As we pull out of the parking lot, the wind whips my hair, the radio cranks Quiet Riot’s “Come on Feel the Noise” and cars slow down to gawk as we reach our maximum pedaling speed — a whopping three miles an hour.
Whoever said “It’s not the destination, but the journey” probably had Brew Crew Cycles, two 14-seat bicycles that tour Riverhead’s breweries, in mind. The bikes would be a great way to meander around Riverhead, even if you’re not headed to a brewery. But more on the destinations in a bit.
Brew Crew Cycles is a family-owned business, run by a team of women who were born, raised and/or live in the North Fork area. On my tour I was greeted by mother and daughter Cathy Wilinski and Cathleen Davis of Southold.
“There are 11 of us in total,” Davis said. “There’s a grandma, three aunts and a bunch of cousins, all women. We started in April and it’s been great. It’s been busy every single weekend.”
After I sign my waiver, I’m introduced to our driver, Jason Fitzpatrick.
“This is a fun thing to do on weekends,” said Mr. Fitzpatrick, a former bartender who manages the Half Penny Pub in Sayville during the week. “I don’t have to serve them, but I still get to go to the party places.”
The Brew Crew Cycles seats 14 people, with six pedalers on each side and a two-seat wooden bench in the back.
I climb aboard, and I mean climb — the pedals are nearly three feet off the ground.
I’m happy to see I’m joining a healthy group of young and mature adults on my bike. Only two choose non-pedaling seats; everyone else is game.
Each brewery stop takes about 30 minutes and riders receive a discount on tastings, but in case you were wondering, no beer is allowed on the bike.
We begin by traveling down Pulaski Street as everyone gets used to the pedals and the bike’s speed.
I can see the faces of the motorists as they pass us; their expressions are priceless. From open-mouthed gaping to enormous grins, most drivers seem to be enjoying our ride almost as much as we are.
When we turn onto Roanoke Avenue, heading south, I can’t hide my concern from Mr. Fitzpatrick.
“Are we going onto Main Street?” I ask.
It’s a Saturday afternoon in the middle of summer. The traffic circle is jammed with cars heading to the Hamptons, the Riverhead Farmer’s Market is in full swing and the River Craft Beverage Festival is underway. A 20-foot-long bicycle traveling three miles an hour might not be a welcome addition.
But Mr. Fitzpatrick explains that we’ll be turning into a parking lot behind Main Street, avoiding the busy thoroughfare.
We pedal feverishly to give the bike a little extra oomph to make the turn as we park behind Crooked Ladder Brewing Co., our first stop.
It’s hot now but the radio is cranking out some great tunes to keep us motivated. Some people sing along to “Footloose” as we make our way.
Long Ireland Beer Company is visible down the street and soon we catch a break as the road dips and begin heading downhill. Everyone cheers as we enjoy the free ride, then we pedal hard again to get into the parking lot. Soon, everyone is inside enjoying the air conditioning and some brews.
Some people do appear to be working harder than others, like Tom McGovern of North Merrick, who is sweating as he tosses back a beer.
“So far, so good, but it’s a lot more work than I thought it would be,” he said, laughing. “I got stuck on the bike where at least half the people are older than me, so every beer I drank and haven’t drunk yet, I’ve earned!”
When we leave Long Ireland Beer Company we retrace our steps a bit, which now means pedaling up that hill we so enjoyed riding down earlier. Luckily, our final destination, the Birchwood of Polish Town, is just down the street. Everyone is more relaxed now that the tour is winding down and some people are choosing martinis over beer. We begin taking group photos as everyone realizes this is the last stop.
Leaving the Birchwood is probably the hardest part of the tour. Everyone is getting a little tired now, as well as hungry, and probably beginning to feel the pedaling in their legs. But it’s not that far to our starting point and soon we’re back at home base, taking more group photos and selfies before saying our goodbyes.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Laurie Riechert of Massapequa. “You have to come with a group of people who are bubbly and fun and want to do the work. The music is great and our tour guide is great.”
For more information, visit brewcrewcycles.com.