Breweries Do Good: Flat Tail’s Dave Marliave Rides for Brain Tumor Research

Thursday, May 9. 4:00 a.m. Rushing wind drowns out all other sounds but the engine, which sends its numbing vibrations up through his spinal cord. His hands are locked on the grips, and his helmet conveys the turbulent pressure of the air roiling up and over him to his neck and shoulders. It’s going to be a long ride. Dave Marliave, founder and head brewer at Flat Tail Brewing in Corvallis, OR, is on his third annual “Highway to Health,” a 1-day, 1,000 mile motorcycle marathon from Corvallis to San Diego to benefit the National Brain Tumor Society.

Windswept… Dave Marliave at the southern Oregon border on his 2019 Highway to Health ride. Photo via Facebook

Marliave started the fundraiser after Brewpublic founder Angelo DeIeso was diagnosed with a brain tumor. “When Angelo and I first met, he was hugely instrumental in getting the word out about Flat Tail,” says Marliave. “After Angelo’s diagnosis, there wasn’t a whole lot I could do other than donate a keg here and there for the various fundraisers he organized around Portland.” So far this year, he has raised $10,000 ($10 per mile) with hopes for another $5,000. Marliave expanded the fundraiser last year to include the Highway to Health Brewfest during Corvallis Beer Week. This year, the brewfest will feature “a selection of rare and one off beers in addition to a charity raffle with donated goods from Icon [Motosports], several Oregon breweries, and Benchmade knives.”

Marliave completed his first “Iron Butt” ride in 2016, just for fun. He realized that he could leverage that idea with sponsorship to help raise money for the National Brain Tumor Society. “With the ride project in my back pocket, it felt like this was my chance to return the favor and lend a hand to Angelo’s mission of finding a cure for brain tumors.”

The first ride, on May 1, 2017, raised over $8,000, which was $3,000 more than Marliave expected to raise. “The sponsors for year one were exclusively local beer industry friends and businesses, along with a motorcycle shop out of Medford.”

In 2018, Marliave got to work planning the ride and gathering pledges in January. He hoped to raise more than $10,000; between the ride and the brewfest he raised $11,300. The work to prepare for the ride is mental, physical, mechanical, and electronic; follow-up emails as part of his pledge drive took extra hours, his motorcycle, a 2016 BMW R1200GS Adventure, needs new tires and a full overhaul, complete with checking torque on bolts to minimize the risk of mishap and delay during the ride.

Physical fitness is essential for this endurance ride as well. “It takes a lot of flexibility and core strength to stay in the saddle for 16 hours with minimal break time, so I start an intense gym regimen on the first of the year that focuses on core strength, flexibility, and burning through the beer gut I spend all summer building up.” In the two weeks leading up to the ride, he gives up caffeine and alcohol, and rides 4-6 hours per week. Marathon runners may appreciate the dedication this ride takes.

Marliave found a way to combine doing something he likes with helping a cause for a good friend. But, as a brewer, he sees an extra layer to Highway to Health that extends beyond himself. “The biggest link between brewing and charity comes back to the root of what we are.  A brew Pub, is still a Pub, and despite most people having no clue what Pub is short for, we remember. A Public House is just that…an open, inclusive public home away from home. Historically this is a place to come and escape from life’s challenges, air your troubles with a friendly barkeep, and meet friends and family in celebration. What better way to draw the community in than by reaching out and banding together to support a cause?

The National Brain Tumor Society is a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that raises money to fund grants for brain tumor research across North America. It provides resources and information to brain tumor patients, and advocates to policy makers on Capitol Hill. NBTS is the largest brain tumor nonprofit in the country, and has raised over $38 million through its efforts.

Aaron Brussat
Aaron Brussat

Aaron Brussat is a complex living organism with an interest in all things fermented. He started writing about and working in the beer industry in 2010. His experience stems primarily from spending six years at The Bier Stein as a beer steward, homebrewing since 2005, and passing the BJCP and Certified Cicerone exams. Highlights along the way include numerous collaborations with local brewers, curating beer dinners at The Bier Stein, and traveling to Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Peru, and New Zealand (as well as many parts of the U.S.) for a chance to drink beer at the source.