Green Mountain Gravel Growler, Vermont
255 Mi.(410 KM)
% Rideable (time)
Pedaling in Place
Route designed and scouted by Joe Cruz & Logan Watts (originally published October 2016)
The seed for the Green Mountain Gravel Growler was planted back in 2013 when a visit to Vermont revealed a burgeoning craft brewery scene that churned out 10 of the top 50 beers in the United States (Beer Advocate, 2013). The brewery landscape in Vermont has changed a lot since then. Most of the breweries have expanded to larger facilities and there are many new ones. In fact, Vermont has more breweries per capita than any other state in the nation. One thing is certain, the beer is still incredible and the industry is still distinctly unique to Vermont. Several of the most sought after breweries do not export beyond state lines, and perhaps the most coveted, Hill Farmstead, doesn’t even sell beyond it’s own town, which is conveniently in the middle of nowhere.
Fortunately for us, a lot of Vermont’s best breweries are in the middle of nowhere — or at least in the middle of quaint towns scattered amongst the rolling countryside. That’s another aspect that inspired this route. Vermont boasts the highest percentage of unpaved roads in the country.
In the summer of 2016, Logan collaborated with Vermonter/New Yorker Joe Cruz to select the best dirt, gravel, singletrack, and all but abandoned woodland roads to connect the best breweries the state has to offer. That fall, they scouted and finalized an incredibly beautiful and tasty five-day, 248-mile loop that links 13 breweries, two classic brewpubs, and several taprooms and restaurants throughout the central region of Vermont. At its heart, the Green Mountain Gravel Growler is a route designed to enjoy over an extra-long weekend on a gravel/adventure bike with hearty 40mm tires or greater. Daily mileage is low to allow leisurely tours and tastings. Along the way, you’ll find abundant climbing, incredible views of the Green Mountains, rolling farmland, and quaint New England charm. Oh yeah, and some of the most amazing beer on the planet.
Thanks to all the breweries who showed us their incredible facilities. And thanks to Salsa Cycles for loaning us Warbirds for the outing — a great bike to attack all the terrain that this route dished out, read the review here. And, to Mike Donofrio and company for putting us up and showing us great trails!
The singletrack sections near Montpelier should only be ridden when trail conditions allow. Please check the MAMBA website for the latest information. MAMBA also tries to keep signs up to date, so please follow the advice of any signs that state that the trail is too wet to ride. Please use good judgment in not damaging this trail system, especially early in the season.
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- Classic dirt farm roads, red barns, and Holstein cows.
- Incredible breweries including Foam, Zero Gravity, The Alchemist, Lost Nation, Hill Farmstead, Frost, and Fiddlehead.
- Lawson’s Finest Liquids taproom in Waitsfield.
- Visit Otter Creek, one of the OGs of Vermont brewing as well as Good Measure, a brand new up and comer.
- Ascend mighty Lincoln Gap, with sustained grades of 20% and maxing out at 24%. New England road builders consider switchbacks wholly optional.
- Three pubs with great vibes and amazing food and beer selections: The Threepenny Taproom in Montpelier, The Bobcat Cafe in Bristol, and Prohibition Pig in Waterbury.
- Even more beer to try, as Stone Corral (Richmond), Trapp’s (Stowe), Rock Art (Morrisville), and Drop-In (Middlebury) are along this route.
- Fly into Burlington or take Amtrak’s Vermonter, which introduced roll-on bike service this year.
- The ideal time for this ride is late summer through fall. Timing it for early October leaf season will make for a magical experience.
- This route was designed with gravel/cross bikes in mind. It features a lot of gravel, a few paved sections, some bits of medium technical singletrack, and several really rough “class 4” roads where you’ll be a bit underbiked on a CX rig. 40mm+ tires are recommended but a bike with 35s can manage.
- Create a schedule of the times and days of the week that the breweries will be open so that there are no disappointments. On the other hand, if you end up missing a beer that you wanted to try, there’s likely a chance to order it at one of the taprooms on the route.
- Old Spokes Home in Burlington definitely gets the dirt adventure scene, so stop in at the beginning of your ride if you need anything. There are also terrific bike shops in Stowe, Montpelier, and Middlebury. Spares and repairs are always nearby.
MILE 128: ATTENTION WHEN RIDING INTO MONTPELIER. The three miles of MTB singletrack around mile 128 consist of moderately technical descents, slick bridges, and two-way, multi-use traffic. These trails are primarily maintained by volunteers at East Montpelier Trails, the Montpelier Area Mountain Bike Association, and the City of Montpelier’s Parks Department. If it has rained recently, please strongly consider descending to Montpelier via Gould Hill Road or North Street. Check the bikemamba.org “N Branch – EMTI” trail for the latest status update and PLEASE DON’T RIDE THE TRAILS WHEN WET/CLOSED.
- Vermont is the second-least populated U.S. state (after Wyoming) and there is no shortage of beautiful New England woods on this route. Still, private property and “no trespassing” signs abound. Make every effort to check with the landowner before wild camping. A friendly inquiry to a farmer is very likely to yield permission to camp at the edge of a field.
- Primitive camping is allowed in the Green Mountain National Forest, which this route goes through between Warren and Middlebury.
- Town forests vary in their camping policy. You are unlikely to be hassled if you are discreet, keep a small footprint, and pack up early. #leavenotrace.
- Check out warmshowers.org for potential hosts as well.
- You are never far away from food and drink, so there is little reason to carry much beyond a few energy bars and a couple of bottles.
- Absolutely have a meal at Prohibition Pig (or the Blackback Pub across the street), Threepenny Taproom, The Mad Taco, and The Bobcat Cafe.
- Time your route to have the excellent pizza at Folino’s in Shelburne right next door to Fiddlehead Brewery. Buy a growler or some cans to BYOB.
- Finish the route at either Flatbread (Zero Gravity) or The Farmhouse. Both have great options for post-ride beers… if you need one!
The GMGG (in order of “must-try” beers)
“Local Dork” American Pale Ale (6.4%)
Foam Brewery, Burlington, VT
It’s only fitting that this was the beer we started with. American Pale Ales (APA) permeate the scene in Vermont, and they do them extremely well. The Local Dork is wet hopped with local hops and has a straw yellow color. It explodes with flavor of citrus and melon and finishes dry. Perhaps one of the best APAs we had.
“Focal Banger” American IPA (7%)
Alchemist, Stowe, VT
The Alchemist is known for their Heady Topper, a classic award-winning double IPA. However, there’s a new sheriff in town, the Focal Banger. Their incredible campus in Stowe produces and cans this american IPA 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.
“House Pale” American Pale Ale (variable ABV)
Lost Nation, Morrisville, VT
While Lost Nation has a few other great beers, we went for their house pale, which varies depending on what they are experimenting with. The version we tried was a hop blend with incredible juicy complexity.
“Self Reliance #2” American Pale Ale (5.2%)
“Edward” American Pale Ale
Hill Farmstead, Greensboro, VT
An incredible APA hopped with Vic Secret and Enigma (New Zealand). Perfect in every way, Self Reliance has amazing and unmatched complexity. Joe says it might be the best beer he’s ever had. Logan agrees. Also, Edward is a classic beer named after Shawn Hill’s grandfather who originally owned the farmstead. It’s a beautiful APA hopped with a lovely combination of Centennial, Chinook, Columbus, Simcoe, and Warrior.
“Early Riser” Cream Ale
Good Measure, Northfield, VT (next to Cornerstone Burger)
This is Scott Kerner’s take on an unpretentious, inexpensive, drinkable beer. We loved it. Good Measure is now open and serving beer tastings in a fantastic renovated space. Wednesday to Saturday from 12 to 7 PM / Sunday 12 to 5 PM
“Super Session #2” Session IPA (4.8 ABV)
Lawson’s Finest Liquids, Warren, VT (not open, yet / on tap at Mad Taco)
Lawson’s beers are always outstanding; some of the most sought after in Vermont. The Super Session is no exception — A single hop session IPA brewed with Amarillo hops. Stop in at Mad Taco; they always have a couple of Lawson’s on tap.
“Steampipe” Lager (6.0 ABV)
Otter Creek, Middlebury, VT
A very likable lager and something to actually buy at grocery stores in the Northeast. Make sure to have lunch there too.
“Lush”, Double IPA (8% / 80 IBU)
“Farmhouse Ale” Farmhouse
Frost Beer Works, Hinesburg, VT
Throughout the trip as we name-dropped places we were going, Frost was a common point of excitement. Tucked away in the small town of Hinesburg, they are creating a buzz with their beers. Joe loved the Belgian-style Farmhouse and Logan thought the Lush DIPA was amazing.
“Stable” American IPA (6.2%)
Fiddlehead Brewing, Shelburne, VT
Their flagship beer is the “Fiddlehead IPA” but Joe likes their “Stable” American IPA better. Make sure and grab some cans and have a pizza next door at Folino’s.
“Bamberg Helles” German Lager (5%)
“Sans Souci” Farmhouse Pale Ale (5.9%)
Zero Gravity Brewing, Burlington, VT
Zero Gravity has a nice brewery at a new location in Burlington, and they are also featured at the American Flatbread Pizza. We went to both. Two exceptional beers are the Bamberg Helles, which is a really welll done classic German lager with a touch of smokiness. And the Sans Souci Farmhouse Pale has a nice touch of aromatic hops and lavender.
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