SF Bay Area
Food and drink that has us seeing gold
When I say “Let’s go to the bar and throw axes,” you say “What? Are you insane?” The phrase “axe throwing” most likely conjures up images of either burly lumberjacks or Viking crusaders. Whichever it is, it probably involves a large man wielding a sharp weapon in the wilderness, not a corporate outing in one of the most densely populated urban areas in the United States.
Urban Axes, a national chain of competitive axe-throwing establishments, is turning this bearded notion on its head. Soon, they’ll be bringing the experience to Boston suburb Somerville—one of the last places I would expect to see a lumberjack.
And the best part? At Urban Axes, you’ll be able to grab a brew or glass of wine from the on-site bar and enjoy it while you wait your turn to throw sharp objects. Don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe and legal—there are coaches (“axe-perts”) on hand to stop disasters before they happen, as well as help you become the best axe thrower you can be.
How did they come up with this, anyway?
According to Courtney Osgood, who runs public relations for Urban Axes, the idea came to two of the four founders when they went to a birthday party in an axe-throwing bar in Toronto.
“It was almost an immediate kind of aha-moment. They were like ‘We need to bring this to America, stat.’” she said. Since opening its first location in Philadelphia in September 2016, the chain has taken off in popularity, and they’ve already opened another location in Austin.
The popularity of the sport—and yes, it is a sport—is really not that surprising, if you think about it. I mean, who thinks that chucking an axe wouldn’t be fun, especially with a beer in hand? There are only so many times you can meet friends at a bar for drinks or go out to dinner—and the combination of its active and experiential nature, element of friendly competition, and almost weird novelty concept is what makes Urban Axes so successful.
For the founders, the Boston area was a logical next step after their wild successes in Philadelphia and Austin.
“We knew that Boston was a city we wanted to be in,” said Osgood. They further settled on Somerville because, well, it just felt right. “It’s this vibrant, awesome culture that is just cool, eclectic, sort of artsy and hipster-y at the same time—it was just the perfect vibe for Urban Axes.”
How does the whole thing actually work?
Think of it like next-level bowling combined with darts. It’s a bracket-style competition and you earn points by hitting and sticking to a target as close to the bullseye as possible. The axe-perts run through the whole process with you beforehand and supervise the entire game, letting you focus on what matters: unleashing your inner Viking and throwing that axe like a badass.
It sounds difficult, but the reality is that anyone can participate (although at Urban Axes, you do have to be at least 21). The learning curve is a little steep, but the satisfaction of hearing the thunk as your axe sticks for the first time more than makes up for the initial frustration. “It’s a really great empowering feeling when you do stick it,” said Osgood, who threw her first axe—and got her first bullseye—at the Philadelphia location in her battle armor complete with wedge booties.
“You can be big and small and old and young, everyone can do this,” she continued. “It’s not about strength, it’s about the momentum that you get and the flick of the wrist, as silly as that sounds. It’s much easier than one would think it would be.”
As if chucking axes around for a night doesn’t sound like enough fun, Urban Axes also offers eight-week leagues and is a founding member of the National Axe Throwing Federation, which hosts an annual national championship competition. So if you’re good enough, your team could make the big leagues (and win $7,500 while you’re at it).
So what’s next?
Judging by the rise in popularity of axe-throwing bars, Somerville isn’t the last stop for Urban Axes. Cities across the country are looking for more interesting ways to spend their Saturday nights—and I don’t know about the rest of you, Boston, but I know where I’m having my birthday party this summer.
Header image courtesy of Urban Axes.