By Joanna Broder
If you are a wannabe yogi with a penchant for craft beer, a new trend might have you bounding out of the house before you can say “namaste.”
Chicago area breweries have caught on to trends in Colorado, California and other spots around the country by launching their own brand of yoga and beer tasting events, some of which are in direct smelling distance of fermenting beer.
The result seems to be a light, fun social scene where loose limbs and tasty brews give way to a less inhibited crowd and a relaxed vibe that might appeal to those new to or intimidated by traditional yoga classes.
“It really encourages you to stay after because you’re there for yoga and beer,” said John O’Hara, a participant at a recent beer/yoga event at Temperance Beer Company in Evanston. “It sort of forces you to talk to everyone else.”
Temperance Beer Company, www.temperancebeer.com, offers afternoon yoga/beer events, aptly named Temperance Trikonasana (or triangle pose), the third Saturday of every month for $15. The Lucky Monk in South Barrington, Ill., www.theluckymonk.com, offers Pints and Poses featuring yoga on an outdoor patio in warmer months followed by beer tasting for $30. Yogaquench, in Chicago, www.yogaquench.weebly.com, hosts yoga/wine and yoga/beer events that are both public and private at a variety of Chicago locales for $25-$35 per ticket.
A yoga studio approached The Lucky Monk about offering the Pints and Poses event. Nichole Bajko, Lucky Monk’s events coordinator, thought they had the perfect spot, the outdoor patio which overlooks a pond. Following the yoga session, attendees sampled beer and appetizers. The first event, held on a 70 degree day in mid-May, drew 22 people. Bajko hopes to have another one in August.
Temperance Beer Company’s first event in Evanston was last May during Craft Beer Week. Ten minutes before the 1 p.m. start time, nobody was filling up the 1,700 square-foot space at the back of the brewery where malt is stored and beer ages in barrels. “And I thought, ‘Oh well, maybe it will end up being a private yoga lesson for me,'” said Josh Gilbert, Temperance Brewery founder. But then nine people showed up.
A few of the participants had tried yoga/beer events before while others had a yoga background and were eager to try yoga in a brewery rather than a traditional studio. After an hour and 15 minutes of yoga, led by instructor Jennifer Arrington Breen, the group gathered to taste beer with three different types of hops.
“It puts you in a nice state of mind,” Gilbert said of the beer tasting. “We just had this unique, common experience, and then with a beer afterward it makes it more likely to actually talk to each other and talk about the experience and make new friends.”
“I love that it really throws people off guard,” Breen added. “Like ‘why beer and yoga?’ But yoga is really about bringing the body and the mind together and mindfulness. It’s really about being in touch with the body and practicing moderation,” she said. Neither too much yoga nor too much beer is healthy, but a little bit of everything in moderation is fine, Breen said.
All proceeds from Temperance Trikonasana go to area charities such as the Talking Farm in Skokie, a working farm that focuses on cultivating sustainable communities and educational outreach, or Curt’s Cafe in Evanston, which provides job training to at-risk youths.
“My main goal is really to have a fun time, introduce some people to yoga and raise some money for area charities,” Breen said.
Maureen Malungcot and Kristie Wagner, both certified, part-time yoga teachers in Chicago, are the creators of Yogaquench, a company that pairs yoga with wine or beer tastings and offers public and private events.
“It can be intimidating if you’ve never done a downward dog,” Wagner said. “We wanted to show that yoga doesn’t have to be so serious.”
While the women started by hosting yoga/beer events, and still do, they soon added wine tasting. They did so after realizing that their get-togethers to plan for future events often happened over a glass of wine. “Why are we talking about beer? We are drinking a glass of wine,'” said Wagner, who is also studying to be a sommelier. “We both share passions for yoga as well as a great beer or a glass of wine. We cannot be the only two people in the world who do.”
John O’Hara, a lawyer from Los Angeles, was visiting Chicago during Craft Beer Week last spring when he found out about the first Temperance event while researching things to do in the area. Since he does yoga/beer events weekly in L.A., he was excited to find out about this one.
O’Hara said he enjoyed doing yoga in the industrial space at Temperance where they keep the kegs, surrounded by the noise of the machinery and the “earthy smell from the malt.”
Since O’Hara moved from Chicago to L.A. two years ago, he has found a community in the participants of yoga/beer events offered at L.A.’s Golden Road Brewing or Angel City Brewery. His group of yoga/beer friends now meets up outside of yoga to watch roller derby, go hiking or attend barbecues. The shared bond grew out of an enjoyment of both beer and fitness, O’Hara said. “In that way, it’s more indication of a broader movement of people who are less extreme in either one,” he said.
It might be too early to tell what type of attendees these yoga-meets-beer events will draw since some of them are just starting up, but at Yogaquench, participants are usually in their late 20s or early 30s, Wagner and Malungcot said. At the two events Temperance has held so far, participants have ranged in age from 22 to 50, Breen noted. So far about 60 percent are female and 40 percent are male, she said.
Breen said that yoga/beer events may be an ideal introduction for people, especially men, into the world of yoga. However, she ensures that the alcoholic component doesn’t overshadow the essence of yoga.
“I make sure to incorporate the yoga philosophy and the mindfulness behind it,” she said. “It’s not just an arbitrary, ‘Hey, let’s do exercise and drink a bunch of beer.'”