The Irish writer Brendan Behan once referred to himself as a “drinker with a writing problem.” Amateur endurance athletes, I think, would be wise to learn from and embrace such candor; indeed, most of us are drinkers with a running problem. But because we take our beer seriously, we’ve found ways to make the two passions work together instead against each other. There is a beer for every occasion, be it breakfast or nightcap, hangover cure or play-it-safe session. Here, then, are five great post-workout beers.
A caveat: every athlete’s body, metabolism, wants, and needs are different from day to day. After one particularly long race, I sat in the bathtub, eating Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and drinking Left Hand Milk Stout. These, however, will probably work better.
Berliner Weisse; Athens, GA.
There are any number of Berliner weisse beers on the market right now that I could have included; hell, most of them are even in cans. But Athena stands out for a couple of reasons. First of all, it really is that good, nailing the lacto tartness without going overboard with it; a Berliner weisse is first and foremost, as is evident by its namesake, a wheat beer, and Athena doesn’t forget that.
Second of all, Creature Comforts is based in Athens, GA, and it is hot as hell in GA. I lived there for over twenty years, and there are at least six or seven days every summer—usually August—during which the heat knocks you back through your front door in the morning. I started running while I still lived there, and nothing saps your energy faster than heavy, humid heat. This beer takes care of that. And while a smidge on the strong side for the style at 4.5% ABV, it’s still light enough for you to pound a couple after a long run and still be reasonably functional.
Also try: Destihl Counter Clockweisse, De Garde Bu
Farmhouse Ale; Brussels, Belgium
The saison style as we generally recognize it in the States is actually only halfway indicative of the beer’s true origins and intent. Saisons can be roughly divided into two camps: the stronger, somewhat richer versions that hover around 6-7% ABV were brewed and laid down for special occasions and celebrations; though it carries no distinguishing adjectives on its label, the ubiquitous Saison DuPont is a prime example of this sub-style.
The sexier story—that the style originated as a drink brewed to sustain farmhands in Wallonia—refers only to the milder, but no less characterful or rustic, table beers that hovered at 4% ABV or lower. De la Senne, a newer wave brewery out of Belgium, specializes in low to mid-strength farmhouse ales and session-type hoppy beers. This is one of their best. A slightly grainy, wheaty farmhouse ale loaded with cracker-like Pilsner malt and floral hops, it’s one of the lightest, airiest beers you’ll come across. At only 4% ABV, it fits the bill for quaffability, with a flavor profile just assertive enough to interest you, and a snappy, dry finish highlighted by a hop bite hinting at lemon-lime.
Also try: DuPont Avril, Jester King Le Petit Prince, The Bruery Jardiniere
Session IPA; St. Petersburg, FL
If the “super-session” IPA becomes more and more of a trend, we’re going to eventually reach a point where some upstart brewery is going to run into a scandal when their lead brewer bottles bootleg Perrier and sells it as an ultra-session IPA. BUT UNTIL THEN we can be thankful for beers like this one: a supremely light-bodied, mild pale ale at a paltry 2.3% ABV, De Soto Low is essentially hop soda. The flavor is familiar: hopped primarily with West Coast C-varieties, the beer comes across like a thinner-bodied Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, which is in no way a bad thing.
Despite its entry-level ABV, however, De Soto Low manages to avoid tasting like someone accidentally dumped a dozen cases of Klarbrun into a fermenter full of IPA. With that low of an alcohol content, you’re not going to get much juicy tropical fruit flavor—something that IPAs out of Florida are renowned for—but the amount of pithy orange-lime peel notes that come through on this thing are too legit to be relegated to the gimmick bin.
Also try: Bissel Brothers Diavoletto
Wheat Beer; Freising, Germany
Chances are you’ve had this beer. If not, you’ve at least seen it, sitting on the shelves at your local bottle shop or grocery store among the other gateway beers like Samuel Smith, Chimay, and Duvel that you’ve long since begun to overlook. But if you’re an endurance athlete, especially a runner, and really-especially if you have problems with leg cramps, you might want to consider grabbing a few bottles of this to keep in your fridge once you enter your hard training cycles.
See, wheat beers are so-called because—duh—they contain a large portion of un-malted wheat, which not only gives classic hefeweizens their trademark hint of tartness, but also their beautiful opaque-gold hue. That haziness is due to proteins; wheat is absolutely loaded with them, and they help to prevent and ease muscle cramps.
So why this one? Well, frankly, it’s the best. Weihenstephaner has been making this beer for at least several hundred years now, and it is absolutely dialed in: juicy bubblegum and orange peel notes, hints of white pepper and clove, plus that ridiculous mouthfeel that sits at the crossroads of creamy and effervescent.
Also try: Schneider Edel-Weisse, Live Oak Hefe Weizen
Blended Lambic; Lembeek, Belgium
Photo via Brouwerij Boon
In the Pajottenland of Belgium, lambic, though on the upswing, is still widely considered a working-man’s beer. And it isn’t hard to see why: crisp, tart, and dry as a bone, it’s a beer with complexity to spare, but light enough (typically between 4.5% and 6.5% ABV) to sufficiently quench thirst and act as something of a restorative. Still, it’s a dicey proposition to try and make this a regular post-workout beer: some blenders have a palate and preference that tends toward the bracingly acidic (Hanssen’s, Tilquin), and most of them are prohibitively expensive, typically running $10 or more for a single 375 ml bottle.
That’s where Boon comes in. Largely overlooked due to near-ubiquitous shelf presence, the standard geuze produced by Boon is revelatory for anyone looking for an everyday sour beer. First, there’s the price point: a 375 ml bottle will cost about $5 in most stores, half the price of many other geuze and geuze-style beers. Second, the flavor profile: a classic blended lambic in every sense, Boon does take care to make his a little more accessible. That translates to a dialed-back acidity and striking softness, resulting in a beer that tastes something like unsweetened lemon iced tea. It hits all the sweet spots of what the body wants after a long training session: sweet and sour, light, juicy.