Paddle for Pints, Traverse City’s most famous “pub paddle” event, has certainly gotten popular. Even though the first of their 20 scheduled outings doesn’t happen until June 16, tickets for the 2017 season go on sale this Sunday at noon and are expected to sell out by the end of the day. Better get them fast, I guess.
Local entrepreneur Troy Daily started Paddle for Pints in 2013 with the idea of combining two of Traverse City’s greatest assets – awesome kayaking and even-more-awesome craft beer –into a single massive event. Paddlers launch from Hull Park on Boardman Lake in 50-boat “waves” and spend the next six hours visiting six different breweries and brewpubs located along the lake and river. They don’t sell or serve beer – it’s up to the participants to buy their own – but they offer a unique experience.
Despite what some might see as drawbacks – the large groups involved and the fact that it’s only offered on 20 days from June to September – the event is hugely popular with paddlers, drawing several thousand thirsty kayakers each season. It’s also fun for the breweries along the route: the Filling Station Microbrewery, Right Brain Brewery, Rare Bird Brewpub, Brewery Ferment, The Workshop Brewing Co. and brand-new Monkey Fist Brewing Co.
For kayakers who want a more intimate, less scheduled experience, Daily’s company also runs a smaller outfit called Kayak, Bike & Brew that operates seven days a week at 11 am, 2 pm and 4 pm. (With the added exercise of a bicycle ride from downtown Traverse City to the start of the paddling route.)
In a typical Kayak, Bike & Brew itinerary, cyclist/paddlers meet up at Pangea’s Pizza on Front Street for check-in, then pedal to Right Brain and The Filling Station before launching at Hull Park. Further stops along the way would be at Rare Bird, the Clinch Park beach and a return to Pangea’s for pizza and beer on the patio.
Several other operators run non-motorized brewpub tours by bicycle or kayak. Down at the Clinch Park Marina, Jeff Bensley’s Paddle TC/Kayak Brewery Tours offer two different options: “KaBrew” is a combined cycling/paddling experience following pretty much the same route as Kayak, Bike &Brew, while “BrewBi” is strictly a cycling tour, which allows for a wider selection of non-riparian breweries and brewpubs.
Headquartered at The Filling Station, the TC Cycle Pub has an even more freewheeling method for visiting local brewpubs: a pair of pedal-powered "pub crawlers" that allow participants to sample some of their favorite microbrews while pedaling the 8-14 passenger TC Cycle Pub or the 4-6 passenger Circle Cycle. (It's not drinking and driving, since the steering is being done by a level-headed Cycle Pub guide.
Up in Suttons Bay, meanwhile, Grand Traverse Bike Tours offers a regular Friday “Traverse City Brewery & Wine Tour” from June to October as part of their menu of bike tours.