MUSCATINE — It may be many a person's dream to brew beer for a living. For one Muscatine native, it's a reality — but not just any beer. Shelley Smith brews beer for athletes.
"It was an incredible feeling to see this come to life," she said of the 26.2 Brew released by Marathon Brewing from The Boston Beer Company, the same company that brews Samuel Adams.
Smith is an advanced cicerone (similar to a wine sommelier), and manager of research and product innovation there. The 26.2 Brew is a new version of the Boston 26.2 Brew released in 2012 for the Boston Marathon. Smith's version of the beer was developed with input from her runner colleagues and professional athletes Desiree Linden and Meb Keflezighi, which makes it different than the previous version. She said the golden, hazy ale is a lower calorie, lower carb beer that runners are looking for but with something extra.
"A lot of lower calorie beers are devoid of flavor," she said.
Himalayan sea salt gives the tart brew some salinity, she said, and coriander brings some spice to the final flavor, with four percent alcohol by volume.
"It's really the perfect beer to celebrate the accomplishment of finishing a marathon," she said.
A two-time Olympian, Linden was also the first American woman to win the open division of the Boston Marathon in 33 years. Keflezighi is the only athlete to win and Olympic medal and the New York and Boston marathons. His name may also sound familiar as he frequently participates in the Quad-City Times Bix 7 in Davenport.
"It was a huge honor to work with them," Smith said.
The official beer of the Boston Marathon, 26.2 Brew is also a sponsor of the Los Angeles Marathon, Marine Corps Marathon, Orange County Marathon and Dallas Marathon. With Smith's ties to Iowa, she said she would love to partner with races such as the Bix 7.
Smith said she's been in the beer business for 13 years, moving to St. Louis after earning her degree in chemical engineering at Iowa State University. She worked for Anheuser-Busch for several years before moving to Boston.
She said she was always interested in brewing beer.
"I went to a career fair and learned I could make beer for a living," she said.
Growing up in Muscatine, where her parents Richard and Susan still live, Smith said she first started running in high school after girls cross country coach Dick Washburn talked her into joining the team. She graduated from Muscatine High School in 1998 and ran her first marathon in 2005. Since then she's competed in other marathons, half marathons and half Iron Man triathlons.
"I have really just loved the sport," she said.
The 2019 Boston Marathon was Monday and Smith was running. She said it was "a bit of a tough day." The day started off hot and humid, she said, and ended cold and rainy.
"It's always a special day, she said, "even if the time wasn't what I was hoping for. A marathon is never an easy endeavor and sometimes it's not your day."
Creating the beer was a "passion project," Smith said, to bring the two worlds of running and beer together.
Officially launched March 6, 26.2 Brew is available locally at both Kum and Go locations, Hy-Vee on 2nd Avenue, Fareway and Buffalo Wild Wings. The beer is also available in Davenport and Iowa City.
Though it was created with marathon runners in mind, Smith said the beer is not just for them.
While joking with a colleague she said someone "could have a 'marathon' day at work and celebrate that accomplishment."