves for their effort with a beer or two, catch up with friends and acquaintances, help raise some money for a local cause, and have a chance to explore a locale that they may not know much about or wouldn’t otherwise have visited.
For my friends and I, the event also provided a centerpiece activity for a bit of brewery touring in Houston, Austin, and points between as we made our way to and from the event. Following are galleries of captioned images from the event at Middleton Brewing Company as well as from some of our brewery touring in southeast Texas. Click on any image to see it larger and to open a scroll-able slideshow of all images.
Texas Six Pack Fun Run
A Brief Survey of Some Southeast Texas Breweries
Attending the event provided a great reason for a roadtrip to visit breweries in the region and tour some favorite spots of my hosts, Kurt & Liz. Here are some impressions from some of the places we visited along the way:
St. Arnold Brewing Company in Houston is housed in a cool old brick building that they have adapted into a brewery and beer hall with some real old world character. Sadly, I hear that the beer hall is going to be retired to special event use when they complete a new building on the site next door. Very nice spring bock here. 8th Wonder Brewery in Houston takes its name from the tagline for Houston’s Astrodome. It resides in an industrial area in a funky old warehouse and features WonderLand, a huge outdoor seating and event area. Sigma Brewing Company in Houston resides in a warehouse building in a gentrifying part of the city and is near a stop on the light rail line. A slick, modern taproom opens to the brewery floor where there is, of all things, a wrestling ring. Sigma hosts wrestling events of various kinds as well as serving a nice porter. The character of these three places is somewhat signaled by the variety of the company cars parked in their lots.
Axelrad Beer Garden in Houston is not a brewery but it serves an impressive selection of beers. It is as close to the spirit of a Bavarian beer garden as I experienced on this trip although it certainly has its own Texas vibe. The Austin Beer Garden Brewing Company in Austin has a laid back feel and a nice Helles they call Hell Yes. Jester King Brewery is out in the country on beautiful acreage west of Austin in what appear to be retrofitted farm buildings. This is a farmhouse brewery in the traditional European caste. Further west at Dripping Springs is Twisted X Brewing Company. Had a nice Vienna Lager on the open porch of their tasting room.
After staying the night at the college town of San Marcos and doing the 5K Fun Run, we had a breakfast diversion for Exxon Tacos — I’m told it is a favorite stop for some students and alumni of Texas State University. Nice breakfast while watching people fill up. Heading back to Houston we made a stop at the Spoetzl Brewery and their tasting room in Shiner, TX. Being a weekend, we were limited to tasting but it would be fun to go back on a tour day.
Platypus Brewery in Houston has an Australian motif and attitude. Had a very nice coffee porter with a very nice Sunday breakfast on their patio. Holler Brewing Company in Houston is fronted by a small, modern taproom in an office/industrial area. Several of their offerings sounded intriguing so I went for a flight and wasn’t disappointed. I could go back and spend more time with their ESB among others. I couldn’t tell where the heights were by looking around, but when we got to Eureka Heights Brew Co. there was a full blown neighborhood party in progress. The taproom is in a big, open industrial space and the party was spilling out through roll-up doors into the parking lot.. Tried an interesting milk stout made with cayenne pepper and cinnamon in addition to more traditional ingredients.
Last stop for this trip, but not the least was Brash Brewing Company which we found down an alleyway in a gritty industrial space. The vibe was “don’t give a shit what anyone says” garage brewery but the folks were totally nice and I enjoyed a nice APA to finish the tour.
Whirlwind I know, but it leaves me thirsting to try it again and go a bit more in-depth with several of the places. Maybe I’ll have to try my feet at another run.
Photo Credit: J. Ostendorf, Eric Woelker, Juan Acievedo