“Astral’s new soles started by meeting the current benchmark for grip, verified through a development process that included lab and blind field tests. After improving the mechanical properties of the midsole to increase performance, Astral increased surface contact over the benchmark and added siping to improve grip. Upgrades were made to allow the sole to shed mud more effectively.”

Philip Curry, CEO of R&D at Astral Designs

The Astral Brewer River Shoe

River footwear is not always the most exciting topic in the world to talk or write about. There are A LOT of very similar models of shoes for you and your kayak, and most of them work pretty darn well. There are also a few different water shoes that separate themselves from the pack. And then there are shoes that are awesome, innovative, different and super cool…ones that are exciting to wear. The Astral Brewer is one of those shoes. From the moment that you put them on, you will appreciate the ultra light, comfortable and supportive (yet minimalist)  build, as well as their mad style.
Even the packaging that the Brewers come in is phenomenal. When I think of stellar packaging, I immediately think of Apple technology products, not Paddlesports branding. The iPod comes in a really cool plastic case that’s almost as cool as the mp3 player itself. The Brewer Shoes will arrive at your doorstep (when you order them from CKS of course)  in a really cool box that has art work on both the inside and outside. There’s even an info-graphic depicting all of the shoe’s cool features, and an extra set of laces in a complimentary color. Way to raise the bar Astral.
Here is some more information on the 2012 Astral Brewer Shoes:

Specs:

Astral_Brewer_River_Shoes_Review_Specs

Pro’s:

  • OVERALL PACKAGING AND BRANDING: As we already mentioned, the packaging, style and branding are as good as anything out there. It’s really cool to open up your shoes, and actually look forward to checking out Astral artist, Kris Northern’s graphics lining the interior of the box . The 2nd set of laces is also a nice touch.Astral_Brewer_River_Shoes_Review_Brilliant_overall_Packaging.jpgAstral_Brewer_River_Shoes_Review_Packaging.jpgAstral_Brewer_River_Shoes_Review_Shoes_With_Laces.jpg
  • LIGHT, MINIMALIST AND CLEAN:The very first thing that I noticed when putting on a pair of the Brewer’s was that they felt lighter than most shoes in their class, and were also very solid. They are sewn together well, and utilize the best (and most Eco-friendly) materials out there. The Cordura uppers, Stealth rubber soles, Natural Balance mid-sole and breathable air mesh vamp and tongue all blend together well creating very unique shoe.
    Astral_Brewer_River_Shoes_Review_Footbed_Comfy.jpg

    The Natural Balance, Zero Drop mid sole is comfortable, supportive and very light.Your toes are at the same level as your heel (not lower), which is more anatomically correct.

    Astral_Brewer_River_Shoes_Review_Stealth_Rubber.jpg

    Stealth Rubber rules the roost in the world of river shoes. It is sticky both in and out of the water and wears well.

    Astral_Brewer_River_Shoes_Review_minimalist_design_light_214g.jpg

    This pic says it all. Style, weight savings,comfort and support. The Brewer weighs in at 214g, and still manages to use Cordura, which is incredibly durable.

  • THE STEP DOWN HEEL IS A USEFUL FEATURE:The convertible heel is super useful. It was created for putting dry suits on in parking lots and other gravel surfaces. Once you get your feet inside of your suit (and have GORE TEX booties in particular), you can easily slip on the Brewers instead of standing directly on rock and debris. This will extend the life of your dry suit booties.
    Astral_Brewer_River_Shoes_Review_Convertible_Heel.jpg

    The Step Down convertible heel. No, you are not breaking your shoes when you crush the heel, and wear them like a slipper. This is the intended use.

  • **NATURAL BALANCE MIDSOLE (ZERO DROP) IS NOT HYPE** Zero drop footwear is a concept and style that has been in the running world for quite some time. The minimalist shoe movement has recently gained popularity with the release of the Vibram 5 toe shoes, and the book Born To Run. The Brewers follow in these footsteps (no pun intended) with a zero drop design mid-sole created by co-designers Philip Curry and Reglan Brewer. Basically, there is zero drop between your heel and the ball of your foot. They are on the same plane. This is a much more ergonomic setup. Think of it as the equivalent of a bent shaft paddle for your feet.
  • A TRUE MULTI PURPOSE SNEAKER: Chris Gragtmans was involved from the beginning with the testing and development of The Brewers. He mentioned that he initially wore them only on the Green River, but after time, saw the true potential for the shoe. He’s now using them for Cross-Fit, 5k running races, kayaking (including expeditionary trips in BC), biking, SUP, and wearing to work. Yes, Chris is a Astral Team athlete, but he did mention that he has no motivation to wear the Brewers all of the time, and hype them up, other than than the fact that he loves them.
    Astral_Brewer_River_Shoes_Review_R_And_D

    Green River R+D. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it. Photo by Effort Inc.

  • DRAINS WATER (AND DEBRIS) AND DRIES OUT QUICKLY:I had the chance to wear the Brewers on the river for the day, and noticed immediately that they evacuated water quickly. After paddling, I wore them home, and was impressed at how quickly they dried out. They are constructed with quite a bit of breathable mesh material and also have multiple drainage ports, including a large one on the heel of the shoe. Astral really nailed it with this design. Yes, there are other comfortable hybrid shoes out there, but I have not seen any that drain water as quickly, offer as much support, look as cool, and weigh as little…
    Astral_Brewer_River_Shoes_Review_Massive_Vent.jpg

    Flush port for rapid draining of water and debris like sand.

    Astral_Brewer_River_Shoes_Review_Vents.jpg

    More vents and drain ports

    Astral_Brewer_River_Shoes_Review_mesh.jpg

    The mesh tops are also good for rapidly draining water, drying out the shoe, and saving weight.

  • THE ROCKERED TOE AND LOW PROFILE HELP THE BREWER FIT IN SMALLER BOATS:The shape of the Brewer was created to fit well in smaller kayaks, as well as river runners and creekers. They are not necessarily play boating shoes, but if your foot is not huge, you can fit them in some pretty low volume boats. Also, the rockered toe is great for creating an anatomical fit in the bulkhead area of modern (and older model) boats.
     Astral_Brewer_River_Shoes_Review_Rockered_Toe.jpg

    The rockered toe fits really well in smaller kayaks.

Cons:

  • STEALTH RUBBER IS A MARKING SOLE ON CERTAIN SURFACES:The ultra sticky Stealth rubber on the soles of the Brewer are perfect for technical use in the river, and even as an approach shoe. That stickiness comes with a tradeoff; it leaves a mark on surfaces like tile, linoleum and basketball courts. Astral will be releasing the Porter this spring (2013), which is very similar to the Brewer, but with non-marking soles. The soles are actually made from recycled rubber, which is super cool.
  • BRAND NEW PRODUCT:A lot of people, including myself, get pretty excited when a brand like Astral releases an entirely new product. On the other hand, only time will tell how the Brewers stack up to other comparable shoes on the market. Judging from The Astral Buoyancy creed of not releasing a product until it is 100% prime time and perfect, we have no reason to think that the Brewer will be anything other than awesome. Can you say Green Jacket?
  • HARD TO FIND:We knew the Brewers would be a hit, but were surprised at how quickly we sold out of popular sizes, especially in the green and black color. Astral is pumping out Brewers as fast as they can, but can only build so many at a time.

The Verdict:

Upon first glance, the Astral Brewer’s look like a shoe that will soon become a staple in the river scene, and in the gear bags of many. With extra sticky stealth rubber, cat like traction, ultimate dexterity on slippery and rocky surfaces, and just plain cool style, the Brewers have already become one of the most popular SKU’s on the CKS website. We are close to sold out, and have placed another big order with Astral. The Brewers are one of the best lifestyle paddling shoes that we have ever seen. If you want to know even more about the Brewer, click on this  link to a really good review written by Astral SE rep, Spencer Cook. He basically reviews the shoe from the “a day in the life” perspective, and takes them boating, kayak surfing, stand up paddling, tree climbing, etc:
http://effort.tv/2012/08/imagine-a-shoe-the-astral-brewer-footwear-review/

WIN A FREE PAIR OF ASTRAL BREWERS, ALONG WITH OVER $2350 OF SUP GEAR! THE CKS ENDLESS SUP SUMMER SWEEPSTAKES INCLUDES A BADFISH MCIT, AND A WHOLE BUNCH OF TOP SHELF GEAR. CLICK ON THE LINK FOR DETAILS:
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