What does a small, hometown brewery have in common with bicycles?
They are the key ingredients to a La Crosse festival now in its fifth year. Tour de Pearl is a summer long beer and bicycling promotion where participants ride bikes, drink beer and win prizes in addition to getting some great deals at area businesses.
All you have to do is register (there is a $20 fee), ride your bike to the listed locations, and order some food and a Pearl Street Brewery beer. Each spot has its own deal, whether it’s a half price appetizer or $1 off an entrée or a free/discounted beer. It’s like having a giant coupon book for people who like to patronize local restaurants and bars.
Here are five reasons to join the Tour de Pearl before it concludes Labor Day weekend:
1) It’s like a human-powered poker run.
This event is similar to the poker runs that many leather clad motorcyclists are doing when they travel between rural taverns on their Harleys to get their cards stamped. The biggest difference between the two is that Tour de Pearl is hoping most of its participants are riding human-powered bikes instead of gas-powered ones. Proof of this is its grand prize — a bicycle from the Wyatt Bicycle Co., which is a Wisconsin bike company headquartered in La Crosse. However, organizers know that sometimes it’s not great biking weather on the days you have free to participate, and honestly, some of you may not bike at all. Therefore, all you really have to do is get to the listed locations and make the purchase. You can ride public transportation, drive a car or motorcycle, skateboard there, or even walk.
2) The beer names are fun, and the beer is tasty.
The Pearl Street Brewery is an example of a successful La Crosse business started by young, hip entrepreneurs (it was just announced they will be featured in a new reality TV show called “Ambitious Adventures”). Further proof of its creativity? Check out the beer names: Rubber Mills Pils is a pilsner named after the former rubber mill factory that now houses the brewery; Java Lava Coffee Stout came about in a partnership with a La Crosse coffee shop; That’s What I’m Talkin’ ‘Bout Organic Rolled Stout is a stout full of organic rolled oats, chocolate and black malts and a variety of hops; and Dankenstein Imperial IPA is described as a “freak of a beer.” Ordering a beer can be almost as fun as figuring out which one is your favorite. And yes, you have to buy a beer at each stop – or at least a beer chip if you really don’t want to drink it that day – to get your stamp.
3) The event is divided into sprints.
Organizers grouped the 51 stages of the Tour de Pearl into 10 sprints based on the mileage of someone biking from Pearl Street Brewery. As you complete each sprint, you have the chance to win immediate prizes (you must take your card to Pearl Street Brewery while supplies last to get them), you also get entered for even bigger prizes, and get a chance to win the Wyatt bicycle. Sprints do not have to be finished in one day, but you surely can do it if you are Beery McBiker and love a challenge.
4) There is a lot of eating involved, too.
Part of the appeal is the tasty food deals you get as you tour La Crosse County. These deals include a discounted burger basket on the North Side of La Crosse at Sloopy’s Bar & Grill, half price nachos at Petticoat Junction in Midway (also known as the Highway OT area of Onalaska) and discounted pizza at Coulee Golf Bowl, also Onalaska. Who wouldn’t like free cheese curds at Fayze’s while drinking a couple brews in downtown La Crosse? And who wants a free cup of soup on the South Side of La Crosse at Houghton’s? Maybe they even have a fresh batch of that famous chicken dumpling simmering on the stove? Totally worth the trip.
5) In Madison? Head to La Crosse!
Got any summer trips planned to our State Capitol? Organizers have a Tour de Pearl there, too, and you can get extra grand prize entries for completing the sprints there. Events in both communities culminate at the La Crosse Area Bicycle Festival over Labor Day Weekend. There will be rides on the scenic bike trails of La Crosse and Tour de Pearl End of Tour Party with live music at the Pump House in downtown La Crosse.
Anastasia Penchi is graduate of UW-La Crosse and a long-time Coulee Region writer who has written for area newspapers and magazines (www.loislaneforhire.com).