The Tap: Deconstructing the Pedal Pubs, and More

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This week in the Tap: Our columnist deconstructs all the angst over pedal pubs and runs down local restaurant openings and closings.

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The Tap is the metro area’s comprehensive restaurant buzz roundup, so if you see a new or newly shuttered restaurant, or anything that’s “coming soon,” email Tap editor James Norton at

Twin Cities PedalPub brochure
Twin Cities PedalPub brochure

Deconstructing Pedal Pubs

Ever since an off-duty-cop-laden PEDAL PUB was not-so-viciously attacked with water paraphernalia, discussion of these mobile party zones has blown through the roof. Most people tend to fall into either a “hate pedal pubs” or “love pedal pubs” mentality, and that’s understandable. The pubs are either floating islands of loud, obnoxious, intoxicated tourists that clog up traffic or camaraderie-building, celebratory fun zones, depending upon your own baggage and experiences.

This past Sunday, I joined a pedal pub throng and checked out the experience. The specifics: our group of 16 rode the two-hour-long NordEast route of the Twin Cities PedalPub, stopping off at four bars in the process. Or maybe it was three bars? It’s all a little blurry in retrospect, and not due to alcohol consumption (see below).

Five observations from the field:

1. There may, in fact, be nothing in the world less conducive to beer drinking than operating a bike-powered vehicle in warm weather. The theory and appeal of the pedal pub is that you’re drifting smoothly without a care in the world, sipping a pint and screaming “WOOOOO!” with your friends. The reality is that you’re one of 10 people pedaling to move nearly two tons of flesh, wood, metal, and beer along city streets, and even the slightest of inclines is enough to require Roman-slave galley-style forced exertion. If you’re the type of person who likes playing a game of tennis while drinking a six-pack, this is your kind of deal. If you’re like me — the kind of person who prefers to consume alcohol after all necessary sweating has been accomplished — it’s an odd mix. I probably drank 30 percent each of five beers, most of which were of the nearly pure water Miller High Life variety. Big hitters from HammerHeart? Lift Bridge? Great under normal circumstances. Not so much during the roving equivalent of a spin class.

2. The view from a pedal pub looking out is very different from the view of a pedal pub from the street or sidewalk. Even during the toughest of inclines, we were having fun with people we liked, listening to music while doing something physically engaging, and drinking beer. We were collectively in a great mood, and whenever a car passenger or pedestrian waved at us, we waved and hollered back with real enthusiasm. In short: we were happy. And people who were angry that we were happy didn’t anger us, they just left us slightly confused. I’ll forever cherish the dramatic dagger-eyes shot at our group by the overdressed hipster sulking on the patio at Dusty’s, and the real delight of the friend-of-our-group who was able to run out his front door and wave as we cruised past his house.

3. Traffic is kind of terrifying when you’re car-sized but you top out at 12 mph. The hilarious and scary thing about things from the viewpoint of a pedal pubber is that your vehicle, such as it is, is often riding where cars go, but much more slowly, without any protection from impact and (generally speaking) minus helmets. (Who wants to be the only doofus out of 16 who signs up for the helmet? Nobody! Hooray for unconsciously enforced social norms!) The vast majority of cars actually treated us with respect (if not friendly hooting out of rolled-down windows), but the one semi cab that blew past us at full bore with a foot of breathing room made an impression. A mental impression, thankfully.

4. The interactions with the bars that you visit are fleeting, but positive. One of the raps on pedal pubs is that because bar visits are so short (15-20 minutes), no real money is spent, and all that’s accomplished is crowding the place up and irritating the regulars. Our experience was that basically, everyone ordered a beer; the more unhinged among us got the occasional shot; food was ordered at least once; and a lot of folks who didn’t already know a place got some welcome exposure and maybe even found a bar they’d like to return to (The Knight Cap is on my list).

5. A pedal pub is more expensive and far less efficient than, say, hanging out at one great bar or just renting a boat. And that’s the point. The thing about a pedal pub is that it’s structured like an adventure. There are warnings up front about not falling off or barfing on yourself; you are probably thrown together with at least some people you’ve never met before; and you’re all processing heat, and alcohol, and new surroundings. Stuff is going to happen. You’re going to remember the trip. That’s kind of the point.

In short: Riding a pedal pub didn’t resolve my mixed feelings about the things — it just deepened them. But it did help me to appreciate the legitimate joy that these things bring to their passengers (those WOOOOOOs are heartfelt), and the next time a pedal pub drifts past, I’ll shoot it a friendly wave. Even if it’s floating free in the world, out of its element, happiness is a nice thing to see.

— James Norton


Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table


Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
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St. Paul

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
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Greater Twin Cities Area and Beyond

The Tap is the Heavy Table’s guide to area restaurant openings, closings, and other major events. The Tap is compiled and published biweekly by the Heavy Table. If you have tips for The Tap, please email James Norton at


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