Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Dining

Beer plus yoga? Local breweries say yes with classes

It's a quiz. Ardha uttanasana? Yes, that's standing half-forward bend. Parivrtta parsvakonasana? Trickier, but you got it. Extended side angle pose. Now how about this one: taka sipa brewasana.

The trend has spread rapidly all over the country in the past 18 months. Starting in California, Oregon and New England, microbreweries and beer bars have begun offering regular yoga classes. This is proof positive that millennial women have embraced craft beer. Or maybe that the men who love millennial women are willing to do anything, including wearing spandex, in order to be near them.

Either way, it's a gateway of sorts. Beer enthusiasts who might not be caught dead showing their asanas in a yoga studio can see what it's all about among friends in a convivial atmosphere. With beer. And longtime yogis have another forum for their practice and an opportunity for social outings with fellow enthusiasts. With beer.

The idea grew out of the success of running and cycling clubs that end a day's mileage with a pint or two at an area brewery. (You know you've seen those T-shirts that say "Will run for beer.") Scientific fact: Craft beer tastes better when sweat has not yet dried and your GPS watch confirms it was a PR.

Green Bench was the earliest adopter in our area. It started hosting a class a year ago on the second Sunday of the month led by staff from the Body Electric in St. Petersburg. Starting at 11 a.m., yogis roll out their mats to fill the entire production space. There's etiquette. Bring your own mat and maybe a water. Saving space for a buddy is okay, but don't be hoggish about it. Shorts and T-shirts are fine, but fully tricked out yoga gear is just as common (and FYI, those flare yoga pants are so 2012, evidently). If you sweat a lot, bring a towel or a change of clothes for post-savasana beer drinking.

Which brings us to the question of when to have a beer. Some vote for after, some before and some practitioners line up their pint glass mat-side (demerits for knocking a beer onto someone else's mat).

Jay Needham says he has a coffee blonde most weeks right before class. He works at the Body Electric and leads a class at 3 Daughters on the first and third Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m.

"It gets me going a little bit. No one is hammered, but it's a more social aspect of yoga," he says. And for some folks, a beer before, or during, can be serious liquid courage.

"The amount of first-timers is pretty neat. It's often guys who come with their girlfriends. A brewery is a more welcoming space for some people."

So you are thinking that A (beer drinking) + B (rookie yogis) = C (easy class).

Not so fast.

On a recent Wednesday evening about 100 of us crowded into the production space of 3 Daughters, the shrieks of kids playing giant cornhole games drowned out by two women performing live music for the class and Needham guiding the crowd through the poses. Wheel and bridge and a whole lot of chaturanga dandasana got the group sweating, the steamy summer evening not quite "hot yoga," but not too far off. On most poses Needham offered variations for folks new to yoga and others for advanced yogis, the Sanskrit words always accompanied by clear English descriptions.

"We've had the idea to combine beer and yoga for a while," said Jenny Miller, co-owner of the Body Electric. "The idea was to get yoga out in front of people who weren't seeing it, and to network with other businesses. There's this idea that you have to be ascetic and super fit to do yoga, but this supports the idea you can do it no matter who you are."

In general, "beerasana" events are too big for much personal attention or adjustments, and folks tend to be packed tightly enough that it takes some front-end thought on the part of instructors.

"We try to make sure people don't fold into each other so you have a butt in your face," Needham said. "And with the live music we have a game plan going into it; we try to make sure we're not going to one-up each other."

Despite constraints, Needham's class was tough. On a scale of 1 to 10? Maybe a 7 in terms of difficulty.

The previous week, however, I unrolled my mat beneath a white awning in front of Dunedin Brewery after paying Kristen Timpanaro $15 and receiving a ticket for a post-yoga beer. At 10 a.m. on a Sunday, the vibe was different. Calmer, more contemplative, with rambling jam band music that suited the warm weekend morning.

"I try to keep it fun and light and not do anything too crazy," said Timpanaro, who teaches at Heat Yoga & Fitness in Clearwater. "I try to feel the crowd out and to keep it a little more all levels. I don't want to intimidate anybody, and even experienced yogis are doing it more for the fun of it, as a way for yogis to hang out outside of the studio." She teaches vinyasa flow at the studio, mostly heated classes, but started the brewery program in January.

"Last year I started seeing brewery yoga on Facebook and Instagram. I thought, if they're doing it, we should be doing it, especially because in Florida we can do it outside all year round."

At eight months pregnant, Timpanaro wasn't partaking of the beer part of the program, and in fact after her hourlong class most of the 50 or so yogis forwent beer altogether. I figured it was part of the story and got busy with a pint of their much beloved apricot peach ale (the brewery has just celebrated its 20th anniversary, so look for special deals and events), after which we wandered over to the Honu for some Hawaiian-inflected brunch. On a scale of 1 to 10, the Dunedin Brewery class was maybe a 4, more restorative than power. Just right for a lazy Sunday morning.

What's in it for the breweries? Maybe some new customers, but also a possible perception change.

"We elected to do it as part of the idea of breweries contributing to a healthy lifestyle," said Travis Kruger, one of the owners of Crooked Thumb in Safety Harbor. "A lot of breweries participate in run clubs, and we thought this would be cool to try. It's still definitely male dominated in terms of core customers. Many breweries are boys' clubs, but we've created an environment that's friendly for families and dog owners." And just maybe, breweries' male customers stand to gain.

"On the guy side, some are yoga phobic. Even for me, it's a leap," Kruger admitted. "This is getting their toes wet."

Contact Laura Reiley at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter.

     
   
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