Because after logging grueling miles, nothing tastes better than a cold one.
In 2012, Caitlin Landesberg was working as a product marketer at Strava and feasting on a fast-growing trail running passion, her first race being the brutal and beautiful Double Dipsea in Marin County, California. Much of what she loved about the sport was the profound social network of the trail running community and kicking back with fellow runners to enjoy a cold brew after a hard run. “I think beer is bigger than just a beverage in that community,” she says. “It’s a cultural bond, something we deserve and earn.”
A series of severe physical illness soon presented itself as a gluten allergy, and Landesberg found herself unable to drink her favorite beverage. Unsatisfied with gluten-free beers on the market at the time, Landesberg took a beer-making course, tinkered with homebrewing, and eventually teamed up with Alyssa Berman, who she calls an “all-star brewmaster,” while taking classes at U.C. Davis. “We took my gluten-free recipes and made them gluten-removed,” says Landesberg.
The pair made beers with barley—full of gluten—and added an enzyme that binds to the gluten protein and eliminates it after the brewing process. What’s left is a beer that “tastes like the beer you want and expect, especially after a run,” says Landesberg. The beer comes in at under 10 parts per million gluten, which Landesberg says is untraceable and undetectable.
For her wedding in the fall of 2015, Landesberg made a giant batch of what she called “Sufferfest” beer and canned and labeled it. She started shipping it to friends—mostly trail runners—around the country. She brought her beers to trail races, began fundraising, and started brewing full-time. “Really, I wanted to keep running and drinking beer,” she says.
Today, Sufferfest Beer Company is a team of four women athletes. The beer is carried in 125 California locations and available through Craft City online store to be shipped to 34 states. And the name? “I’ve been calling beer ‘Sufferfest’ for as long as I can remember,” says Landesberg, who explains, “After a run, it’s like, we just totally killed ourselves out there, and it was miserable and amazing, and I need a beer.”
Here are six reasons Sufferfest is a trail runner’s beer, according to Landesberg:
- It’s made by trail runners. “We are athletes who know that athletes don’t want to drink something watered down. They don’t want a 90-calorie, zero-flavor beer. You don’t want something that’s going to shave 40 calories off after the 20K you just ran.”
- “Gluten-removed (and gluten-free) beers attract a lot of people, whether they’re intolerant or not. They can make a person feel less sluggish or less bloated than regular beer.”
- You’ll find Sufferfest Beer at the finish lines of events like the Way Too Cool 50K, and the Squamish 50. “Where most people discover beer at a brewfest in a coliseum, you’ll find us at a race.”
- All Sufferfest beers come in an aluminum pint can. “It’s a grab-and-go type of beer.”
- Beers are run-themed with names like “Epic Pilsner” and “Taper IPA.” “The Taper IPA is for a Thursday when you hit the bar after your run, tapering for the big weekend.”
- Beer is (kind of) good for you. “Beer, in my opinion, is the healthiest alcoholic beverage you can consume. It’s a natural probiotic and has naturally occurring levels of magnesium, potassium, and protein in it. We’re athletes so we’re always thinking about ways to push our product further. We have a lot of ideas up our sleeve.”