Mixing a good brew and mountain biking is as natural as serving a fresh slice of apple pie with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. And we New Englanders have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to quality brewpubs, no matter where your two wheels take you. The toughest decision is choosing which pub to visit.
Right out my front door on Boston’s North Shore, I’ve got plenty of off-road riding options. Yes, that makes me, and my riding buddies, very, very lucky. And just when you think we couldn’t get any luckier, Ipswich opens a pair of outstanding brewpubs.
The latest is the True North Ale Company (TrueNorthAles.com), with a taproom offering “Northern Haze,” a juicy New England IPA, and “Ice Bucket Pale” a West Coast extra pale ale (proceeds support ALS research). Other faves are the Brouges Belgian sour ale, a hoppy amber called Detour and refreshing Mexican lager called Cerveza. Across town, the Brewer’s Table at the Ipswich Ale Brewery (ipswichalebrewery.com) couples two dozen outstanding beverage selections (try the coffee-inspired Zumatra Stout, Pumpkin Porter or the fruity Cranberry Beret) with a farm-fresh pub menu.
I love the “bring your own food” option at Night Shift Brewing(nightshiftbrewing.com) in Everett, where I try to mix and match my home-cooked grub with a variety of on-tap offerings like Santilli, an American IPA, and a light lager called Night Lite (“mixed fermentation” fans will love the Rickey Weisse, with raspberries and limes). To the west, in Monson, the Tree House Brewing Company (treehousebrew.com) is the little brewpub that could. Among the 30 rotating offerings are the Julius, a hoppy American IPA with hints of passion fruit, mango and citrus, Alter Ego American IPA, an American blonde ale called Eureka, a German-style pilsner called Trail Magic, and a complex milk stout named That’s What She Said. No, I didn’t ask why.
If you’re up by Loon Mountain in Lincoln in late June, be sure to check out the 14th annual New England Brewfest (nebrewfest.com) on June 23, with more than a dozen regional breweries plying their suds. The Woodstock Inn Station & Brewery (woodstockinnnh.com) in North Woodstock had been brewing its own craft beers for two decades. Coupled with a family-friendly restaurant and inn, the brewery is onestop shopping for the thirsty adventurer. The Kane Country Maple Porter is a real treat, as is the Summer Brew, a light pilsner. And that’s not to take anything away from their everyday offerings, such as Red Rack Ale, 4000 Footer IPA and Pig’s Ear Brown Ale. To the north, past Cannon ski area, is the Schilling Beer Company (schillingbeer.com) in Littleton. The brewery/brewpub has an impressive selection, including a dry, spicy Abbey-style Erastuc, a Bavarianstyle golden Paulus, the dark, complex Georg lager, a German-style Randus ale, a Czech pale lager named Alexndr, and a “tart” pale ale named Konundrum. On the opposite side of the Kancamagus Highway, the Moat Mountain Smokehouse & Brewing Company in North Conway(moatmountain.com) is housed in a beautiful white Colonial, appearing to be more fine dining than brew pub. Don’t be fooled. One sip of any of the numerous brews available here, including Square Tail Stout, Cathedral Ledge Lager or Bone Shaker Brown Ale, and you’ll know these guys are the real deal. After a really good hammerfest, nothing is quite as refreshing as Miss V’s Blueberry Ale. Close by, the Seadog Brewing Company(seadogbrewing.com) in North Conway offers a pair of great wheat ales (blueberry or raspberry) and the always popular Old Gollywobbler Brown ale. You can also find Seadog pubs in Maine (Topsham, South Portland, Camden and Bangor, where you can tour the brewery), and soon in Exeter, N.H., (near Fort Rock, the superb trail network that combines Henderson-Swasey Town Forest in Exeter and Oakland Town Forest in Newfields).
Vacationland has a ridiculous number of breweries. Perhaps the best “starting point” is the Maine Brewers’ Guild Maine Beer Trail(mainebrewersguild.org), or the Summer Session Beer Festival on Thompson’s Point in Portland, July 28. By the coast, and the sinewy trail system of Bradbury Mountain State Park in Pownal, is Gritty McDuff’s(grittys.com) in the outlet mecca of Freeport. Founded in 1988, Gritty’s bills itself as Maine’s “original brew pub,” putting it at the forefront of a brewing renaissance. It continues to lead the way with outstanding offerings “from grain to glass,” such as Black Fly Stout, Vacationland Ale, Sebago Light Ale and Original Pub Style. Another terrific coastal option is the Maine Brew Bus (mainebrewbus.com). Tours launch from Old Port Spirits and Cigars on Commercial Street, and depending on the day and tour, visit a variety of great breweries and distilleries, including Foundation Brewing, Rising Tide Brewing, Foulmouthed Brewing, Maine Mead Works, DL Geary’s Brewing, Island Dog Brewing, Nonesuch River Brewing, Goodfire Brewing, Definitive Brewing, Lone Pine Brewing, Sebago Brewing, Mast Landing Brewing and Bunker Brewing. Another Portland gem, Allagash Brewing Company (allagash.com) boasts a fun array of traditional Belgian-inspired brews (“Black” being my top choice), and a slew of seasonal choices. For the adventurous, try one of their “coolship” beers, crafted using spontaneous fermentation. Owned by the Stone Coast Brewing Company, the Sunday River Brew Pub in Bethel (sundayriverbrewingcompany.com) is a big, spacious pub, and a nice complement to the Shipyard Brew Haus Restaurant at the White Cap Lodge.
Here, at the base of the resort’s access road but still close to Sunday River’s grin-inducing trail network, you can just stretch out and relax. I’m partial to the sweet Sunday River Alt, refreshing Raspberry Wheat, or the robust, roasted Black Bear Porter.
For a dizzying selection of local offerings, put the 10th annual Hops in the Hills Festival at Okemo (okemo.com) in Ludlow on your calendar (Aug. 3-5).
The Hill Farmstead Brewery (hillfarmstead.com) in remote North Greensboro is “the revival and continuation of 220 years of Hill heritage and hand-crafted history,” highlighted by a logo derived from a sign that hung in Aaron Hill’s tavern, just up the hill, in the early 1800s. The brewery produces small, controlled barrels of uber popular beers, and you’ll be able to find more than a dozen on tap on any given day. Idletyme Brewing in Stowe (idletymebrewing.com) features the offerings of brewmaster Will Gilson. This Mountain Road brewery continues the legacy of The Shed, a Stowe institution shuttered in 2011. The craft-brewed ales and lagers are the perfect complement to the extensive menu, which includes both pub fare and fine dining options. Favorites include the velvety Vanilla Porter, British-style Oatmeal Stout, Munich-style Dunkel Lager, and the signature Idletyme Ale.
Burlington is replete with brewpubs and breweries, led by Magic Hat(magichat.net). Check out Switchback Brewing Company(switchbackvt.com). In addition to Switchback Ale and Connector IPA, the brewery also offers “rotating specials,” which can include SwitchBock Keller Bier, Slow-Fermented Brown Ale, Citra-Pils Keller Bier, Marzen Fest Bier, Dooley’s belated Porter and Roasted Red Ale, plus limited runs of French Saison, Berliner Weisse, Export Stout, Thai Lime Gose, Bohemian Pilsner and Smoke Marzen. Lost Nation Brewing (lostnationbrewing.com) in Morrisville, once the home of Chris Chance’s iconic Fat City Cycles, bills itself as “honest small-batch beer,” including a traditional German Gose, a light-bodied blonde called Petit Ardennes, a hoppy, ruby-tinted Rustic Ale, a golden Vermont Pilsner and a smooth, dark, Pitch Black beer. Finally, the Long Trail Brewing Company (longtrail.com) at Bridgewater Corners, a short drive from Killington, is a Vermont institution, with almost two dozen year-round and seasonal brews available. With a double IPA named Over the Handlebars (8.6 percent alcohol), how can a mountain biker not love this place?