Hiking enthusiasts can combine their passion for the outdoors and love for beer along the Maine Beer Trail, which showcases the state’s wealth of breweries and brewpubs. Plenty of good beer, delicious food and fun company await on this beer adventure – just the thing after exploring the many and varied hiking trails and walking paths near each stop.
“We’ve got 69 licensed breweries in Maine and expect to exceed 80 by the end of 2016,” said Sean Sullivan, executive director of the Maine Brewers Guild, which developed the Maine Beer Trail six years ago and produces a passport brochure that describes the brewery locations and the availability of tasting rooms, dining, tours and snacks at each site.
“The Maine Beer Trail is a reference guide that gives people a reason to visit places they might not otherwise. It’s an incentive to explore with rewards at the end,” said Sullivan, noting that beer trail followers can win prizes for visiting the breweries, getting their passport stamped and returning it to the guild. “I mean, who wouldn’t want to be rewarded for drinking beer?”
Craft beer pioneer D.L. Geary opened the first brewery east of the Mississippi River in Portland in 1986. Thirty years later, Maine continues to be a leader in the industry, ranking sixth in the U.S. for breweries per capita and owing much of its success to the wide variety and excellent quality of the beers produced here, according to Sullivan.
Maine is also a national leader in conservation. Over the last four decades, the total amount of protected land has increased from just 1 percent of the state’s area to an estimated 20 percent, or 3,720,000 acres, according to the Maine Land Trust Network. Miles and miles of trails have been built on these lands for the enjoyment of many on foot.
“The Maine Beer Trail isn’t just a list, it’s an adventure,” said Sullivan. “You’re invited to visit our breweries across Maine, in city pubs and river lodges, revitalized mills and old barns, in downtown store fronts and hidden dirt road hideaways. This is your trail map.”
Gather up your hiking gear, download a copy of the Maine Beer Trail passport (mainebrewersguild.org), grab an Appalachian Mountain Club trail guide (“Maine Mountain Guide” or “Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast”), and toss your DeLorme Maine Atlas & Gazetteer into the car. Here are a just a few suggestions for fun hikes and good brews.
HIKE: The Saco Beach Loop in Saco is the highlight of the Saco Bay Trail network, with 4 miles of hiking through mixed woods and along the ocean, beginning and ending at Ferry Beach State Park.
GETTING THERE: 95 Bayview Road, Saco. sacobaytrails.org
BEER: Slake your post-hike thirst at the Run of the Mill Public House & Brewery in a historic textile mill on the Saco River in downtown Saco, with its good selection of lagers, ales, wheats, stouts, cask-conditioned beers and great pub food.
GETTING THERE: 100 Main St., Saco; therunofthemill.net, 571-9648).
HIKE: Take a hike on the 10-mile Forest City Trail, part of the 70-mile Portland Trails regional network, which links the city’s green spaces and historic neighborhoods from the Stroudwater River to the Presumpscot River.
GETTING THERE: The Forest City Trail can be accessed from numerous trailheads across Portland. Check trails.org for a convenient parking area.
BEER: Rising Tide Brewery in Portland’s East Bayside neighborhood makes handcrafted beers in small batches. Food trucks outside feed hungry visitors, while the tasting room sells beer samples, growler fills, bottled beer and beer-themed gifts.
GETTING THERE: 103 Fox St., Portland; risingtidebrewing.com, 370-2337
HIKE: Don your winter boots and strap on snowshoes to tackle one of the mountain peaks in the upper Kennebec River Valley, like Pleasant Pond Mountain on the Appalachian Trail or Mosquito Mountain near Moxie Pond. Both reward with big vistas from the summit ledges.
GETTING THERE: Directions to Pleasant Pond Mountain: From U.S. 201 in Caratunk, at a point 14 miles north of US 201 and ME 16 in Bingham, drive 0.8 miles to Caratunk village, then turn right and head uphill on Pleasant Pond Road. At 3.9 miles, take the left fork onto North Shore Road. At 5.3 miles, bear right into the woods where Boise Crossover Road bears left. Trailhead parking is 0.3 miles beyond. Note: The road is not plowed all the way in and will require walking.
GETTING THERE: Directions to Mosquito Mountain: From U.S. 201 in The Forks, just before the bridge over the Kennebec River, turn right on Lake Moxie Road. Follow this for 5.3 miles to Lake Moxie Station and a T intersection. This is the end of the plowed way. From here, walk right on Troutdale Road for 1.9 miles to a point just beyond where the road bears left away from the powerline and enters the woods. The trailhead is on the right, across from two camps.
BEER: Come in out of the cold for a pint and some good pub grub at the Kennebec River Brewery in The Forks Plantation, which has been making a fine selection of lagers and ales at the Northern Outdoors year-round adventure resort since 1997.
GETTING THERE: 177 U.S. 201, Forks Plantation; northernoutdoors.com, 800-765-7238
HIKE: Vaughn Woods in Hallowell is a pretty 197-acre preserve featuring woods of tall white pines, extensive fields, a series of beautiful stone bridges and a large pond, the source of Vaughan Brook. Three miles of trails wend through the property
GETTING THERE: 2 Litchfield Road, Hallowell; vaughanhomestead.org, 622-9831
BEER: The nearby Liberal Cup Public House & Brewery is a cozy watering hole and eatery in downtown Hallowell. There are six rotating taps and a guest tap, and pints are generous 20-ounce servings, hence the name of the place.
GETTING THERE: 115 Water St., Hallowell; theliberalcup.com, 623-2739
HIKE: The Cathance River Nature Preserve features 5 miles of hiking on four interconnected loops, much of it along a wild stretch of the Cathance River, an ecology center and another mile of trail around a pretty heath and several old quarry ponds
GETTING THERE: I-295 Exit 31 in Topsham, turn east toward Brunswick, on ME 196. Travel 1.2 miles, straight through the Lee Toyota intersection. Travel another half-mile, where on your left you’ll see white fencing and flags. Turn left at the traffic light, into the Highland Green entrance. Stay straight for 1.5 miles. You will see the golf club on your left. Stay on Evergreen Circle, the winding main village road of Highland Green, for about 1 additional mile. Look for Junco Drive on your left. The parking area for the Ecology Center and for hiking is straight ahead, on the left, creamaine.org, 331-3032.
BEER: The Sea Dog Brewing Co. occupies a commanding location on the banks of the Androscoggin River in the old Bowdoin Mill in Topsham. They’ve been crafting traditional English-style beers since 1993, and a full menu of food complements the beer list.
GETTING THERE: 1 Main St., Topsham; seadogbrewing.com, 725-0162
HIKE: The Fields Pond Audubon Center in Brewer is one of seven preserves operated by Maine Audubon as part of its mission to protect wildlife and its habitat. This 192-acre sanctuary offers several miles of trails, an 85-acre pond and a visitor center.
GETTING THERE: 216 Fields Pond Road, Holden; maineaudubon.org, 989-2591
BEER: Geaghan’s Pub on the Penobscot River in Bangor is home to Geaghan Brothers Brewing Co. and a nice lineup of American-style ales with full food menu. Founded in 2011, the brewery has expanded production to Brewer, which also hosts a tasting room.
GETTING THERE: 570 Main St., Bangor; 34 Abbott St., Brewer; geaghans.com, 945-3730
HIKE: Celebrate the centennial year of Acadia National Park with a snowshoe hike on a mountain peak or a cross-country ski trek on the groomed carriage roads (Note: Trailheads and parking areas are many. Check nps.gov/acad for a park map. Go to acadiacentennial2016.org for complete info on this year’s big park celebration). Then repair to Bar Harbor, where most any pub that’s open in winter will be serving Atlantic Brewing Company beers.
BEER: The brewery is closed this time of year, so plan to return in summer for more Acadia exploring, a fresh pint of beer, and a heaping plate of Mainely Meat BBQ at the Atlantic Brewing production location 20 minutes from Bar Harbor.
GETTING THERE: 15 Knox Road, Bar Harbor; atlanticbrewing.com, 288-2337