The Marriage of Bikes and Beer

Published on January 18th 2013 by SNBC

An engineer at heart, Ken Grossman has loved bikes since he was a kid. His first visit to Chico preceded a long bike tour with friends along the Northern California coast. And even while running his home brewing store in Chico, Ken over several years worked as a mechanic in four Chico bike shops.

Through his work as a bike mechanic, Ken crossed paths with Jeff Lindsay, a longtime Chico resident who manufactured hand-made bike frames. (Ken in fact bought from Jeff a road bike frame.) Ken and Jeff quickly became friends, and Jeff’s metalwork is now seen throughout the brewery, from draught menus in the Taproom and clothing racks in the Gift Shop to two remarkable, hand-built beer bikes, the newest one named The Time Machine. The bikes shine like fresh toys, but their origins are scrappy.

The original beer bike project began in 2007 with a subtle nudge from Ken. He showed Jeff a magazine photo of a beer bike overseas, hinting that it could be a fun addition to the brewery.

Jeff ran with it much the same way a resourceful Ken in the late 1970s hand-built Sierra Nevada’s first brewhouse out of discarded dairy equipment. Jeff and his Red Hot Metal Inc. team scavenged mainly junkyard parts to build the pedal-powered 12-seater, including a BMW chassis and a 1960s International Scout transmission—good finds, no doubt. The finished product has had a busy few years, carrying hundreds of Beer Campers and touring beer events.

Like you might expect from an artist, it wasn’t long before Jeff went looking for the next iteration.

With a self-described Burning Man spirit, Jeff drew inspiration from a Steam Punk aesthetic and devised the next generation of beer bike for the brewery. It too would revive lifeless parts (and make them far cooler). The front and rear drivetrain for The Time Machine, as well as the motor, come from an industrial utility cart. Pedal strokes spin a 4-foot diameter, 300-tooth sprocket, which in turn spins an alternator that charges hidden batteries. That energy allows an actual driver to press the “gas” pedal and whisk beer bikers around.

Riders get to see their hard work further pay off with lighting in the canopy and what Jeff calls “rolling rainbow” lighting beneath their feet—each intensifies as riders up their input.

The ultimate focal point, though, is the mini Hop Torpedo on board that gives riders’ beers an optional final hop-aroma kick. The mini Hop Torpedo works like a French press, filling the vessel—already loaded with hops—with draught beer to briefly steep before finding its way into a glass.

Jeff’s ingenuity has long complemented our pioneering spirit at Sierra Nevada. Whether you’re on one of our hand-made beer bikes or scanning our Taproom beer boards, we hope you’ll be as impressed with Jeff’s craftsmanship as we’ve been for three decades.



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