Food & Drink

Bend and a beer: Yoga classes and craft breweries team up

In this Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015 photo, Reed Patterson practices yoga while holding onto his beer at the Platform Beer Co., in Cleveland. Craft breweries are partnering up with yoga studios around the country as more breweries are hosting classes to attract a new crowd to the bars and yoga studios are using the beer to get more men to try yoga.
In this Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015 photo, Reed Patterson practices yoga while holding onto his beer at the Platform Beer Co., in Cleveland. Craft breweries are partnering up with yoga studios around the country as more breweries are hosting classes to attract a new crowd to the bars and yoga studios are using the beer to get more men to try yoga. AP

Call it detox and retox: Around the country, yogis are jumping up from savasana and hopping onto a barstool as yoga classes are making their way into breweries.

While the teaching is traditional, the classes tend to attract newbies, especially men, says Beth Cosi, founder of Bendy Brewski in Charleston, South Carolina and Memphis.

“We get the men in the door mostly because it’s in a brewery and they get a beer afterward. That’s the carrot. A lot of them come with girlfriends, wives, sisters,” Cosi said.

Her $15 classes are 45 minutes, compared to a typical 90-minute class. The room isn’t heated to near 100-degree temperature and the partnering breweries typically offer a tour of the facility after or the chance to drink a flight of several beers.

“They both lead to relaxation. And they both have a little bit of a social aspect, you know. And it’s a very relaxing place to do yoga. So, you know, very unpretentious,” Jason Crafts, 43-year-old IT project manager, said after a recent class at Raleigh Brewing Co. in Raleigh, North Carolina.

While traditional yoga tends to encourage a navel-gazing focus on oneself, individual breathing and controlling one’s thoughts, the yoga beer classes are all about community.

“This gives you the opportunity to come to your mat, to connect with yourself … and then to socialize after class and get to know people,” said Mikki Trowbridge, whose free classes in the Salem, Oregon area draw between 75 and 150 people two or three times a month.

Trowbridge’s business plan wasn’t calculated. She and her husband just liked a strong, sweaty yoga class and a nice craft beer and figured they weren’t alone.

“(Beer) is part of our culture here. We have breweries everywhere and so breweries are where we gather for social time,” she said.

The trend has caught on quickly with yoga-beer partnerships throughout Florida, New York and California. Cosi has been mentoring yoga teachers across the country looking to host beer yoga events. Beer maker Dogfish Head created a Namaste beer, Belgian-style white with dried organic orange flesh and fresh-cut lemongrass; and Lululemon, the athletic apparel line, partnered with Stanley Park Brewing on a limited-edition style with Chinook and Lemondrop hops.

The classes also offer a friendlier environment than yoga studios where many run out after namaste without talking to anyone.

“There’s a lot of (single) people that come in with the goal of talking to someone new and they already know they have beer and yoga in common,” said Melissa Klimo-Major, who started teaching yoga classes in breweries around Cleveland in 2014.

Trowbridge and Klimt drew notable crowds after hosting two beer yoga events in New York City over the summer. The duo, who met on Instagram, is taking their business on the road with a west coast tour planned for the spring and several Midwest stops over the summer.

Breweries say the collaborations are also offering up a bonus for them.

“The majority of our yogis are usually girls and the majority of people in the brewery are men so it’s kind of helped crossed that chasm of getting girls into craft beer,” said Chris Gove president of the SaltWater Brewery in Delray Beach.

America now has more breweries than ever. And that might be a problem.

It was a startling announcement: As of Dec. 1, 2015, the Brewers Association had counted 4,144 breweries in the United States, the most ever operating simultaneously in the history of the country. According to historians, the previous high-water mark of 4,131 was set in 1873.

The new number includes giant Budweiser, artisan Dogfish Head and your neighborhood brewpub. Although beer industry observers have known this day was coming, the pace of growth was explosive: At the end of 2011, there were 2,033 breweries, or fewer than half as many as now. In 2005, there were only 1,447. And 25 years ago? The Brewers Association, a trade group for small and independent breweries, logged a mere 284 in 1990.

So this is a golden age for beer lovers. It is easier than ever to find a great IPA (the most popular craft beer style in America), stout or session ale at a bar or liquor store. Previously ignored styles such as gose and Berliner weisse have become trendy, while brewers have a free hand to experiment with Belgian IPAs or saisons packed with unusual herbs.

On the other hand, the expanding market – at least two breweries open every day – has created a new set of problems for brewers. New arrivals, riding the craft beer wave, are finding it difficult to stand out. And it’s not as if bars have doubled the number of their taps in the past five years. So not only do the new breweries need to squeeze past their rivals even to make it in front of consumers, but they might need to convince bars that they’re more deserving of a chance than better-known beers from Lagunitas or Great Lakes.

Graham MacDonald, the co-founder of Washington’s new Handsome Beer, estimates that his beers have been sold at around 140 bars, restaurants and stores in the District and Maryland since last fall. Even so, he describes the process of getting into those establishments as “a bit of a challenge.”

The sentiment is the same on the other side of the bar. “Picking the draft list has become exponentially harder than it was two or three years ago,” said Jace Gonnerman, beer director for the District’s Meridian Pint, Brookland Pint and Smoke and Barrel. “You have to balance styles, but how many spots do I have for national breweries? What local breweries do I want to focus on?”

When brewer Jason zumBrunnen and his partners began planning Ratio Beerworks in Denver, it’s business plan didn’t rely on getting bars to put their beer on tap. Instead, it called for 90 percent of all sales to take place onsite. The brewery built a modern-industrial taproom that encouraged lingering, and it made deals with local music promoters to host acoustic performances and meet-and-greets with bands.

Many in the beer industry pin their hopes for small breweries on localization: the idea that consumers would rather drink beers made down the road than across the country. In national surveys conducted by the Brewers Association, 67 percent of craft beer drinkers said it was important to them that their beer be locally made, while 61 percent said it was important that the brewery was independent. Meanwhile, the craft category is growing faster than the total beer market, and in 2014 reached a double-digit (11 percent) share of the marketplace by volume.

Those trends aren’t lost on Terry Haley, vice president for marketing at World of Beer, which has 77 craft-focused locations along the Eastern Seaboard and throughout the South. Haley says his company tries to make sure local and craft regional beers are well represented among the roughly 50 taps found at each tavern, even though “there’s definitely a point of emphasis to have what we call ‘craft' beers across the major styles: Stone, Lagunitas; here in Tampa, Cigar City’s Jai Alai (IPA). You have to have some of these standbys.”

Brewers Association economist Bart Watson called the number of brewery openings “pretty incredible,” but he points out that America isn’t exactly saturated with beer makers: In a 2014 article, he noted that the United States has fewer breweries per capita than the United Kingdom, Germany or Latvia.

The Washington Post