“The media frenzy really helped it take off,” Mike Boyle said of his new business in Sisters, Hop In The Spa. “And of course people just love it when they get here.” Hop In The Spa was inspired by beer spas that can be found throughout Europe, where the medicinal value of hops has long been tapped. Photo courtesy of Hop In The Spa
By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
There are seemingly endless ways that Oregon has tried to cash in on the beer tourism craze. The latest evidence of that trend: a spa where you soak in beer.
Ever since Hop In The Spa opened in Sisters in February of this year, it’s been nearly non-stop business, according to Mike Boyle, co-founder of the spa.
Some of the reason for that? It’s gotten a ton of free publicity in the form of mainstream press coverage for what is America’s first “beer spa,” an idea that Boyle and co-founder Sally Champa ported from Europe. Hop in the Spa has been featured in the likes of Time, Newsweek, CNBC, Maxim and Men’s Journal.
“The media frenzy really helped it take off,” Boyle said. “And of course people just love it when they get here.”
Boyle even said the Travel Channel was sending a camera crew in July for part of a special that would feature the spa that is still just a few months old.
The story of how Hop in the Spa came to life has been well told in most of those publications. Last fall, Boyle, a longtime Sisters resident, got into a car accident and his doctor recommended that he go to a massage therapist. That’s how he met Champa, and the rest, as they say, is history.
While the newness of the idea and all the press coverage has helped Hop In The Spa’s fast rise, it’s also rooted in the service it provides.
The core idea and novelty is the soaking in “beer.” Technically, you’re not soaking in beer as much as hop-infused water with minerals, oils and some beer added in. The soaking mixture is brewed onsite. Beer spas can be found throughout Europe, where the medicinal value of hops has long been tapped.
Many of the packages at the spa include a massage after the soak, and the two things work hand-in-hand, according to Boyle.
“The soak kind of tenderizes and marinates your body,” Boyle said in describing why Hop In The Spa has gotten early rave reviews. You also get a beer with the treatment. “You’re not getting inebriated, but the whole experience gets you so prepared by the time you get on the massage table.”
Of course, beer is a big part of the experience as well -- Hop in the Spa has a deal with Bend’s Deschutes Brewery. Boyle says that it has the biggest selection of Deschutes beers available anywhere outside of its pubs. The spa is also close to opening a beer garden on the premises.
Based on the early returns, Boyle said franchising the Hop In The Spa idea appears to be in the cards. Spas could be coming soon to Hawaii and California. And Roanoke, Va. — the site of Deschutes Brewery’s new East Coast brewery — is also a possibility.
But for now, the only place in the U.S. to get in a “beer soak” is in Sisters. And based on its popularity, you better make your reservations early if you want to get in the door.
Hop In The Spa
[a] 371 W. Cascade Ave., Sisters
By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Somewhere in the middle of the 70-mile Bend Beer Chase running relay, Jonahs Jennings had a revelation:
“I think we should be able to jump into a pool of Coors Light and then drink an IPA when we’re done,” he said, which was followed by chuckles from some of his teammates.
Jonahs and the rest of his race crew were waiting for one of their runners to finish a leg somewhere in the high desert of Central Oregon early in June. The second edition of the race took runners on a circuit through the area, from Bend to Redmond, then across Sisters before heading back to Bend.
The catch with this race? Relay hand-off points were located at many of Central Oregon’s breweries, and participants could enjoy samples at pretty much every stop along the way. More than 90 teams took part in the race.
“The Hood Pack,” a team of four women and two men from Sandy and Estacada, represented sort of a cross section of the participants in the race. Some, like team captain Elaine Knapp, consider themselves serious runners (she will have completed four different relays and an ultramarathon by the end of the summer). Others, like Jonahs and Elaine’s husband Seth, were doing their first relay and were there more for fun and for the beer. Elaine wasn’t the only running veteran on the team. Jonahs’ wife Jenn, Cari Nguyen and Alesia Soll have all done relays like the popular Hood to Coast and the Cascade Lakes Relay, which is put on by organizers of the Bend Beer Chase.
The race, like most running relays, is an amazing exercise in logistics, for both the organizers and the teams.
The night before the race, the Hood Pack drove from the Sandy area to a cabin near Sunriver. As nighttime descended, the team was a whirlwind of activity and laughter as they made preparations, such as decorating their support van with beer-inspired phrases including “It’s time to stout running,” as well red plastic cups that were tied to the roof.
“We’re going to try to run really fast, while still having fun,” Cari said as teammates bustled around in the gathering darkness.
Some teams took the race super seriously. An open men’s team from Bend completed the race in about seven hours, good for an average pace fewer than six minutes per mile. The Hood Pack finished in the middle of the competitors, with a time of 11 hours, 21 minutes.
A little bit of drinking went on during the race, but most of the Hood Pack stayed focused on supporting the team and running their legs quickly. Drinking beer and then running isn’t always the best mix of activities, especially with temperatures approaching 90 degrees on race day. Although early in the race Elaine jokingly opined that “beer and Coke are the best recovery drinks.”
As the name of the run suggests, beer is a major component. The race started at Worthy Brewing’s pub on the east side of Bend at just after 6 a.m. for the Hood Pack. The first leg took runners past 10 Barrel’s production facility, where Seth and Jonahs were able to scoop up a few free six packs of Joe IPA.
Mobile brewery stations were set up along the Oregon countryside at almost every transition point, usually along with a game like cornhole where runners could try to win prizes. Even early in the morning, Hood Pack team members gave some beer a try from Bend’s Bridge 99 Brewery, Redmond’s Juniper Brewing Company and Sunriver Brewing Company.
But after a particularly grueling and dehydrating leg as temperatures heated up, Elaine said “No more beer until after the race!” At least it meant no more for her.
There were also stops at the physical locations of Redmond’s Wild Ride Brewing, Sisters’ Three Creeks Brewing and the Bendistillery. In the two-mile “Keg Leg” after the official finish of the race, participants got free samples at six Bend breweries (Bend Brewing Company, Deschutes Brewery, Silver Moon Brewing, Atlas Cider Company, McMenamins and Crux Fermentation Project).
Despite a lack of heavy drinking by the Hood Pack team, there was a fair amount of silliness on the course:
--Alesia took a picture of herself in a ridiculous costume that included a horse mask and a holster full of beers around her waist in an attempt to win a Bend Beer Chase “selfie contest.”
--A “proposal” of marriage occurred among team members with the aid of a ring pop handed out by one of the breweries.
--And teammates revived the Harlem Shake by performing it on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere while one of their members jogged past.
After the race, the team relaxed at Silver Moon, some hydrating with water while others enjoyed beer samples and a much-needed square meal after a full day on the road.
Despite being a relative racing novice, Jonahs offered this sage bit of perspective:
“The beer for this race is really good.”
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