Original article posted online at irun.
Written by Josh Greenberg
On Sunday, October 20, more than 500 runners participated in the inaugural Brewery to Brewery Charity Run in Ottawa. This wasn’t your typical “beer run” to the LCBO for weekend supplies. It was more like a 13.3k pub crawl for runners. Starting at Mill Street Brewery near Lebreton Flats and finishing at Big Rig Brewery in Kanata, The Beer Run included stops at three of Ottawa’s finest microbreweries: Beyond the Pale Brewing Company, Clocktower Brew Pub, and Kichesippi Beer Co.
This is the perfect event for beer lovers — but, of greater importance, it’s also a fundraiser for Candlelighters childhood cancer support programs. Established in 1988 as part of a network of local and parent support groups, Candlelighters is a volunteer-driven organization that promotes awareness and understanding about the impact that childhood cancer has on children and their families, and provides them with access to a range of social and financial supports.
Runners were organized into 5 waves of approximately 100 participants per group. We were given plenty of time to arrive at each brewery, and then spent up to 30 minutes talking, eating and, of course, sampling some of the finest craft beer available in the city, before moving on to the next leg of the run. My “plan” was elegant in its simplicity: sprint each leg for the workout whilst maximizing my drinking time.
At the start line, runners were treated to great live local music and samples of Mill Street’s classic Portage Ale, an easy-drinking, mildly hoppy, cream ale: the perfect brew to kick off a Sunday morning run!
All events have costumed enthusiasts: over the years, I’ve raced against Superman, Chicken Man, She-Ra and Zombies. At the Beer Run, costumed participants were the norm, helping to create an almost carnivalesque feel. One runner completed the entire course in a giant foam Gumby suit. Another was dressed as a breathalyzer test. Like packs of trick-or-treaters, others dressed up in groups: there was the 5-pack of beer, a horde of Vikings, super heroes, and the “beer heads”, to name just a few.
Leg 1: Mill Street to Beyond the Pale (4 km)
The first part of the course went along the Ottawa River pathway from Mill Street to Beyond the Pale in Hintonburg, which you can find tucked in behind the bustling Parkdale Market. Just in time for the Beer Run, BTP brewers partnered with Bridgehead Coffee to create a special new beer, Brewmance Begins, a hoppy, aromatic coffee porter IPA. I quite enjoyed it, but if strong beers aren’t your thing I recommend some of BTP’s other tasty creations: Pink Fuzz, a delightfully hoppy grapefruit wheat ale with a zesty aroma, has broad appeal; and The Darkness, a rich, velvety, oatmeal stout with pronounced notes of chocolate, coffee and a touch of molasses, has been my fall season favourite. You can find BTPs beers on tap across the city, or stop by the brewery for a growler on your way home from work.
Leg 2: Beyond the Pale to Clocktower (2.5 km)
We next snaked our way through Wellington and Westboro Villages to the Clocktower Brew Pub on Richmond Rd., which was sampling a seasonal Harvest Pumpkin Aleand dishing out tasty pulled pork sandwiches. I’m not a pumpkin beer enthusiast, but that puts me in the outlier category as the popularity of this autumnal brew has skyrocketed in the past decade. Clocktower is an always-busy brew pub and a sociable place to catch a hockey or football game on the big screen and have a good meal with friends. If you miss the pumpkin season, be sure to sample some of their other brews the next time you’re there. I especially recommend their Raspberry Wheat and Wishart’s Bitter.
Leg 3: Clocktower to Kichesippi Beer Co. (2 km)
The Kichesippi Brewery Co. is a family owned business located in West Ottawa that takes its name from “The Great River” (the original name of the Ottawa River before the city was incorporated and renamed in 1855). For the Beer Run, they offered several different brews for sampling. Our wave was treated to their new Logger Porter, a dark amber with a nutty malt and a slightly bitter finish. This was a pleasant, easy drinking beer, and I enjoyed all four glasses. Kichesippi’s Natural Blonde and its suitably named 1855 are also superb beers and can be found on tap at many local restaurants and pubs.
Leg 4 Kichesippi to Big Rig (5 km):
It was fitting that the longest section of the course would come last. After leaving Kichesippi, we continued across NCC recreation trails, through the Bel-Air Park community, then past IKEA to the Big Rig Brewery. Crossing the finishing line, runners were corralled into a reception area where we were poured a sample of the brew pub’s signature Gold Ale by none other than “Big Rig” himself, Ottawa Senators defenceman and co-owner Chris Phillips. This was a fitting way to end a truly fun event: the beer was tasty, everyone was in high spirits, and the staff were generous hosts. Our group eventually moved indoors for a bite to eat and a broader sampling of beer. My son was thrilled that dad brought home an autograph from one of his favourite NHL stars instead of just another dumb race medal.
The 2013 Ottawa Beer Run was the ideal event to kick off the fall running season. This year it sold out in just under 3 days, so be sure to sign up early for 2014. Kudos to the runners, organizers, and participating breweries, who helped raise $5,000 for Candlelighters.