On Florida’s Space Coast, the seventh installment of the Running Zone Foundation’s Summer Brewery Running Tour has lifted off. On June 6, some 150 runners and walkers gathered at Cape Canaveral’s Carib Brewery for the launch of the multi-event series that mixes a group run/walk with cold craft brews at a different Brevard County brewery.

The 2023 edition of the Brewery Running Tour features seven free Tuesday evening runs from June 6 through July 25, including visits to celebrated spots like Hell N Blazes Brewing Company, Bugnutty Brewing Company and Intracoastal Brewing Company.

We don’t have summertime races here in Florida, so this series allows us to continue engaging with our community and building energy for fitness,” says Pete Vaughn, who owns Melbourne, FL-based Running Zone alongside John Carr.

The series is hosted by the Running Zone Foundation, the Running Zone retail store’s sister organization that champions health and fitness in Brevard Country. In addition to the Brewery Running Tour, the Foundation oversees marquee local races like the Space Coast Marathon and Half Marathon.

Origins of the Series

The Brewery Running Tour began in 2016, the brainchild of Florida Today fitness reporter Michelle Mulak. A local runner, Mulak noted a rise in the number of independent craft breweries around the Space Coast. She concocted the idea of organizing a fun run at different breweries to spotlight the new businesses and promote fitness and camaraderie.

Then called Run Brevard’s Breweries Tour, Running Zone was initially involved as a partner in the effort, recruited by Mulak to help organize the events. The 2016 installment of the series featured summertime running routes of two-to-four miles from seven local breweries and Vaughn recalls about 20-30 people participating at each stop. 

Before the close of the first season, Mulak asked Running Zone to take over the series and the Running Zone Foundation obliged.

“We were drawn to the concept more than the crowd,” says Vaughn, then a store leader under Running Zone’s original founders, Don and Denise Piercy.

In the series’ second year, Running Zone brought some much-needed organization to the event. They arrived at each stop with an audio system and printed maps. Running Zone also used its marketing muscle to drive turnout, touting the series at its retail shop as well as other Running Zone events. 

With the added promotion and accelerating interest in craft beer, attendance soared, sometimes approaching 200 participants. 

No one really needs an excuse to have a beer, but this gives people one,” Carr says.

Finding Synergy

Over the years, the series has evolved and trialed different ideas. Running Zone experimented with a paid premium option that included a T-shirt and pint glass and incorporated a virtual component in 2021 coming off a one-year, pandemic-induced hiatus. The virtual element allowed people unable to attend one of the runs to submit their activity virtually and maintain eligibility for the free shoe raffle at the series’ conclusion. 

And at last year’s final stop, Running Zone invited vendors to participate. Numerous brands turned out with demo shoes and raffle prizes, injecting added energy into the event.

The series’ simplicity, however, is part of its charm. No medals or road closures. Just a casual activity among friends, old and new. Carr and Vaughn call the series a great way for Running Zone to be an active force in Brevard County, encourage fitness and stir brand awareness for Running Zone’s retail shop and events.

Many of the breweries have created their own running clubs and some now sponsor Running Zone events as well. Meanwhile, bounce-back coupons distributed to participants over the years have driven traffic into Running Zone’s retail store while the series has also helped Running Zone expand its customer database to market its store and events. 

“It’s tough to quantify the financial impact, but we know it’s important to be active in the local community,” Carr says. “Getting people involved in the joy of running and walking can only be a good thing for us.”