From the Editor: Handlebars and Hops

Story by Brian HowardWhen GRID grand poobah Alex Mulcahy and I sat down to plot out this magazine’s editorial calendar back in the icy deep freeze that is Philadelphia February, we suspected that when the mercury climbed into the 90s, we’d be ready for a double dose of two of our favorite things: beer and bicycles.

We thought long and hard about a beer issue. And a separate bikes issue. And then it dawned on us, like the crest of a hill you’ve been pedaling up for miles: We should combine the two. If you’re into Venn diagrams, there’s likely a whole lotta overlap between the area’s avid pedalers and its consumers of fresh, adventurous, incredibly tasty local beer.

Both scenes have done some serious burgeoning in the fertile crescent formed by the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. And both have been highly lauded prongs of the greater Philadelphia region’s rush to more sustainable lifestyles and economies:

Why drink mass-produced, corn-based swill trucked in from St. Louis or Milwaukee or Colorado when you can drink locally brewed beer bursting with flavor from destinations as familiar as Milton, Del., Cherry Hill, N.J., or Kensington?

Why spend thousands on insurance, parking and the inevitable body work that comes with city driving when you can spin your spokes to work, to the farmers market, and to SEPTA’s ever-more-bike-accommodating buses and trains?

Bikes and Beer. They just sound good together.

For the record: We do not advocate drinking beer while (or just before) biking. But we’ll proclaim from the hilltops the sublime joy of rewarding an intrepid pedal with a crisp, cold Victory Whirlwind Witbier. (That’s my personal recommendation, but we’d love to hear yours; see below.) And thus, the first of what we hope are many GRID Bikes & Beer issues was born. Inside, blogging firebrand Brendan Skwire tells you why the region’s mineral-rich water is key to its beer-brewing revival. GRID welcomes cycling doyenne Julie Lorch back to our pages to tell you why getting more women on bikes is key to taking Philly’s urban cycling to the next level. You’ll learn how to grow your own hops, make your own beer-based mustard, choose the right gear for your commute and even how to brew your own plummy Belgian sour.

Speaking of brewing your own, if you’ve ever made your own bread soda, or have even entertained the notion, we highly recommend you pick up the new, indispensable The Complete Homebrew Beer Book ($24.95, Robert Rose), from Philly homebrewing legend George Hummel. The 456-page tome is packed with 200 recipes, and will guide you gently from newbie stuff like ambers and bitters all the way to funky stuff like wild-fermented beer, mead and cider. Hummel, who runs Sansom Street’s Home Sweet Homebrew, taught me to brew (though he might not want you to know that); his book is both long overdue—seriously, what took ya so long?—and a revelation, an instant classic in the homebrew canon. Stop by his shop (2008 Sansom St.) for a signed copy.

What’s your favorite Philly summer quaff? Weigh in and read our staff’s picks in an online exclusive at gridphilly.com.