For the Oregon Beer Growler
Kyle Allen was sitting in the Old Mill District when a cyclepub went meandering by — a group of people half pedaling and half drunk moving through the streets toward another brewery, where the evening gets just a little hazier. It was 2012, and the hype around breweries and brewery-related activities was hitting its stride.
Allen, who owned a painting company at the time, had his “aha moment”: Looking at the Cycle Pub spin by, with rafters floating in the river, he wondered about combining the two to make the ultimate summer drinking experience.
He sold his painting business and started Cascade Cycleboats, a company specializing in building 15-person, pedal-powered pontoon boats with built-in coolers for beer and wine.
“At that point, I had owned a painting company for 10 years,” Allen said. “I was sick of painting. I went crazy, sold my business and just went for it.”
In 2013, Allen teamed up with his friend Lance Waltjen, who had considerable fabrication experience, and built a prototype that Allen toured across the country.
“It was the longest trip of my life,” Allen said. “But we made two sales from the trip, which helped everything kick off.”
Allen rented a warehouse space in southeast Bend and started manufacturing the cycleboats. While he acknowledged drinking while exercising on bodies of water can be very dangerous, Allen took every step to make sure that his customers were not put in danger — starting with receiving safety accreditation from the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Center, making his company one of two in the country that have earned the difficult-to-receive mark.
Since the prototype was built in 2013, Allen and Cascade Cycleboats have sent six boats to Portland, Houston, Minnesota, San Diego and Seattle. Since everything is built and fabricated in-house, each boat takes roughly two months from order to water ready.
Cycleboats are mostly used on large bodies of water, Allen said. The pedals have a built-in gear shift mechanism that will help riders go against a strong current or wind. And if that’s not enough to cut it, a solar-powered motor will kick in and get the boat where it needs to go. While the boats currently in action are owned privately, Allen believes there is room for brewery sponsorship.
“It’s only a matter of time,” he said. “It’s a perfect opportunity to showcase your product in a really fun and unique way.”
In Portland, BackPedal Brewing Co. in the Pearl district purchased one of the Cascade Cycleboats, contributing to the company’s beer recreation scene. When BackPedal was The BrewStop, they were known as the starting and ending place for bike bar tours. Now the owners have revamped the location, which is all but a few doors down from 10 Barrel Brewing’s new location, to create a nanobrewery with BrewCycle and BrewBarge experiences.
Allen is working on a couple new orders: one cycleboat is heading to Tennessee, while the next is heading up to Portland. He is working on plans to make bigger boats that would house more people, but for now it’s all about keeping up on orders and enjoying the momentum.
“People love being on the water,” Allen said. “In summer, they want to be on the water and have a good time. That’s what we’re offering here.”
For more information, visit www.cycleboats.com.