Craft Beer Pit Stops Along 6 Popular U.S. Bike Trails
Nothing can prepare you to enjoy (or deserve) a top-notch craft beer more than exerting yourself on a scenic bike ride. The cool flow of hops and carbs down your throat will help refresh you and get you ready for a ride back — or a rest — as much as a cool breeze behind your back on the trail.
Just like craft breweries, new bike paths are cropping up all over the country. And breweries are sprouting up right near them to cater to thirsty trail users. Many of these breweries, taprooms and restaurants are located right by or nearby the bike trails and cater to the cycling crowd.
Just as many pubs and breweries occupy former mills or buildings built for another purpose, many bike trails occupy repurposed railroad lines, allowing for history lessons as you ride. Other trails follow rivers, providing scenic rides along the sources of water for much of the local brew.
From East Coast to the West Coast, you can turn a day-off into a bike and beer ride. Here we show a few of the nation’s top bike trails where you can find a room with a craft beer nearby. You can also rent a bike from nearby places.
A few notes of caution: Some taprooms open seasonally; others close some days of the week or keep limited hours, catering mainly to weekend trail users. Some spots include full menus along with taps; other just snacks. Some don’t serve food but rely on food trucks or welcome you to order out or bring your own munchies. Some breweries offer tours, so check schedules (our Brewery Finder lists business hours) and be ready to walk in your cleats if need be.
We can’t list every beer trail or every worthy brewery along the ones named, so apologies if we’ve left out a good one you know of.
Now pump up the tires and your energy level and ride the bike line to the beer line.
Virginia & D.C.: Washington & Old Dominion Trail Craft Beer Pit Stops
The Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park occupies a 44.5-mile east-west strip in Northern Virginia from just outside the District of Columbia in Arlington to rustic Purcellville. The former railroad line runs right past all sorts of attractions from nature centers to rose gardens and historic buildings as it shoots through suburbs and farms. An advantage is that you can take your bike on the light rail or bus along much of the route if you don’t feel like riding back to where you started. And as you reach either end, you can find a beer right there.
Right at the eastern end in the Shirlington area of Arlington, you’ll find New District Brewing Company, the first production brewery to open in Arlington in a century. Signs will point it out. The place likes bicyclists so much that it served as a stop on the annual Bike-to-Work Day. Cyclists especially like its 1821 Dark, a dark lager with chocolate and coffee, says bartender Matt Heller.
Ride to mile marker 12 and while it’s not the end of the route, you’ll find a caboose and Caboose Brewing Co. on the north side of the trail. Caboose Brewing relies on trail users for much of its business, including regular groups of cyclists and runners who pop by. Cyclists especially like the fried Brussels sprouts “they can pop easily in their mouths,” to go along with beer, says general manager Marisa Roberts.
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Between mile marker 18 and 19, you’ll hit Reston Town Center, where on weekends groups of cyclists replenish regularly at the American Tap Room. Park your bike on the ground level of any of the garages in the center. Cyclists tend to like the fruity summer beers along with lighter options such as shrimp and Brussels sprouts appetizers, just like at Caboose.
Further west, between mile markers 22 and 23, you’ll find Beltway Brewing Company along the trail. Unique among trailside breweries, Beltway contracts to produce for others but doesn’t offer its own brands. “We are working with great clients from all over the country, which gives us a huge variety of beers of very limited supply and release that can only be found outside this area except at our brewery,” says founder Sten Sellier. Beltway provides a patio, restrooms, water, “all that important stuff when you are in the middle of a long bike ride.” Beltway offers snacks but lacks a kitchen and welcomes outside food. Riders tend to order the light, crisp, fruity sours, Sellier says.
Keep going and you’ll find a few more breweries that really love bicyclists. Old Ox Brewery at mile marker 25 sponsors periodic bike rides up and down the W&OD, culminating with a beer at the return. In addition to indoor and outdoor seating, Old Ox offers air and a toolkit to tune up your bike.
And when you get to mile marker 34 in historic Leesburg, you have your choice of breweries — none right on the trail but plenty two or three blocks away — too many to name. Especially worthy of note: Bike TrAle Brewing Company. Turn north on King Street (Rt. 15) two or three blocks then right on Loudoun Street for a block. The place only serves beer and soda; bring your own food or order from the delivery menus the brewery provides. The offerings feature Crankset Kolsch, Tailwind Weisen Hefeweizen and Road Rash Red Irish Red Ale.
While You’re in Town
While in downtown Leesburg, you might want to check out the historic district and quaint shopping area full of antique and gourmet stores, or learn about the past at the nearby Loudoun Museum or Dodona Manor, the restored home of Gen. George Marshall, architect of the Marshall plan to rebuild post World War II Europe.
And if you reach the end of the line at mile marker 44.5, enjoy a beer and nourishment right there at Magnolias at the Mill, which offers indoor and outdoor seating. Choose from 34 beers and a hearty menu, where cyclists tend to enjoy the brick-oven pizzas and hickory grilled burgers.
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Pennsylvania: Schuylkill River Trail Craft Beer Pit Stops
When it’s complete, the Schuylkill River Trail will rank among the nation’s premier trails. The finished line will run about 130 miles in southeast Pennsylvania along the Schuylkill River from Philadelphia through Reading to Pottsville, from the urban to the rural. Right now, discontinuous stretches of the trail are open where you can ride and refresh yourself with a craft beer.
Brewing has produced some of recreational bicycling’s greatest friends, and that list includes Sly Fox Brewing Company, which operates two locations near the trail: a Brewery & Tastin’ Room (tours available) in Pottstown; and a Brewhouse & Eatery in Phoenixville. A visit to either requires a side trip of 15 minutes or so, however.
To get to the Pottstown location by bike from the trail, get off at the Grosstown Trailhead and take Grosstown Road East. Take a right onto Berks Street, then left on Glasgo Street to Circle of Progress Drive.
To reach the Phoenixville site, get off at the Mowere Trailhead just north of town and ride west toward Rt. 23. Cross the route to Rapps Dam Road. Cross a covered bridge and turn left on the French Creek Trail — a scenic ride in itself. Turn right when you get to Township Line Road, then right again to Upland Village Square.
The company has long supported the trail with volunteer work and donations. “We partner with the Schuylkill River Greenways (nonprofit) in our trail stewardship,” Sly Fox sales manager Corey Reid says. Sly Fox created a special 4.8% ABV SRT Ale, which the brewery describes as a “golden, hop-forward ale and a salute to the beautiful Schuylkill River Trail.” A portion of the proceeds of every pint sold supports the trail.
“So far, we have raised over $9,000 for the trail. Most of the funds to date have been allocated to improve road crossings,” Reid tells us in an email. “We also annually have an Earth Day cleanup that draws over 100 volunteers.” Those who help out get rewarded with an SRT Ale.
Meanwhile, Conshohocken Brewing Company brews and ages its own craft beer, served at four locations, two within easy reach of the trail. Tap Room Conshohocken in the borough of Conshohocken (right on the trail) offers 10 taps as well as a water fountain and maintenance depot for bikers right outside. Cyclists especially enjoy the Island in the Sun Double IPA with pineapple flavor and Blueberry Berliner Weisse, according to manager Alix Leventon. Also easily accessible from the trail is Conshohocken’s Brewpub Bridgeport. Cross the river on Rt. 202 and you’ll arrive.
And if you’re riding the trail in Phoenixville, you can stop for a full meal with your beer at several locations right by the trail:
Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant lies between two entrances to the trail. Get off the trail at Bridge Street where you see the laundromat and proceed two blocks. You can lock your bike on the patio and eat and drink inside or out. “We make all our own beer, about 10 feet from where you drink it, as fresh as it gets,” a taproom staffer says. “Cyclists like our light lager, the most crisp and refreshing beer, light in calories,” she says. And they tend to devour nachos with it.
Another great stop for cyclists in Phoenixville is Root Down Brewing Co., inside the old Superior Beverage Company building, where you can enjoy a historical setting and play games in back. Root Down even shares space with the Twisted Cog Bike Shop, should you need anything for your ride. “We’re the closest brewery to the trail” and a local ride group stops by regularly, says Justin the bartender. Just ride down the block from the trail on Main St.
An alternate Phoenixville spot: Stable 12 Brewing Company, 368 Bridge St., where you can taste original recipes, including the Bridge Street Kolsch. To get there, stay on the trail spur south of the river till it ends, across the street from the parking lot. You’re welcome to bring your bike into the taproom where you can enjoy wings and burgers with your beer.
While You’re In Town
If you’re riding on a weekend in Phoenixville, visit Lock 60 on the Schuylkill Canal Park where Sundays at 3 pm you can watch and even help turn the only working lock on the Schuylkill and see the locktender’s house. And on Saturday, you can find produce at the Phoenixville Farmers’ Market right by the trail.
Virginia Creeper Trail Craft Beer Pit Stops
Southwest Virginia is known for its outdoor recreation opportunities and the small and independent craft brewers there cater to those who enjoy them. The 34.3-mile Virginia Creeper National Recreation Trail, a railroad line until 1977, now one of the nation’s top bike paths, runs through federally and locally-owned recreation land where you can easily rent a bike and even take a bike shuttle to and from the trail — you can only ride one way if you wish. As the Virginia Creeper Trail Club puts it, you’ll ride past “open farmlands and fields, dense forests, Christmas tree farms, rushing streams and creeks” and over almost 50 wooden trestles. You’ll ride through the Jefferson National Forest, Mount Rogers National Recreation Area and the towns of Damascus and Abingdon.
And should you want a beer after a trip, you’ve got a few good options. Wolf Hills Brewing Company lies half a mile from the trail just over the train tracks at the zero mile marker in Abingdon. It created a Creeper Trail Amber Ale, “A more traditional amber ale but not as aggressive,” with a tone that describes fall colors, as founder Chris Burcher describes it.
And if you’re stopping in the trail’s other town, Damascus, you can stop at Damascus Brewery, where you can try a Trail Daze IPL or a Creeper Imperial IPA among the 45 beer recipes brewed on site. Seven trails meet there, including the Appalachian Trail. Many cyclists traveling across the country stop by, says owner Adam Woodson.
Missouri: Katy Trail Craft Beer Pit Stops
The Katy Trail, a state park, weaves almost 240 miles east-west in a wave across most of Missouri. TrailLink calls it the longest continuous rail-trail in the USA. It goes along railbanks, riverbeds, farmland, small towns, state capital Jefferson City — you name it if it’s not in a metropolis. You can even take a self-guided tour of all or part of the length. And of course, you can stop at various places for a beer.
In eastern Missouri, at mile 40 in St. Charles, for starters, right across from the parking lot at the trailhead near the Missouri River you’ll find, naturally, Trailhead Brewing Co. You can order a Trailhead Red Amber Ale or a Trailblazer Blonde Ale.
In central Missouri, you’ll find yourself in wine country but you can still grab a good cold beer. At mile 66.4, you’ll find the Augusta Brew Haus where you can stop for lunch and a drink. Further west at mile 100.8 in Hermann, you’ll get two history lessons by stopping by Tin Mill Brewing Company. You’ll find yourself in a historic grain processing mill. But the grain used there today isn’t locally sourced: Tin Mill uses historic German brewing methods and imports barley and hops from Germany. The brewery offers tours five days a week.
When you reach Columbia, you can try a 5.5% ABV Katy Trail Pale Ale, made with American Cascade hops at Flat Branch Pub & Brewing. You can get a history lesson here too — if not about beer than about bicycling. The pub displays old bicycle models — even those with one large and one small wheel. And the 1927 converted warehouse stands in the historic district. The Katy ale “is one of the two most popular beers, especially in the spring,” says manager Mike Weston. Not only will you find bike racks outside, ask for a chain and Flat Branch will provide it, Weston says.
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Minnesota: Brown’s Creek Trail Craft Beer Pit Stops
Way up north, you used to be able to order a beer while enjoying the scenery on the Minnesota Zephyr Dinner Train that ran to downtown Stillwater, Minnesota. The recession of a decade ago killed the dinner train. But consider it creative destruction, because the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources bought the 5.9-mile segment leading to downtown, which now serves as the Brown’s Creek State Trail, connecting the longer Gateway State Trail on one end with downtown Stillwater, a former lumber town, on the other. At the downtown end, you can find a bike tune-up stand, connections to the still-being-developed Loop Trail, and spots for a beer you no longer can get on the rail line. But the beer today is probably better.
Bike along the St. Croix River that separates Minnesota from Wisconsin at the southern end of Brown’s Creek Trail and a block west find Maple Island Brewing, which partners with DIRO Outdoors to offer bicycle rentals in summer and with other bike groups to welcome cyclists into the taproom. You can park your bike outside or bring it into the patio for added safety.
Right between the bike path and the river, you’ll find Dock Cafe, where you can find local beers, including ones brewed by Joseph Wolf Brewing Company, which has been brewing in town since 1868 and hopes to reopen a taproom soon. You can sit outside by the river and watch your bike while you sip.
Stillwater might not be the first place you think of in Minnesota, but it’s the birthplace of the state. An 1883 freight house for the lumber hauled on the railroad before the dinner train has been converted into the Freight House restaurant, beer garden and taproom with 24 taps and a view of the river and one of the three lift bridges still in operation in the country.
Nevada & California: North Lake Tahoe Trail Craft Beer Pit Stops
The North Lake Tahoe business community’s push to promote tourism included branding of the North Lake Tahoe Ale Trail, which is actually a series of road and mountain bike trails in the area around the north side of the lake which includes communities in Nevada and California. They sure make it easy to rent a bike and encourage you to stop for a beer.
Tunnel Creek Cafe in Incline Village, Nevada, provides the perfect spot to start and end a bike trip. The family that runs it also operates Flume Trail Bikes next door and will give you a shuttle ride to and from the trail. If your own bike needs service, you’re in luck there too.
“We’re mainly a sandwich shop,” says co-owner Patti McCullan. “We only have three taps but we’re going through expansion and will have more soon.” You can choose from “a lot of bottles” meanwhile.
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McCullan’s husband Max Jones operates the bike shop. Jones was inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 1998 and has long been active in promoting local mountain biking. He restored the 1870s building that now serves as the bike shop. “We both ride a lot,” McCullan says.
As an alternative, you could drop by Alibi Ale Works, where you can find local beer sourced with water from the lake. In addition to beer, the place, with a bike rack and patio, offers snacks and food trucks or you can bring your own vittles. “We’re the only brewer in town,” says server Bj Petkanas. “We’re starting with the best water for sure.”
On the California side, ride up to the Tahoe Mountain Brewing Company brewpub on the lake in downtown Tahoe City. Bikers tend to go for the crisp, light 5.4% ABV French Pils along with fish tacos or burgers after a ride, says bartender Scott Mitchell.
And remember — while riding a bicycle — you are operating a vehicle, so it’s crucial to watch what you drink just as carefully as if you were driving home and bring a water bottle. Do the bulk of the riding before drinking and be sure to eat some carbs, protein and fat with the beer. If you want to try multiple beers, split a sampler with companions if possible.