Media and marketing agencies are often conjuring up elaborate ruses in order to persuade us, bloggers and journalists, to promote their beer. More often than not the events they decide upon are too ridiculous to cover and the beers they’re promoting are not the ones we would recommend.
But a few weeks ago we got sent a much more interesting marketing email. For starters, it came from Budweiser Budvar, a beer we’re very much fans of and have happily featured before on this site. And the scheme they have dreamt up was much more appealing: they’ve teamed up with custom bike builder Andrew Almond of Bolt Bikes to hand build a Budweiser Budvar bike and ride it all the way to their Czech brewery in Budweis.
We wanted to find out more, so sent over some questions which Andrew kindly answered. If you’re a fan of bikes or beer, read on…
A custom made bike business in London and a brewery in the Czech Republic sounds like an unlikely double act. How did you and Budweiser Budvar get together?
The emphasis on craft is what really cemented the collaboration. We utilise hand fabricated parts, hand tooled leather and hand painted designs on our builds and it was this dedication to traditional skilled work and artistry that really resonated with the approach that Budvar takes to their brewing. There are other more economical approaches to doing what we do, and likewise with Budvar, but these alternatives often lack the authenticity in approach and the detail that sets what we do apart from the competition.
What was the brief for the bike design?
To start with, the bike had to be from the Czech Republic, which limited us to Jawa motorcycles, an usual choice for a custom build. Manufacturing tends to lend itself to the country of origin and this is true here, the Jawas are utilitarian and practical workhorses. They tend to be small capacity engines as a means for mobility over short distances and lack the performance approach of sports bikes or the larger capacity of tourers. The brief was to incorporate the craft that is put in the brewing of the beer. It was always going to be a challenge to turn a Jawain to a show bike but with vision we will get there.
Apparently one of the bike’s fittings will be a copper ‘beer’ tank. We assume this won’t be full of beer for the journey?
We always balance form and function in our custom builds – they should work as intended, and be beautiful and unique. If there is a copper beer tank on the bike you can be assured it will be full of beer!
What other unusual bike creations have you made in the past?
Our latest build is a Buell, another unusual and overlooked manufacturer – we like to be original in our approach so this provided a great start. The Buell is a ferocious bike, powered by a Harley Davidson engine that has been highly tuned, giving it a beastly aggressive sound and an incredible riding experience. I usually tend to favour vintage motorcycles but the Buell offers the rider a real thrill and consequently is the bike that has been involved in the highest number of fatalities. Buell’s are a real Marmite bike due to their unusual designs, they look like nothing else on the road, performance definitely proceeds style in their design. We wanted to take this big lump of American muscle and give it a sleek continental look, leaving its distinctively 90s look behind for one reminiscent of cafe racers of the 60s.
We made a new rear sub section to the frame and had the tank, fairing and seat hand made using aluminium. Literally 100s of hours of labour went into making the body work but we wanted to showcase the fabrication skills of our collaborator Jake Robbins and to create something completely unique. I wanted the bike to be for city riding and long distances and the bike was built bespoke to my geometry and style of riding – everything was done for a purpose. Once this was achieved we really went to town with the metal work, giving it a real arts and craft look. The bike summarises our approach, to be innovative yet pay homage to classic styles of the past, to be different, to create something that worked as well as it looked, and that utilised craft at its very core.
The ride includes stops Amsterdam, Bruges and Prague. What are you most looking forward to about visiting those cities?
Riding motorcycles has introduced me to a world wide community of people with a shared interest, it really is a small scene in many ways. We will visit our friends in each city who are involved in the custom motorcycle scenes and have a party along the way. Hopefully we can pick up a few riders at each stage and bring them along for the trip.
We used to go to Bruges quite regularly and stayed in a hostel called Bruno’s Passage. We once had to climb in through a window when Bruno’s back passage door was locked, which wasn’t easy after a night of Belgian beer. I hope Budvar are putting you up in more refined accommodation?
Well, we usually stay at Charlie Rockets, a bike friendly hostel in the centre of the city. The best part is that they let you park your motorcycles in the abandoned cinema that resides out the back. Entering through the back alley you ride in through an old wooden door and across wooden planks before emerging in this huge empty space.
What else will you be taking in on the journey? We understand other riders will be able to join you on the way to Budweis?
The journey will be dictated by the small capacity two stroke engine, it really will not fair well on the motorways. This is the exciting part, planning a route through the county roads and passing through small towns as we go. You ride a motorcycle for the fun of the journey, you feel the elements and you are exposed, you take it all in. There will be a small group of us going and we will pick up friends along the way, it’s going to be a challenge and a lot of fun.
There will be fresh, unpasteurised Budweiser Budvar straight from the cellars on arrival. For beer fans, this is a rare treat. Are you much of a beer drinker yourself and what expectations do you have for this thirst quenching reward?
I visited the brewery in February and was surprised at how different the beer tasted straight from the tank – consequently I realise the standard of our local beers in London It was an experience I look forward to repeating and during those 1,000 miles in the saddle I am sure that first pint will be in my mind for much of the journey.
When the trip is over and you’re back home in Stoke Newington I imagine you’ll have a few good tales to tell your mates over a few pints. Which of Stoke Newington’s fine boozers do you call your local, and do they serve Budvar?
There’s a lot of pubs in Stoke Newington for such a small area and many of them offer a good selection of craft beers, although most tend to be from local breweries. I usually have a good stock of beer in the garage thanks to Budvar so tend to make use of our cobbled yard where friends can ride in, park up and join Simone, our Head mechanic, and myself. If i do go to a pub it’s usually the Price of Wales, located in a residential street nearby.
You can follow Andrew’s bike adventures on Budweiser Budvar’s Czech Stories website