Vermont: The Roly Grail of ‘Bikes and Beer’ Destinations?

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With over a thousand miles of glorious singletrack, excellent touring routes and a plethora of prestigiously awarded craft breweries, is Vermont the Holyland of ‘bikes and beer’ travel destinations?

Instead of being about ‘travel on bikes’, this post is about ‘travel with bikes’… to a place that has some of the most sought out single track on the East Coast. And it just so happens that Vermont packs a lot of superb beer tourism opportunities into a relatively small space. In fact, Vermont has more breweries per capita than any other state. Over 35, to be more specific—three of which hold 16 of the 200 most top rated beers in the world, including #1. Luckily for me, my best-wife-ever allowed me to plan part of our adventureversary around my 2 favorite things—bikes and beer.

About the Riding

We spent 4 days exploring the multiple-use trail system based around Burke Ski mountain. The Kingdom Trails, nestled in a remote Northeast corner of Vermont, were established by local residents and business owners to preserve their natural areas and promote economic growth in the area. The trail network is situated around Burke ski mountain, endless forest and beautiful farmland based on a ridge called Darling Hill. The privately held trails offer everything from twisty, wooded and loamy tracks to fully machined bermed downhills. There are big loops, lift-served downhills (on the weekends) and even shuttle service to certain areas. With names like ‘Tap ‘n Die’, ‘Jester’, ‘Troll Stroll’ and ‘Roly Grail’, these trails can be described in one word—’playful’. They are loads of fun and you would have to spend a lot of time in the saddle here to get tired of the 150+ miles of trails. See photo captions and notes below for some details.

Of course, there are more riding options in this ridiculously quaint state. Aside from trail-riding, Vermont has some extremely nice road routes with nice wide shoulders and little to no traffic. Absolutely everything here is quaint… even the state capital is sans a McDonalds, no less… the only state capital in the US without the golden arches. Not to mention the state ban on billboards has a beautifying effect that you don’t recognize until you leave.

A one hour beautiful drive from East Burke will get you to Waterbury, and 30 minutes more will take you to Stowe. Both of these towns have pretty legendary trails. Everything in Vermont is close, which makes it nice as a destination. And, here is the big bonus, there are breweries everywhere in between…

About The Beer

The breweries were actually an afterthought for me. I had heard that Vermont was flowing with craft beer, but it wasn’t until we picked it as a destination that I did a little brew-research. My mouth started watering once I found that The Alchemist, maker of the #1 beer as rated by Beer Advocate, was only an hour away from Burke. Then I ran across other award winners, like Hill Farmstead and Lawson’s Finest Liquids. And visit them, we did.

The first that we visited was The Alchemist. Could their Heady Topper be the best post-ride beer I’ve ever had? I think so. After riding the ‘3 Ts’ route in the Kingdom, we made the pilgrimage to Waterbury and entered the holy gates of this magical brewing establishment. Wow. Read the full review here.

Another highlight visit was Hill Farmstead, located in Greenboro, VT (otherwise known as the middle of nowhere). We meandered through several miles of gravel roads to get to this lovely hill-perched farm brewery. After saying, ‘I don’t think we took the right road,’ several times, we rolled over a hill and saw 20 or 30 parked cars that had brought other craft beer devotees to this chaste site. Hill Farmstead has 14 brews in the top 250, according to Beer Advocate. Most of the seasonal current batches are ales including the popular ‘Edward’ and their ‘Vera Mae,’ which is brewed with local honey and dandelion from the farm. Delicious.

Bikes and Beer

As the craft beer market continues to explode in the US, people are taking their love of beer on the road more and more. Beer tourists flock to their beloved shrines as destinations or to supplement their travel plans. As a mountain biking trip, this one was great. Adding some ‘beer tourism’ in the mix made the trip fantastic. So, is Vermont the holy of holies for bike/beer travel? Not sure, but it was definitely special for us.

Do you know any great ‘bike and beer’ destinations? Let me know in the comments box below…

Mountain Biking Kingdom Trails, Vermont

The Kingdom Trails Center—A helpful staff can show you some good routes.

Mountain Biking Kingdom Trails, Vermont
The meadow along Schoolhouse Run.

Mountain Biking Kingdom Trails, Vermont

Gin sampling some local blackberries.

Mountain Biking Kingdom Trails, Vermont

This guy seemed to be guarding these.

Mountain Biking Kingdom Trails, Vermont

Some very nice 18″ ladder bridges along East Branch.

Mountain Biking Kingdom Trails, Vermont

Stopping above a switchback to grab a snack.

Mountain Biking Kingdom Trails, Vermont

Out of the woods and climbing to ‘Heaven’s Bench’.

Mountain Biking Kingdom Trails, Vermont

Gin emerging from behind a boulder.

Mountain Biking Kingdom Trails, Vermont

Looking rad in her new riding glasses.

Mountain Biking Kingdom Trails, Vermont

The last berm on Sidewinder. The walled berms are much bigger on the upper section. I arrived at the bottom literally laughing with joy.

Mountain Biking Kingdom Trails, Vermont

Some odd wind-blown pines at the top of Old Webs.

Mountain Biking Kingdom Trails, Vermont

Going to pasture on The Loop.

Rock Art Brewery, Vermont

Day one post-ride beer: Vermonster from Rock Art. This is a very ‘big’ beer. Loads of hops and malt true to the barley wine style.

Mountain Biking Kingdom Trails, Vermont

Lots of fallen birch in the forest.

Rock Art Brewery, Vermont

A visit and sampling from Rock Art Brewery outside of Stowe.

Three Penny Taproom

I was told to visit the Three Penny Taproom in Montpelier to find the best local bees on tap. They didn’t disappoint with Hill Farmstead’s Edward.

Three Penny Taproom

Just look at that draught list!

Hill Farmstead, Vermont

Edward.

Mountain Biking Kingdom Trails, Vermont

A day off riding with a hike to Mt. Pisgah at the Willoughby Gap. Gin showing off her battle scars from ‘Tap ‘n Die’ the day before… a scary fall I must say.

willoughby Gap, Vermont

Very interesting fungus flowers.

Willoughby Gap, Vermont

Mt. Pisgah is the one on the right. Simply had to hike it because of it’s name.

East Burke Vermont

Saw a couple ‘self-serve’ farm stands. Awesome!

East Burke Vermont

Sunflowers near East Burke.

Mountain Biking Kingdom Trails, Vermont

A barn at the Inn at Mountain View Farm on Darling Hill.

Mountain Biking Kingdom Trails, Vermont

Nice decor in the Kingdom Trails Center.

Mountain Biking Kingdom Trails, Vermont

Traversing Burke Mountain preparing to drop in on J-Bar! Willoughby Gap in the distance.

Mountain Biking Kingdom Trails, Vermont

A ladder bridge on J-Bar.

Mountain Biking Kingdom Trails, Vermont

A long bridge on Moose Alley.

Mountain Biking Kingdom Trails, Vermont

The forest floor.

Mountain Biking Kingdom Trails, Vermont

The greeting party on the trail exit at Darling Hill.

Mountain Biking Kingdom Trails, Vermont

A fast and fun downhill on Sky Dive.

Mountain Biking Kingdom Trails, Vermont

Following the river out White School.

Mountain Biking Kingdom Trails, Vermont

Berms, berms and berms on the machined Jester.

Jester - Mountain Biking Kingdom Trails, Vermont
Big berms.

East Burke Vermont
The country store in East Burke.

Kingdom Trails

A nice wall-hanging in the Kingdom Trails Center.

Vermont - bikes and beer

Gin decorated our transportation with some local wildflowers for the ride to Hill Farmstead.

Vermont - bikes and beer - Hill Farmstead

Hill Farmstead Brewery.

Hill Farmstead, Vermont

Their logo says a lot. Evidently it came from the owner’s great, great, great grandfather’s tavern which was up the hill from the current farm location.

Hill Farmstead, Vermont

I wish I had access to one of these all the time.

Hill Farmstead, Vermont

The owner, Shaun Hill, serving it up at the retail area.

Kingdom Trails trail map

My worn and marked trail map.

Vermont Breweries - Bikes and beer

Other useful info from the visitor center – Vermont Brewery Map, bike routes and a Yankee Brew News!

Kingdom Trails Routes

Tags

  • Wandering by Bicycle

    Ah, the secret is out, we have it pretty good in the Green Mountain State. In addition to great singletrack, Vermont has more dirt roads than paved.

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Nice! That’s good to know. I would love to do a couple week tour up there one summer.

  • Mimi

    What a great article highlighting one of our favorite places. We were there in early August and had four great days of riding and also made the trip over to the Hill Farmstead Brewery (the Headytopper stop was a few weeks prior!). Actually this could have been our experience minus the hike and the fall, that was the year before! Thanks for sharing this, it makes me long to go back.

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Thanks Mimi! I am already longing to go back myself… what a great place to be in August.

  • John

    The barns you show in these nice photos are at the Inn at Mountain View Farm, not the Wildflower, another nice place but down at the other end if Darling Hill Road!

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Fixed… good catch, thanks! We had a hard time keeping the proper names of Inns straight while we were up there…

  • Nate

    Sweet. I think you could do a similar article in Oregon. Yes I.

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    I’d love to… maybe next summer.

  • Noah

    My best friend and I completed the full craft brew tour this summer. We followed class 4 and dirt roads almost the whole way! A beautiful way to see my home state. Fantastic views and brews, for sure. Thanks for bringing attention to just some of what makes Vermont great!

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Nice! Do you have your route posted anywhere?

  • Noah

    Not officially, we used the Vermont Gazetter, which is a collection of maps outlining the class four and “ancient roads ” throughout the state. These sometimes lead up a driveway or through someone’s yard, but it was an amazing companion. I highly recommend that and the. Vermont Brewer’s Association map. That and the willingness to get lost in the best way possible.

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Cheers to that last statement!

  • Rob Stercraw

    Im from TX, been here 40 years. My wife is from VT, and i went biking up there this summer. The place is absolutely amazing!!! I almost didnt leave. I am planning a 10ish day bike packing trip for late may early june. I hope for paved and dirt roads, hills, wind, flats, and maybe a couple miles through Maine if im lucky. Any suggestions on specific routes to experience all this? I just started to put this plan into action, so by summer ill be ready. Just hoping for some experience advice. Such an awesome trip… Rock On!!!

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    Hi Rob. We don’t have any routes in Vermont yet, but stay tuned…

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