Velo Cru Rye Witbier: Fort Point’s Collab with the Rapha Cycling Club
Beer Nov 03, 2021

Velo Cru Rye Witbier: Fort Point’s Collab with the Rapha Cycling Club

We chat with Rapha’s Ryan Rinn about cycling, beer, and SF

At Fort Point, we’ve had a lot of fun collaborating outside of the beer industry. These partnerships often force us to think about beer in new and expected ways, which can be just the right trick to unlock a combination of ingredients or styles that produces a unique and memorable beer.

Earlier in the year, Ryan Rinn, a longtime friend of the brewery and head of SF’s Rapha Cycling Club (RCC), approached us about working together on a collab to honor the RCC’s 10 year anniversary. We were immediately excited about the idea of partnering with Rapha and creating a beer that would be perfectly calibrated to an experience: ultimate refreshment and fortification after a ride.

Our Director of Innovation Mike Schnebeck led the RCC’s members through conversations and tastings exploring beer styles, flavor profiles, and attributes that we were all most excited to bring together in a beer. Velo Cru Rye Witbier is a culmination of those experiments and Fort Point’s latest Limited Beer release.

I sat down with Rapha’s Ryan Rinn to chat about the experience as well as his love for beer, cycling, and the city.

Can you tell us about how the Velo Cru beer name came about?

We held a contest to name the beer and one of our RCC members submitted Velo Cru. Cru is a French term that is used to describe wines and some beers in Belgium that are of extremely high quality. Velo is the french word for “bike” so it was a nice nod to the heritage of cycling and beer-making in Belgium.

When are you most looking forward to popping a Velo Cru?

Right when I get back from a long ride. I enjoy a good shower beer and the Velo Cru can fits perfectly in the titanium bike bottle cage I affixed to my shower door. That said, this beer is incredibly versatile by design and should be enjoyed without any pretense: we hope that it speaks to cyclists and the non-initiated alike. I’m looking forward to loading some on my bike and heading to Golden Gate Park to share it with some friends on a Sunday afternoon!

What are some of your favorite spots to drink a beer?

My top 3 in no particular order would be: Having a German beer at Biergarten or Radhaus, maybe even the occasional radler on a warm day there. Alembic in my neighborhood of Upper Haight has been my favorite bar in the city since I moved here. It’s by far my favorite place to grab a cocktail, but they also have, in my opinion, the best-curated beer list in the city. Brandon updates the selections weekly and there is a boilermaker pairing for each one. Lastly, but probably my absolute favorite spot is at Peacock Meadow in front of the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. I’m there with my family at least once a weekend with a blanket, some charcuterie and chips, and a selection of beers. It’s the perfect spot for friends to meet up and share a beer with us.

Hey Ryan, can you tell us a bit about the Rapha Cycling Club (RCC)?

Yeah! The RCC is about creating a space where cyclists can come together and ride and meet each other. It’s really about community. We host a full calendar of special rides and events. My goal with the RCC is to share my love and knowledge of cycling with as many people as possible. Cycling shrinks your world and joining Rapha rides was a huge part of my cycling journey.

How did RCC and Fort Point first get connected?

I’m not sure who made the initial connection, I knew Fort Point’s co-founder, Justin, was a cyclist and had stopped into Rapha a bit and met the team there. Not long after Fort Point was putting their beer in kegs we began serving it at our events. We’ve kind of grown up together. As Rapha was refining and expanding our products and events, simultaneously, Fort Point began canning and growing their reputation and following in the Bay Area.

I remember the very first Fort Point can “prototypes” which actually were cans with adhesive labels, and even then our customers and I were so excited about the design and aesthetic.

I think our partnership has persisted because attention to detail is something that both our brands have built their reputations on. Fort Point also shares our love for San Francisco and its landscape. We knew that if we were going to do a beer it had to be with Fort Point. It doesn’t hurt that the brewery is also less than 2 miles away from Rapha and right on our way to the bridge where most of our rides go.

  

What is this collab about for you?

It’s about the universal languages of beer and cycling, and how much both can bring people together. Sometimes you can feel a little lost in a big city, but I’ve seen firsthand how riding a bike can make you feel like you’re a part of it all and shrink your world. If you ride enough it becomes impossible not to recognize friends and other riders every time you go out. It’s a similar feeling when you ride through The Wiggle and stop at a spot like Fort Point Lower Haight and have a beer. You’re in it. There’s no parking lot so riding your bike or walking there is the most efficient way which makes it feel even more like a true community neighborhood. Stop by there a few times and you get to know the regulars and the staff and that’s how you build community.

What was the collaboration process like?

When we first started talking about his beer, we started with cycling. We brainstormed about what cyclists want to drink after a race or ride, or what would hit the spot after you’ve been pedaling up a mountain or commuting in the city. There are many connections you can make between cycling and beer, but Belgium is rich in both. Both Rapha and Fort Point felt that a Belgian-style beer would be a unique take and something that would intrigue cyclists and non-cyclists alike.

From there, we brought together a group of Rapha Cycling Club members to sample through some of the more famous Belgian styles. Fort Point’s head brewer and director of innovation, Mike, took our notes and feedback to create a beer recipe that combined the best attributes of the beers we tasted. A few weeks later the initial pilot batches were brewed and the Rapha Cycling Club rode down to Fort Point Lower Haight to try them out. Mike led the crew through the tasting and took more notes to perfect the final recipe. The final beer went into cans last week! To celebrate, a crew of RCC members and Fort Point teammates all did a ride from the brewery to the Ferry Building and cheersed some Velo Crus together!

Speaking of rides, why do you ride in SF?

I ride for a lot of reasons. I love to race and push myself so that’s probably at the top of the reasons. It’s more than just training though, it’s challenging myself to ride terrain that scares me a little and the excitement of getting outside of the city in just 15 minutes or so. The bike is my key to unlocking all of the beauty in and outside of the city. I cross over the bridge on average at least 4 times every week. Bikes are also an incredibly efficient way to get around the city. Yes, I have a car, but lack of parking and long drive times means that I try to ride my bike to as many places as I can. My appreciation has only grown for the joy that bikes can bring. I now love riding with my 2-year-old son Hayes on my bike to get donuts and coffee on Sunday mornings just as much as I love going out for a 5-hour weekend ride with my friends.

The RCC x Fort Point crew takes off from the brewery. Photo by Jake Szymanski.

 

What’s your favorite ride in SF?

Well, every ride or route has its place and it all depends on what I’m looking for. That being said, my favorite ride is through the trails of Golden Gate Park and Mt. Sutro. I’ve lived less than half a mile from both of them for my 10+ years in the city and I never want to live anywhere else. Getting to the park in less than a minute is something I cherish. When I first moved here there were cyclocross races in the park and although the official races have gone away (there are still some very fun underground races that happen every year) I still remember bits of the old course. It’s where I first honed my cross skills and I never get tired of riding those trails.

What’s your advice for people who are too scared off by the hills to ride in SF?

It’s funny, before I moved here, I got rid of all my single-speed bikes because I was coming from Chicago which was pancake flat, and moving to this crazy hilly place. Once I learned the routes that got me around the hills like the Wiggle, it got a lot easier. The thing is, I love to climb. My favorite rides now are those when I can climb more than 1,000 feet for every 10 miles. 10k feet and 60ish miles is something I love to do as crazy as it sounds. My advice would be to embrace it, but first, make sure you have the right gear and skills to ride up and down the hills safely. Once you have those skills it’s just a matter of doing it over and over again until you start flying up and down them.

 

Can you tell us about how the Velo Cru beer name came about?

We held a contest to name the beer and one of our RCC members submitted Velo Cru. Cru is a French term that is used to describe wines and some beers in Belgium that are of extremely high quality. Velo is the french word for “bike” so it was a nice nod to the heritage of cycling and beer-making in Belgium.

When are you most looking forward to popping a Velo Cru?

Right when I get back from a long ride. I enjoy a good shower beer and the Velo Cru can fits perfectly in the titanium bike bottle cage I affixed to my shower door. That said, this beer is incredibly versatile by design and should be enjoyed without any pretense: we hope that it speaks to cyclists and the non-initiated alike. I’m looking forward to loading some on my bike and heading to Golden Gate Park to share it with some friends on a Sunday afternoon!

What are some of your favorite spots to drink a beer?

My top 3 in no particular order would be: Having a German beer at Biergarten or Radhaus, maybe even the occasional radler on a warm day there. Alembic in my neighborhood of Upper Haight has been my favorite bar in the city since I moved here. It’s by far my favorite place to grab a cocktail, but they also have, in my opinion, the best-curated beer list in the city. Brandon updates the selections weekly and there is a boilermaker pairing for each one. Lastly, but probably my absolute favorite spot is at Peacock Meadow in front of the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. I’m there with my family at least once a weekend with a blanket, some charcuterie and chips, and a selection of beers. It’s the perfect spot for friends to meet up and share a beer with us.

 

Photos by Jake Szymanski. 

Sarah Chorey
Sarah Chorey