Exposure

Bikepacking Vermont's Beer Trail

This past fall, local Vermonter Joe Cruz and I designed and scouted a bikepacking loop weaving together a selection of dirt roads, flowy New England singletrack, and rugged historic woodland paths to create a majority off-tarmac circuit of some of the world’s best and most coveted craft beers. The result is the Green Mountain Gravel Growler—a 248-mile loop that links 13 breweries, two classic brewpubs, and several taprooms and restaurants.

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Photo: Logan Watts/bikepacking.com

The seed for the Green Mountain Gravel Growler was planted back in 2013, when I visited Vermont and discovered a rabbit hole of a craft beer scene. The stage was set once I learned that Vermont boasts the highest percentage of unpaved roads in the country, making it the perfect state to plan a gravel bikepacking route.

Photo: Logan Watts/bikepacking.com

Our trusty Salsa Warbirds posted up at the Alchemist before the doors opened. Visitors travel from all over for the brewery’s iconic Heady Topper, an award-winning double IPA. By the time it opened, there was a line around the building. Our favorite was the Focal Banger, an incredible American IPA (7%) that’s a bit more forgiving than the Heady (8%). It’s hopped with Citra and Mosaic, and it smells and tastes damned near perfect.

Photo: Logan Watts/bikepacking.com

One of many covered bridges to be found in this quaint New England state.

Photo: Logan Watts/bikepacking.com

Joe Cruz jots notes in his custom-made beer sampling notebook. This was for the House Pale, an American pale ale being served at Lost Nation Brewery in Morrisville, Vermont.

Photo: Logan Watts/bikepacking.com

Daniel Golden, owner of Search and State, a New York City–made cycling apparel brand, stops to adjust his headlamp and take a breather.

Photo: Logan Watts/bikepacking.com

Daniel and Joe puff up a long climb en route to Hill Farmstead for a morning beer tasting.

Photo: Logan Watts/bikepacking.com

The old sign for Hill Farmstead, perhaps the most sought-after brewery in Vermont. Located in the middle of nowhere, the brewery is one of only a handful of places where you can buy their beer.

Photo: Logan Watts/bikepacking.com

Joe properly sniffs the incredible Self Reliance #2, an American pale ale hopped with Vic Secret and Enigma from New Zealand. Perfect in every way, Self Reliance has an amazing and unmatched complexity. Joe says it might be the best beer he’s ever had. I agree.

Photo: Logan Watts/bikepacking.com

After an incredible tour and tasting at Hill Farmstead, Joe and Daniel chat up a storm before getting back on the bikes.

Photo: Logan Watts/bikepacking.com

The number of quaint barns that dot Vernont’s countryside is staggering. This one was too interesting not to stop and snap a photo.

Photo: Logan Watts/bikepacking.com

Our scouting mission of the Green Mountain Gravel Growler started on October 15. It was timed perfectly for peak leaf-viewing season. Everywhere we turned, the maples were ablaze with reds and yellows, making the backdrop to our trip positively stunning.

Photo: Logan Watts/bikepacking.com

Onward across the countryside. After leaving Hill Farmstead, we faced the longest stretch of the trip without a brewery stop: 42 miles.

Photo: Logan Watts/bikepacking.com

Unpaved roads in Vermont range from smooth packed gravel to the rugged Class 4 roads that should hardly be called roads at all. Here, we start up one on the way to Montpelier.

Photo: Logan Watts/bikepacking.com

Joe takes a pull from the samples we picked up at the Alchemist: a Focal Banger in his right hand and a Heady Topper in his left.

Photo: Logan Watts/bikepacking.com

No craft beer tour of Vermont would be complete without a stop at the famous Three Penny Taproom in Montpelier, one of the only places that has Hill Farmstead on tap.

Photo: Logan Watts/bikepacking.com

A look back across the Winooski River at Montpelier’s state house.

Photo: Logan Watts/bikepacking.com

We made sure there were a few bits of singletrack on route to keep future Green Mountain Gravel Growler riders on their toes. Here’s Joe tearing down the hill on his capable Warbird.

Photo: Logan Watts/bikepacking.com

Scott Kerner, owner and proprietor of Good Measure Beer, shows us some of the relics he found in his historic Northfield building during renovations.

Photo: Logan Watts/bikepacking.com

Joe Cruz tackles another excellent Class 4 road on the way to Warren.

Photo: Logan Watts/bikepacking.com

Our Big Agnes Fly Creek tents in a backcountry camp spot just after the wicked 1,500-foot ascent up Lincoln Gap, a sought-after ride for many self-loathing road cyclists.

Photo: Logan Watts/bikepacking.com

Our Warbirds decked out with Revelate Designs bikepacking bags. Black and white, just like the iconic dairy cattle of Vermont.

Photo: Logan Watts/bikepacking.com

Joe takes a pause on the swinging bridge after Middlebury, perhaps a little dazed after our extended tasting at Otter Creek Brewery.

Photo: Logan Watts/bikepacking.com

Throughout the trip, as we name-dropped places we were going, Frost Beer Works was a common point of excitement. Tucked away in the small town of Hinesburg, Vermont, this brewery is creating a buzz with its beers. Joe loved the Belgian-style Farmhouse, and I thought the Lush DIPA was amazing.

Photo: Logan Watts/bikepacking.com

Adjoining Fiddlehead Brewing in Shelburne, Folino’s Pizza serves some of the best pie in the state. Be sure to grab some Fiddlehead cans to go along with it.

Photo: Logan Watts/bikepacking.com

A proper final bike portrait leaning against a graffiti wall with the Vermont area code and state silhouette. The Warbird proved to be the perfect bike for the trip.

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