Cheers to ‘Performance Beer’

For years beer and running have been closer exercise buddies than you might think—marathon bibs often come with tickets you can trade in for a beer after crossing the finish line, running clubs often end their treks at a bar, and local microbreweries hand out new IPAs at the end of a race

Sufferfest was created in San Francisco in 2016 by Caitlin Landesberg, a trail runner herself, who wanted to make beer that would work with runners after grueling workouts—often called “sufferfests”—and not set them back. The FKT (or “Fastest Known Time”), a pale ale, for instance, is low in gluten—like all of Sufferfest’s beers—and brewed with black currant and salt to supply the electrolytes and sugars that runners typically crave at the end of a race. Repeat, a kolsch brewed with bee pollen, is supposed to help with muscle recovery

Bill Shufelt quit his job in finance and in 2017 launched a company dedicated to creating nonalcoholic but still delicious and thoughtful beers under the name Athletic Brewing. In addition to opening a taproom in Connecticut last year, he has signed a deal to distribute Athletic along the East Coast, with plans to expand nationally. Shufelt also sells Athletic beers directly to consumers, which is much easier to do when there’s no alcohol involved.

“Wellness” has emerged in the past few years as both a buzzword and a $4.2 trillion industry. It encompasses everything from green juices to yoga, the Whole30 meal plan to natural skin-care products, SoulCycle to Goop crystals. Also: running. Since 2012, the number of running events has risen steadily in the U.S. Younger generations, as Amanda Mull recently reported in The Atlantic, are less interested in drinking alcohol. Hard kombucha and seltzer, meanwhile, are on the rise.

Athletic beers like Sufferfest and Athletic Brewing are cementing their position by sponsoring events like the annual Big Sur Marathon or the massively popular Spartan Race.

Why its hot

Not drinking alcohol is a big sacrifice for a lot of people into a “healthy lifestyle.” You miss the social aspect of grabbing a beer with your friends, and then there are holidays and time off. Not every active person is sober, but many make that choice to drink very little or none at all. Drinks like “performance beer” give people that feeling back without the guilt of alcohol. It’s a really simple problem that just needs a product to solve it and big breweries are smart to get in on it.