After a hike in the rural woods of Amherst, the last thing I expected to find as I cruised along Route 9 was a freshly poured craft beer. But when a nondescript sign reading “Brewery” caught my eye, well, I pulled right in to the old furniture factory-turned-microbrewery, Airline Brewing Co, and, in no time, I was bellied up to the tasting room bar enjoying a sampler of good brew with the sweat and bugs of the day’s walk already a memory.
Hiking and beer go naturally together, especially here in Maine, where there are miles and miles of scenic trails from the coast to the mountains. Paired with that are more than 80 microbreweries, like Airline Brewing Company, that serve up some of the best craft beer anywhere, just the thing after a few hours of healthful exercise and good fun on foot in the great outdoors.
Here are a half-dozen enjoyable and mostly easy hikes around Maine that can be followed up with a visit to a nearby brewery for some serious thirst quenching and revelry.
HIKE: On the Cutts Island Trail, walk through upland oak and pine forests and along tidal estuaries and salt marshes of the Brave Boat Harbor unit of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, named for the renowned biologist, author and environmentalist.
GETTING THERE: From the rotary in Kittery, off Exit 2 of the Maine Turnpike, drive south on Route 236/103. In just over a half-mile, bear right on Route 103 and follow it for nearly 3 miles. Turn right on Cutts Island Lane, cross the bridge over Chauncey Creek and park on the left.
BEER: Tributary Brewing Co. in Kittery’s central village is the culmination of the long-held dream of master brewer Tod Mott and his wife, Galen. The flagship beer is Tributary Pale Ale, but it’s Mott the Lesser, a Russian Imperial Stout, that really sets the brewery apart. Enjoy it among an ever-changing brew menu in the tasting room.
GETTING THERE: 10 Shapleigh Road, Kittery, www.tributarybrewingcompany.com, 703-0093.
HIKE: Enjoy the scenic Portland skyline on Back Cove Trail, then veer off near Tukey’s Bridge to explore the paths on the Eastern Promenade for views of Fort Gorges and the Casco Bay islands. Double back to Bayside Trail, which leads close to Rising Tide Brewery.
GETTING THERE: From I-295, take Exit 6 in Portland, then drive west on Forest Avenue (Route 302/100) for a quarter-mile. Turn right on Baxter Boulevard and follow this for another quarter-mile. Turn right onto Preble Street Extension and proceed to the huge parking lot on the left across from Hannaford.
BEER: Rising Tide Brewery in Portland’s East Bayside neighborhood makes artisanal, handcrafted ales in small batches. A rotating fleet of local food trucks feeds hungry visitors, while the tasting room sells beer samples, growlers, bottled beer and a variety of beer-themed gifts.
GETTING THERE: 103 Fox St., Portland, www.risingtidebrewing.com, 370-2337.
HIKE: Explore the rugged cliffs and spruce forests of this remote island 10 miles off the Maine coast. Combine the Cliff Trail and White Head Trail for a spectacular circuit connecting the village wharf to Burnt Head, White Head and the fascinating Lighthouse Museum.
GETTING THERE: Ferry passage to Monhegan is via Monhegan Boat Line from Port Clyde (www.monheganboat.com), Hardy Boat Cruises out of New Harbor (www.hardyboat.com), or Balmy Day Cruises from Boothbay Harbor (www.monhegandaytrip.com).
BEER: Monhegan Brewing Co. is owned by island residents Matt and Mary Weber, and Mary’s father, Danny McGovern, who together turned a “what if” into a successful brewery. Open from May to October, Monhegan brews a range of ales that change with the season. Have a draft in the outdoor “trap room” where picnic tables are walled in by lobster traps.
GETTING THERE: 1 Boody Lane, Monhegan, www.monheganbrewing.com.
HIKE: The Northern Headwaters Trail is a nice loop that leads along old stone walls and through pleasant forestlands, fields and orchards on Whitten Hill to the headwaters of the Sheepscot River and the start of its nearly sixty-mile journey to the sea.
GETTING THERE: From the junction of routes 3 and 220 in Liberty, turn north on Route 220 and drive 3.2 miles. Turn left on Halldale Road, bear right at a fork at 3.7 miles and reach the Whitten Hill trailhead on the left at 4.7 miles from Route 3.
BEER: Guy Hews started Liberty Craft Brewing next to his house on a mountaintop in the rural midcoast countryside. The tasting room has a treehouse feel to it and a great view to the Camden Hills from the deck. Liberty makes a good selection lagers and ales, dark and light beers; try several along with its menu of pub fare.
GETTING THERE: 7 Coon Mountain Lane, Liberty, www.libertycraftbrewing.com, 322-7663.
HIKE: Bucks Ledge on the southwest ridge of Moody Mountain in Woodstock offers good views over North and South ponds, to the ski slopes of Mount Abram and beyond, to the peaks around Evans Notch. A spur trail to Lapham Ledge en route is a scenic bonus. Finish the loop via Mann Road.
GETTING THERE: From the post office in Bryant Pond, drive north on Route 26 for 1.4 miles to a gravel woods road on the right just before a small camp. Park along Route 26, but don’t block the woods road, which is the start of the trail.
BEER: Sunday River Brewing Co. on the access road to Sunday River Ski Resort is the epicenter of the mountain country in the Bethel region and a favorite of locals and visitors alike. Among the mix of five to nine craft beers on tap, Mountain Momma IPA is the biggest seller. A full menu will satisfy the hungriest hiker.
GETTING THERE: 29 Sunday River Road, Bethel, sundayriverbrewingcompany.com, 824-4253.
HIKE: In the Amherst Mountains Community Forest, fragrant spruce and fir, lush mosses, little waterfalls and granite ledges are found along the loop hike connecting Ducktail and Partridge ponds, both great swimming spots. Complete the loop via the forest road.
GETTING THERE: From the junction of Routes 9 and 181 in Amherst, drive west toward Bangor for 1.5 miles. A blue sign marks the forest entrance. Turn right onto the old road and drive 2.3 miles to Indian Stream Day Use Area and parking for Ducktail Pond Trail.
BEER: Airline Brewing Co. opened its brewing operation and tasting room in Amherst in July and, soon after, opened a brewpub in downtown Ellsworth. Head brewer Ray Edgar makes a great lineup of English-, Scottish- and Irish-style ales; Pride of Ellsworth is the flagship brew.
GETTING THERE: 22 Mill Lane, Amherst and 173 Main St., Ellsworth; @airlinebrewingcompany on Facebook, 584-2337.
Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island is a longtime beer enthusiast, author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast and editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide. Follow more of Carey’s outdoor adventures at mainetoday.com/blog/maineiac-outdoors.