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Building Community Through Craft Beer

TROY, Mich.—Group rides with Motor City Bike & Brew Tours are inherently social. One’s endorphins flow from the fresh air exercise, and the historical tours of prohibition-era Michigan or Detroit’s abandoned breweries feeds the intellect. Tours always ends with a group of new friends sitting around a table, collectively salivating over the finer details of their favorite craft beer.

Needless to say, owner Steve Johnson sees a lot of return customers.

The Troy-based alternative touring company officially launched in 2009 under the name Motor City Brew Tours, a VIP-bus brewery hopping experience. It has since expanded to include walking tours of Royal Oak and Ann Arbor breweries, and has become known statewide for its bike-history-and-brew tours.

When Johnson started Motor City Bike & Brew Tours in 2011, all he wanted to do was spend the afternoon leading a cycling group and to finish off the tour with a Michigan craft beer. Two seasons later, Steve and his wife Lisa have introduced 1000 cyclists to Southwest Michigan, Detroit, and Grand Rapids breweries (2000 if you count walking and bus tour participants too).

Steve sees all types of participants, from beer lovers willing to try a bike tour to history junkies to avid cyclists looking for a new way to ride. “I am an avid biker and love craft beer. I wanted to take my passion for recreational touring and turn it into a business.”

By engaging people in multiple ways—physically, socially, and intellectually—the Motor City Bike & Brew Tours model creates a healthy community from a diverse network.

Steve’s social enterprise presents an excellent model for placemaking and community-building: on a tour, a group of cyclists explores a place from the ground level, familiarizing themselves with unfamiliar territory and hopefully removing some of the fear that accompanies the vulnerability of being lost, alone, or exposed.

Steve goes out of his way to make sure that everyone is comfortable on his outings. The guides are trained in touring, the groups follow all of the laws of the road, and the participants even learn some safety skills of their own.

“We try to design the rides around cyclists of all abilities by going at a casual pace and by building a relaxed feel,” Steve explains. The welcoming atmosphere (plus the beer) helps to build comfort and camaraderie within the group. “At the end of the day, we just want to encourage more people to get out to ride and to try new things.”

Inspired to hit the trail on two wheels? Motor City Bike & Brew Tours’ 2013 season kicks off on April 27 with their “Cruising for the Trails” charity bike ride in Rochester Hills. The all-day ride along the Clinton River and Paint Creek Trails (choose your own length, from seven to 27 miles) invites participants to stop at Rochester Mills Beer Company, 51 North Brewing Company, and Clubhouse BFD for en route food and drink specials. It only costs $20 ($25 after April 13) and all riders will receive a swag bag with snacks and a T-shirt from sponsor New Belgium Brewing or Motor City Bike & Brew Tours. Proceeds go back to the trails.

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