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