Commemorative beer crafted to highlight cycling event

·4 min read

When cyclists and the public gather in South River in August for the Ghost Gravel ride, something else will be waiting for them.

As one of the major sponsors for the event, South River Brewing Co. will have a beer specifically created for the cycling event.

Bernie Liehs, co-owner of the beer company, says making the Ghost Gravel beer was a joint venture between the company and Matt Foulk the organizer and founder of the cycling ride.

Foulk had intended to first hold the Ghost Gravel ride two years ago but COVID-19 nixed those plans.

Last summer COVID again forced the cancellation of the ride, but Foulk decided to put together a trial run of the event by inviting 15 cyclists to ride the Almaguin roadways and historic trails.

The cyclists were to record their experiences so the 60 riders taking part in this summer's event had an idea of what to expect.

Part of last year's trial run included a rest stop at the South River Brewing Co. because it has plenty of space and parking.

Liehs says last November the brewing company began talking to Foulk about starting the ride on the company's property.

Foulk agreed and designed a 150-kilometre figure eight course, where South River Brewing Co. Serves as the start, middle and end of the ride.

While Foulk planned the course he also thought about creating a legacy component for the ride.

That's where Jacquie Lockhart, general manager of the company, enters the picture.

She told Foulk the brewery could make a beer specifically for the Ghost Gravel ride.

“Matt tasted several of our beers and he chose a derivative of one of the beers we make,” Lockhart said.

“Matt then sent me the artwork with a background image and his logo. I sent it to one of our graphic designers, we made one edit and we slammed it.”

The result was a 473 ml tall can that has Ghost Gravel highlighted in gold against a black background.

Lockhart describes it as a light English ale that is four per cent alcohol and is made from orange rind and oats.

The Ghost Gravel beer will only be marketed and sold at the Ghost Gravel ride Aug. 20.

The riders will get some of the commemorative cans which will also be sold individually to the public at $3.25.

A maximum number of 500 beer cans will be made.

Lockhart said a small test batch was made to ensure everyone could agree on the taste and the next batch will be made closer to the Ghost Gravel ride itself.

It takes South River Brewing Co. only a couple of weeks to brew the ale.

Lockhart said Foulk enjoyed the taste from the test batch and was confident the participating riders would also like it.

Liehs said once all 500 cans are sold, that's it for the Ghost Gravel beer.

At least for this year.

He and his co-owner partner Dwayne Wanner are leaving the door open to future batches of the Ghost Gravel ale.

Foulk has told the Nugget in the past that he is confident the Ghost Gravel ride will catch on with Ontario cyclists who want to experience something new and unique.

He will likely expand the number of participants in future years.

With that in mind, Liehs and Wanner recognize that the Ghost Gravel beer could make a return in the future and if Foulk is correct about growing the event, there's a strong likelihood the number of Ghost Gravel beer cans will also increase.

“We'd gladly make more next year,” Liehs said.

Foulk's 150-kilometre course is broken into two parts.

The first 100 kilometres takes the cyclists from South River toward Magnetawan and then through the Sundridge area and back to South River.

Riders can end their trek at that point.

The second 50-kilometre loop takes the cyclists toward Algonquin Provincial Park before they turn around and head back to South River.

Registration for the ride remains open until July 1.

For full details go to for a map of the route and how to register.

For South River Brewing Co, making the Ghost Gravel beer coincides with the company being recognized with the 2022 Bicycle Friendly Business Award, given to businesses that are bicycle-friendly.

Lockhart says many cyclists use the company property to park their vehicles and then use the site as a starting point for their cycling venture through the Almaguin Highlands.

Lockhart says this is the first time South River Brewing Co. has won the award after entering the promotion several times in the past.

Lockhart says the award takes in the tourism region that covers Algonquin Park, Almaguin Highlands, Muskoka and Parry Sound.

The award is given out by the organization Ontario By Bike.

Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Bay Nugget

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