There’s a reason why ‘beer Fridays’ actually begin on Thursday afternoons in design agencies all over the country – it’s because beer is good for creativity. While this does sound like a convenient excuse to crack open a brew, there’s actually some science to back this theory up. Beer isn’t the only way to spark your imagination though; research also suggests that exercise is good for idea generation. So if beer is good for creativity, and running is good for creativity, does beer + running = super creativity?

As most creatives know, with all of the distractions of Facebook feeds, emails and day to day tasks, original ideas rarely come while you’re sat by a computer. Instead, ideas filter into your mind during moments of clarity. Running is an easy way to let your mind wander, but a clutter-free mind is not the only factor in play. According to The Scientific American your brain gets a performance boost during exercise, as it’s receiving more oxygen, and as “the hippocampus, a part of the brain critical for learning and memory, is highly active during exercise,”  your mental capacity is also enhanced.

Drinking beer, on the other hand, has a different effect on the brain. A report in Psychology Today suggests that, among other effects, alcohol elevates levels of norepinephrine, which results in increased impulsivity. Alcohol also decreases “activity in the prefrontal cortex, the region responsible for decision making and rational thought.” This reduction in inhibition explains why alcohol causes us to act without thinking, but it could also allow us to open up to ideas and passages of thought that our sober, rational selves wouldn’t consider.

A Winning Combination

So the theory seems pretty sound; a post-run beer would result in a distraction free, well-fueled hippocampus, coupled with a suppressed prefrontal cortex. It’s got to be a winning combination, right?

“Beer and running, if nothing else, frees up the mind a little bit.” Says Blake Williams, whose Chicago branch of City Running Tours offers a Haymarket Brewery guided run.

“There’s something really nice about drinking an IPA after a five, six mile run. Your endorphins are raised, your stress is depleted; beer is the cherry on top. Our tours are such social events too, we get a group of people who don’t know each other, they do this hour tour, then they have a beer and it gets them much more socialized. I’ve found some of the best business connections are made over a beer”

Enjoying a beer after a run is also what inspired Matt Gray, president of Gray Matter Marketing, to launch the Craft Brew Race series in 2014. “The Craft Brew Races came from a mutual love of both road races and brew festivals. We were successfully producing both types of events and we saw there was some overlap with participants: an enthusiastic crowd that loved to get out and run, and come back to a cold craft beer. It attracts a great crowd.”

Of course, running and drinking is not a new idea, but from Matt’s perspective, the current craft beer revival adds a specific benefit to anyone seeking creativity. “As far as drinking influencing the process, I’d say it has a lot more to do with observing all the brilliant and original branding and design work that has accompanied this craft beer movement.”

The Craft Beer Running Boom

Gray’s race series began with five races in New England in 2014, and this year it has already doubled in size and expanded into Colorado, Georgia and Texas and it’s not the only business that has been inspired by craft beer and running.

Shoes and Brews, the country’s first brewery and running store combination, opened in Longmont, Colorado in July 2014. New Balance running shoes teamed up with Boston’s Harpoon Brewery to create the collaboration beer, Harpoon 1906, and Danish brewer Mikkeler recently launched the Mikkeler Running Club, which already has chapters in cities all over the globe.

There’s no doubt that running and craft beer is a fast growing trend, but does that mean we’ll also soon be experiencing a boom in super-creativity from inspired runners? Unfortunately that’s unlikely, because as Psychology Today reminds us, drinking beer reduces activity in the temporal cortex, “the brain region responsible for forming new memories”.  So, even though you may get an inspired, world-changing idea during a post-run drink, it’s also just as likely that you’ll forget it five minutes later.

It may be a stretch, therefore, to conclude that running and beer does equal super creativity, but there are some clear creative benefits to surrounding yourself with great design, good friends and freeing your mind from daily distractions. So next time you’re seeking inspiration, some fresh air, some fresh hops with friends and a fresh notepad could be the combination you need.

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