Whether you’re visiting or living in Portland, you’ve seen the beer bike. A 15-person ride with four wheels and fifteen sets of pedals, situated around a rectangular bar table and a rambunctious driver, pumping up the small crowd. The people on it are playing loud music, dancing and likely intoxicated. They’re en route to three local microbreweries with a crew of friends and they’re feeling good. It’s this kind of unusual, childlike joy that Andrea Lins hoped to inspire when she moved to Portland to start BrewCycle in 2011.
“I chose Portland to start this business because of its microbreweries and its love of biking,” Lins said. “I didn’t realize I’d fall in love with the city and the craft brewery industry here.” Now, Lins and her brother Chris are owners of the umbrella company BrewGroup, which includes BrewCycle, a nanobrewery called Back Pedal Brewing and BrewBarge, a beer-filled river cruise on the Willamette River.
Finding success in this brand new industry didn’t come without its challenges. When Lins purchased her first bike, there were only 18 other bikes like it in the country, and the model for a business like this had little precedent. The city, for example, had to figure out how to permit a business that included a giant tandem bike and profited from peddling it through the streets of Portland.
“It was such a new industry to start to investigate,” Lins said. “Cities didn’t know how to regulate it, and insurance companies didn’t know how to insure my business.”
Lins tried working with several insurance agents, but couldn’t find the right match. Then, in 2016, she found Fournier Group, a local, independent agency that offers both personal and business insurance. Lins’s account manager at Fournier, Tetiana Larson, was able to look at BrewGroup and all of its activities—brewing operations, cycle and barge tours, and bar and tap room service—and forecast all of things that could possibly put the business at risk. Based on this analysis, Larson suggested the coverage needed to protect Lins’s business at the best possible rates. Lins was able to customize her insurance, bundling common coverage like liquor liability with more obscure coverage such as marine liability.
Not only has Fournier Group provided coverage to protect BrewGroup in the case of an incident, but its business and operations team has also guided BrewGroup in risk management. Lins worked side-by-side with the folks at Fournier to create a waiver (that document signed before most fun and risky activities) given to customers who ride on the BrewCycle or the BrewBarge, outlining liabilities and potential safety hazards to be aware of.
One of the things Lins has found most refreshing in working with Fournier Group is the relationships she’s formed with its staff. They’re straightforward when it comes to business and personable when it comes to life, she said. Recently, Larson herself took a cruise on the brew barge, just for fun.
“We matter to them,” Lins said. “They know my husband’s name, and they know I have three cats and two dogs. Tetiana is someone I’d have a beer with, which I think is an important standard of business. If you can’t have a beer with someone, why would you want to work with them?”