You've almost certainly seen the BrewCycle and, if you haven't, you've heard it.
The 1-ton, 15-seat wooden bikes are a staple of the Pearl District. They're a slow-moving roadblock typically filled with loud, increasingly drunk tourists singing along to a speaker-blasted soundtrack.
On a warm, late May afternoon, I decided to join them.
Actually, I've taken this ride twice before, once with a grad-school cohort during spring break, another with a bachelorette party that sipped beer from penis-shaped straws. Any experience with BrewGroup—the company that started with a single bike in 2011 and has now grown into a fleet operating on both sides of the river, along with a BYOB party boat called BrewBarge—largely depends on who your fellow riders are.
Today, nine of the 15 seats are occupied by the sales team from Harbor Wholesale Foods, a Lacey, Wash., grocery supplier. They've come to Portland for some team-building before the next day's quarterly meeting.
They are joined by a Minnesota couple and a guy from Queens who's sightseeing while his wife is attending a conference. "I'm Dan," the driver announces, "but you can call me Captain Dan or Dan the Man."
"What about Big D?" the New Yorker asks.
Dan, his mane of wavy hair just long and tapered enough to qualify as a mullet, warns everyone that it's up to our legs to keep this rig moving—there is no hidden engine to give passengers a breather. He then ticks off the guidelines: Don't jump off the bike. Don't rock the bike. And don't heckle pedestrians.
"This bike is walking speed," he says, "so if you piss someone off, they could catch up to you."
Our legs begin pumping in time to Motörhead's "Ace of Spades." Big D assures us we "are killing it" as we cruise into a parking space across the street from our first stop, Lucky Lab on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard. Inside, the group marvels at the hefty 9 percent ABV Super Duper Dog on the menu.
Rather than compare tasting notes, we take our pints outside and play cornhole next to a picnic table of glum, chain-smoking locals bundled in black sweatshirts and beanies on an 80-degree day. They look relieved when Dan reappears to usher us back to our steed.
Chris, the wholsesaler's territory manager who lives in Corbett, forms an imaginary band with Dan the Man as we trundle toward Schilling Cider House—she passionately mouths the lyrics to Rush songs while he does double duty as air guitarist and drummer. One ambitious drinker reminds himself aloud to chug faster.
"I've gotta remember to really start drinking," he says. "I didn't finish mine at the last place!"
The signs of a good buzz begin to show back on the bike. Phones come out for selfies—there's more than one tongue sticking out and plenty of "rock on" hand gestures. Pushing onward to the last stop, Loyal Legion, a mail carrier pauses to let us cross the intersection. Her facial expression indicates she's yielded to this ridiculous buggy of drunks before. Too bad. Anybody not on the BrewCyle is missing out on one helluva party.