Cycling and Craft Beer Just Go Together

Coincidence or creative synergy? Top cycling cities are also big craft beer cities.
Coincidence or creative synergy? Top cycling cities are also big craft beer cities. Thinkstock

Beer and bikes bring plenty of symbiotic vibes to restaurant settings.

Beer and bikes bring plenty of symbiotic vibes to restaurant settings.

To learn the best bicycling cities, we turn to Bicycling magazine. And its editors list the top three two-wheeler towns as Minneapolis; Portland, Oregon; and Boulder, Colorado. So it’s no surprise to find three of the best bike-and-beer experiences in those locales. But before we get to Surly Brewing’s restaurants in Minnesota, Hopworks Urban Brewery’s BikeBar in Oregon, and Oskar Blues Brewing’s CyclHops Bike Cantina in Colorado, there’s a new concept that recently opened in Los Angeles—a megalopolis that, unsurprisingly, did not make Bicycling’s list.

The Cannibal is L.A.’s newest beer-centric eatery, and it comes by way of New York City, although it’s inspired by Belgium, and in particular, one specific Belgian. Named for famed cyclist Eddy Merckx, dubbed “The Cannibal,” the restaurant in Culver City, an enclave of West L.A., broadens the scope of its Manhattan predecessor. Where the New York City space seats about 65, the capacity is virtually doubled on the West Coast. The two spots are co-owned by Christian Pappanicholas and Cory Lane, both carnivorous avid cyclists, and Francis Derby serves as executive chef at both locations. 

Vegetarians find something to feast on, too: “We get that a lot,” Pappanicholas says by rote, as he mimics an oft-asked question, “You think all those healthy people will want to eat that stuff?” The Cannibal, which also doubles as a butcher and sandwich shop, features pâtés, terrines, and house-made charcuterie.

The Cannibal goes against the myth that nobody walks—or rides—in L.A. There is a big bike rack outside, and the TV screens showcase cycling events. The space and its wood-fired grill and smokers are geared toward a cozy experience. No small part of that includes the beer selection: nearly 500-plus bottles strong and eight drafts controlled by a new beer tech called a Flux Capacitor that regulates temperature and gas. Southern California native Julian Kurland, an in-house Cicerone, curates the beer list.

Pappanicholas says, “I don’t go crazy about pairings. That being said, there are some wonderful naturals out there.” Rodenbach Grand Cru, a decidedly sour Flanders red ale imported from Belgium, goes great with morcilla (blood sausage). He comments, “The natural sourness goes with aggressive, bloody iron; it’s a good combo.” He also suggests brown ales such as Belgian dubbels or stouts with wood-fired protein like the fatty rib-eye. Naturally, smoked meats such as country ham go amazingly with Rauchbiers—smoked German lagers from Bamberg such as schlenkerla.

If those seem heavy on overseas ales and lagers, Kurland ensures that a good chunk of the list is American craft beer, including some from the Los Angeles area’s growing brewing scene. Kurland is particularly jazzed about Boomtown Brewing’s Ingénue Belgian-style witbier, Three Weavers’ West Coast IPA, and Mumford Brewing’s Black Mamba, which is a dark, hoppy ale sometimes referred to as a Black IPA. 

If the lengthy beer menu makes it difficult to narrow down a selection to just one brew, two-wheeled diners who show up in a cycling kit—a bike jersey and those lycra shorts—receive a second beer on the house. Cautions Pappanicholas, “If you pull a 9-liter bottle of St. Bernardus, it is not buy one/get-one [unless] you’ve won the Tour de France or even raced in it, then I’m fine with that.”

Puckishly, Pappanicholas also mentions of the bike hooks on the back wall that he enjoys those disruptive moments when diners look at riders like they’re a bit crazy—when really the riders appreciate getting to keep an eye on their bikes while eating and drinking out.


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