8 New England Breweries to Pair with a Hike
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Gorgeous scenery and craft brewing are two of the things New England does best. So why not combine them for the perfect New England day? From the mountains of New Hampshire to the shores of Maine, here are 8 #brewhikes to try.
1. North Western Massachusetts – North Adams
Outdoorsy options are plentiful in this part of Western Mass. But if you’re up for a challenge, there’s no better hike than to the top of Mount Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts. Enjoy any one of the 70 trails within the reservation, like the challenging 9.6-mile loop to the peak that traces Henry David Thoreau’s 1844 hike, or a slightly more low-key 6.2-mile round-trip summit hike that takes about 4-5 hours from the Mount Greylock Campground.
Once you’re at the top, take a moment to catch your breath and take in views that stretch to Vermont and New York. By this point you’ll be craving a cold one, and you’ll be in luck—because from the end of the trail it’s about a half-hour drive to Bright Ideas Brewing. The space is a nod to North Adams’s industrial past, with gorgeous brick walls and a 40-foot bar made by local workers. Its diverse lineup of beers manages to bridge the divide between visiting art lovers (mind-bending contemporary art is right next door at Mass MoCA!) and the local crowd. Plus, there’s pizza.
2. South Western Massachusetts – Great Barrington
If you find yourself in the southern stretch of the Berkshires, get a taste of the Appalachian Trail in Beartown State Forest, which has miles of hiking and multiuse trails. Walking on the Appalachian is generally an out-and-back that can be as long or as short as you like, but the forest’s most popular option is the gorgeous Benedict Pond Loop Trail, an easy hike that wraps 1.5 miles around a tree-fringed lake.
After, swing by Barrington Brewery & Restaurant for their serious list of beers, plus a sprawling menu of sandwiches, salads, burgers, and more. Head straight through the dining room for the bar, where regulars’ mugs hang overhead and every possible surface is covered in coasters from breweries around the world. The tap list changes with the season, but the Black Bear Stout and Barrington Brown are local favorites.
3. Central Vermont – Woodstock & Vicinity
Seven miles east of Woodstock, Quechee State Park’s Quechee Gorge Trail is a pleasant 2.2-mile round-trip hike that starts at the visitors center and leads into Vermont’s deepest gorge, which was carved by retreating glaciers. On a hot day, it’s a lovely place to take a dip in the water.
Follow up this short trail with a can from Long Trail Brewing Company, which is about a half an hour drive away. Long Trail started filling kegs in 1989, and its flagship amber ale is now ubiquitous in Vermont. If that’s the only Long Trail brew you’ve tried, you’ll be astounded by the selection at the brewery, which keeps around 13 beers on tap. Standouts include the barrel-aged Triple Bag, but the bartenders are through-and-through beer geeks who can guide your selection. The brewery also has a menu of pub food featuring wings, burgers, and other beer-friendly meals. A raised walkway overlooks the bottling and brewing facility, giving you a fascinating bird’s-eye view of the action.
4. Northwest Vermont – Stowe
Though it has a reputation for being a ski town, there’s plenty of hiking (and drinking!) options in Stowe. One of the best is the steep, 1.1-mile hike from Smuggler’s Notch Road to Sterling Pond, a scenic body of water that dazzles in autumn. Once there, take the additional 1.4-mile loop around the pond, and then head back into town to treat yourself.
Stowe is blessed with a wealth of locally-made craft beers, starting with the Austrian lagers at Von Trapp Brewery & Bierhall. Favorites include the malty Vienna Style Lager and the Helles Lager, and the Bierhall’s menu of Austrian pub food—think cheddar and beer soup, hot soft pretzels, and many kinds of sausages—are perfect pairings for the entire lineup. In contrast, the beers at Idletyme Brewing Company are defined by their distinctiveness. The brewer is consistently creative, with seasonal specials along with a list of mainstays: Try the Pink ‘n’ Pale, an American pale ale brewed with a hint of bitter grapefruit.
5. Northwest Vermont – Burlington
Just south of Burlington in Charlotte you’ll find Mount Philo State Park, whose namesake low-lying peak offers incredible views of Lake Champlain, the Adirondacks, and more. Starting at the parking lot, the 1.9-mile Mount Philo Trail loops up to the summit. It’s a relatively easy, family-friendly hike with a huge payoff at the top.
Back in Burlington, you’re not likely to run out of craft beer options—after all, Vermont has more breweries per capita than any other state! If all the choices make you think you’d like a tour guide (and chauffeur), you can hop on the bus with Burlington Brew Tours, which will take you to all the hotspots. Zero Gravity Craft Brewery has something for most beer lovers, starting with the flagship Conehead, a single hop wheat IPA that’s brewed with Citra hops and is aromatic and hoppy without being overpowering. Another favorite is the London Calling, an English ordinary bitter that’s malty and mellow—and not particularly bitter. Queen City Brewery makes European-style beers in a nondescript industrial building. The tasting room has more charm and is lined with old beer cans and historical images of Burlington. Try the hugely popular Yorkshire Porter, an English dark ale that’s rich and full bodied, or Argument, an English India pale ale that’s brewed true to style: strong and bitter. Foam Brewers, a relatively recent addition to Burlington’s beer scene, has hoppy, aromatic beers made by passionate beer geeks.
6. Northwest New Hampshire – White Mountains & Franconia Range
For the ultimate hike in the Franconia Range, plan for at least six hours on the Franconia Ridge Loop, a rugged trail that goes up and over three peaks: Little Haystack Mountain, Mount Lincoln, and Mount Lafayette. You’ll climb 3,480 feet in about four miles, passing waterfalls, knife-edge ridges, and other scenic views. (Pro tip: for a slightly more moderate hike, try the Mount Pemigewasset Trail instead.)
Afterwards, it’s about a 15-minute drive north to the Schilling Beer Co., which brews small-barrel batches of European-style beers that range from more familiar Hefeweizens to offbeat pours, like a sour brown wild ale, Leipzig-style gose, and Czech black lagers. If you’re feeling famished after the trek, take a seat in the historic riverside barn or kick back on the patio with one of their Neapolitan-style pizzas.
7. Eastern New Hampshire – Mount Washington
The crown jewel of the Presidential Ridge of the White Mountains, Mount Washington is one of the greatest tests of hiking endurance and skill in America. Its height and status as a meeting place for storm fronts and high winds make for dangerous, volatile weather conditions from November to April. Experienced and prepared hikers will be rewarded with a beautiful perch that, on a clear day, offers views as far north as Canada and as far east as the Atlantic Ocean. Don’t try to hike to the top of Mount Washington if you haven’t yet summited a mountain of more than at least 3,000 feet (915 m).
The Tuckerman Ravine Trail, starting at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, is the most popular way up and down the mountain, and far too many inexperienced tourists in sandals and blue jeans will be out there. Stick to Tuckerman Ravine—especially if it’s your first time. If you do, however, want a little more out of it (and you don’t want to constantly navigate around tourists), try veering onto the Lion’s Head Trail, which branches off from Tuckerman Ravine at Hermit Lake and works you out a little more with challenging boulders and a narrow, exposed ride to the head-wall, which comprises the final mile or so. For the way down, the Tuckerman Ravine makes more sense, as you’ll have a slightly more level descent, but not by much.
After, head to nearby North Conway to chow down on a burger or some barbecue while downing a pint at Moat Mountain Smokehouse & Brewing Co. You’ll find burgers, nachos, sandwiches, and pizzas, along with—of course—smoked meats. The brewery cranks out a variety of styles for all types of drinkers.
8. Southern Maine – Portland
If urban “hikes” are more your thing, check out Back Cove Trail in Portland. Back Cove is a 3.6-mile paved trail that circles a small estuary just north of downtown. If you’re headed from north to south, the trail connects to the Eastern Promenade, a slender waterfront park that 2.1 miles end-to-end, with walking trails, a popular swimming beach, and jaw-dropping sunrise views. Check out Portland Trails for more maps and directions to some of the city’s best offerings.
Afterwards, explore the cutting edge of American beer with a cluster of breweries that are walking distance from downtown. (The Maine Brew Bus is also an option.) Don’t miss Rising Tide Brewing Company, which has a diverse list of beers on tap, including the flagship Daymark American Pale Ale, a gorgeously balanced brew made with locally grown rye. Devoted beer geeks should head next door to Maine Craft Distilling, which uses many local ingredients in its offerings, including whiskey, rum, gin, and the unusual Black Cap Barley Spirit, made entirely with Maine-grown barley and filtered through Maine maple charcoal. Shipyard Brewing Company started in Kennebunkport, but the heart of Maine’s largest brewery is just on the edge of downtown Portland. The tasting room has a brewpub feel, with barrels of aging beers stacked high against the walls, and a huge selection of brews on draft. Finally, stop for a tasting at Allagash Brewing Company, which turns out beers beloved across New England, like the refreshing Allagash White and a rich-tasting tripel that packs a malty wallop.
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