Massachusetts is home to hundreds of miles of recreational bike trails, many of them paved, car-free, and perfect for a taxing workout or a leisurely ride. Serious bikers already know this, but what many may not know is that dozens of routes are dotted with craft breweries. “After I started drinking craft beer I realized there were lots of taprooms near the trails I’d been riding,” says Ben Krefetz, an avid cyclist whose pedaled nearly all the state’s rail trails and bike paths, and visited nearly all of its breweries.
Among the particulars he thinks make for a worthwhile bike and brewery ride are a route that’s at least five miles long, doesn’t require too much off-road or street riding, and has two or more breweries located within a half a mile of the trail or path. Using his criteria, we’ve highlighted five Bay State bike paths that provide a safe and satisfying pedal-powered excursion that ends the way every day should, with a refreshing celebratory beer.
According to TrailLink, a rails-to-trails conservancy group that provides resources for riders state wide, the Assabet River Rail Trail connects five old mill towns along the 12.5-mile trail (9.2 miles of which is paved) from Acton to Marlborough. Long-range plans are to pave all 12 miles, but currently there’s a 3-mile stretch in the middle that’s not advisable for beginning bikers or families with kids. The good news is that great brewery options await you at either end. You could start at the north end and plan to hit up the Amory’s Tomb taproom or the Battle Road brewpub in Maynard. Or you choose the south portion of the trail, which features Medusa Brewing and Ground Effect Brewing in downtown Hudson, or Flying Dreams and Lost Shoe Brewing & Roasting in downtown Marlborough.
A 22-mile paved trail that spans six towns from South Dennis to Wellfleet, the Cape Cod Rail Trail has long been one of the state’s premiere bike paths. First established in the 1970s, it lends itself to enticing side trips through Brewster’s Nickerson State Park, into downtown Chatham, or out to Coast Guard Beach in Eastham. And did we mention that a pair of breweries beckon thirsty riders as well. Start or finish in South Dennis and you can quench your thirst at the Devil’s Purse tasting room. If instead you make your way to the mid point in Orleans, check out the Hog Island Brewing taproom. Later this summer hard core bikers will be able to pedal all the way to the trail’s end and take a short jaunt to Provincetown Brewing, which should be open next month. Be advised that parts of the trail will be closed midweek for tree maintenance through most of June.
The Coastal Trails Network is a series of bike paths that include four coastal towns: Amesbury, Salisbury, Newbury, and Newburyport. Depending on where you start or end up, you can plan a visit to any one of four breweries located just a short distance from either the Clipper City Rail Trail or the Amesbury Riverwalk Trail. “They’re all quite nice to bike on, it’s just a bit annoying that you have to do a few blocks on road from one trail to the next,” says Krefetz. On the other hand, enjoying a post-ride brew from RiverWalk Brewing and Newburyport Brewing (in the process of building a new destination brewery near its current taproom – which is still open) in Newburyport, or at Barewolf Brewing and Brewery Silvaticus in Amesbury more than makes up for the inconvenience.
“One of the things I love most about Western Mass. is that I can hop on my bike and ride through the beautiful countryside on my way to drink local craft beer,” says Kristen Sykes, an avid home brewer and biker who founded the Boston Area Beer Enthusiasts Society or BABES. “It just doesn’t get any better than that!” Anyone whose pedaled along the Manhan Rail Trail, which runs through Easthampton and Northampton and right past its five breweries, likely shares her enthusiasm. Flat, paved, and boasting all the desired amenities, it stretches for nearly 10 miles and awards riders at either end with some of the region’s best brewery taprooms. Head south on the trail for Abandoned Building, New City, and Fort Hill Brewery in Easthampton, or north to check out Progression Brewing and the Northampton Brewery brewpub in downtown Northampton.
The full bike loop includes more than 20 miles of paved paths and winds through Watertown and Newton, where you can reward yourself at the original Hopster’s location. For most riders, however, the Boston-Cambridge stretch is most appealing. It’s also where all the breweries and pop-up beer gardens are. The beauty of this urban bike trail is that Boston’s public bike share program allows you to start your ride practically anywhere along the route. Begin or end in the Harvard Square area and you can hit up the first of two Night Shift Owl’s Nest locations along the river, as well as the Aeronaut Musical Beer Garden, just a couple of blocks off the trail in Allston. Venture a few miles inbound toward Boston to find the other Owl’s Nest located along the popular Esplanade.
Continue on past the famous hatch shell to the renovated Longfellow Bridge and you can take a short side trip along Broadway’s protected bike lane to the legendary Cambridge Brewing Company. Or if you’re up for a little city riding, turn off the trail in the opposite direction for a quick detour to Night Shift Lovejoy Wharf, Trillium Fort Point (both of which have restaurants), or to the Hopster’s brewpub. Take the trail just a bit further to its end and you can also access the Castle Island Constitution Wharf beer garden in Charlestown.
“For myself and many other people the cycling and craft beer cultures overlap quite a bit,” says Steve Hall, founder of Craft Media Inc. and a competitive biker. He recently raced alongside members of the Brewery Ommegang cycling team at the Secret Squirrel mountain bike race in Freetown and says the cycling and craft beer communities are significantly intertwined. The event was organized by Rock Hard Racing and sponsored by Mayflower Brewing in Plymouth. Hall adds that he’d love to see more breweries in closer proximity to some of the major bike paths and rail trails. “For me a post-ride beer with friends serves as a reward, and has the additional benefit of providing a bonding experience between like-minded people.”