DYR – New England’s Brew Pubs

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Words: Rob Harris. Pics: Rob Harris, unless otherwise specified.
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As Larry said in his write up of this tour, it’s odd that no one thought of doing this thing before. After all it was not too long ago that the U.S. was a huge void for good beer, but with the recent upsurge of microbreweries and brewpubs, this is simply no longer the case.

The idea of the tour was to come up with a three to four day loop through New England with each night’s stop also being at a location of a brew-pub, with the accommodation located as close as possible to the brewery so that you’re well within staggering distance from the hotel.

The first and last nights of our route are as close to the west end of New England as we could find so that it is possible to get there in a day from as far away as Toronto (though you’d need to get out before traffic and take a slab of 401 to do so) or a half day if you’re coming from Montreal. East-coasters can always start and finish the tour in Skowhegan, Maine on the eastern end.

We’ve tried to keep the daily distances between 250 and 350 km to enable time to explore, chill or even recover from hangovers. However, be aware that if you do the whole loop with Skowhegan, then the leg from there to Stowe is 400 km so you don’t want to get too lubricated the night before as you’ll have to keep an eye on the time!

Talking of lubrication, do we need to mention that you need to keep well within your limits when it comes to alcohol and bikes? We tailored the tour to include walking distance accommodation to the recommended brew-pubs. however, even a bender the night before can still effect you the next morning, so please beware and ride responsibly.

DAY 1A – MONTREAL TO BRISTOL – 263 km
(click here to start at Gananoque)

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Vermont countryside isn’t all hills, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good ride.
photo: State of Vermont

 

Sadly, all the good roads in this area start shortly after you get into the U.S. so we don’t recommend wasting any time and to just jump on the I87 due south. You can stick on the I87 for a while, but the hills start to spring up just past Plattsburgh so we recommend diverting west onto 9N/73 for a quick sampling of some lovely Adirondack roads.

Just after the 73 crosses the I87 again, is a turn off to the left and the sinuous, but fast Tracy Road – a real treat on a sportier bike. There’s some zig-zagging to be done after Tracy but you’re heading to Port Henry which is a larger town and is well signposted.

From here you head south on the 22 and dog-leg it around to the Lake Champlain crossing at Chimney Point from where you join the 17 in Vermont.

It’s not exactly pretty but not ugly either, but as you run along the 17 you’ll see the Green Mountains ahead, and this is where the real fun starts – which is also where you’ll find Bristol and your first stop.

Click here to go Bristol pubs and accommodations

DAY 1B – GANANOQUE TO BRISTOL – 345 km

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We think this is the 73 through the eastern Adirondacks.

After crossing to the U.S. at Ivy Lea just east of Kingston, you take the I81 south to junction 49 and then east to Theresa and then from there, County road 22 to Oxbow which takes you through some lovely farmland.

From Oxbow take County Road 12/52 to Gouverneur and then the 58 (okay but nothing like before they sanitized it a couple of years ago), which turns into the 3 which can get a little drab until you get to Tupper Lake where it gets a little windier as it makes its way into Lake Placid (yes, the winter Olympics place back in the seventies).

BTW, you can bypass Lake Placid entirely by taking Old Military Road and joining the 73, which is a great road and takes all the way down to I87.

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Tracy road is well worth a diversion.

When you get to the I87 cross it and then look for a turn to the left almost immediately afterwards. This is the sinuous, but fast, Tracy Road – a real treat on a sportier bike. There’s some zig-zagging to be done after Tracy but you’re heading to Port Henry, which is signposted, so you shouldn’t get too lost.

From here you head south on the 22 and dog-leg it around to the Lake Champlain crossing at Chimney Point from where you join the 17 in Vermont. It’s not pretty but not ugly either, but as you run along the 17 you’ll see the Green Mountains ahead, and this is where the real fun starts – which is also where you’ll find Bristol and your first stop.


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Pub – The Bobcat Café

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The Bobcat Café is right on Main Street.

Of the three brewpubs that we visited during the tour, this was my favourite. The beers are excellent (up to ten to choose from, though sadly the IPA ran out the night before), the food is superb and the staff is really friendly.

Add to that a perfect setting (it has that je ne sais pas feel that makes a pub a pub) and even if you don’t stay here, make it a stop for some fine grub.

Honestly, you will not be disappointed (assuming management doesn’t change or the chef doesn’t die of course).

Accommodation – The Crystal Palace

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The Crystal Palace could double up as a Victorian Museum.

Bristol is a great little town but oddly lacking in accommodation options with no hotels or motels. However, there is a grand little B&B called the Crystal Palace that could do double time as a Victorian museum,

Unfortunately, capacity is a mere three rooms so you’ll have to book ahead, but it also comes with a three course breakfast that will leave you
truly stuffed.

Try and avoid the peak times of May (graduation time in Middlebury) and Sep/Oct as it gets busy with the leaf peepers.

DAY 2 – BRISTOL TO NORTH CONWAY – 285 km

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New Hampshire is full of empty roads winding up and down gorgeous little river valleys.

Okay, I hope you’re ready for a grand day’s ride because we’re taking you over both the Green and White mountains on today’s leg.

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The road over Molly Stark Mountain is a blast.

Not far out of Bristol on the 17 is our first pass, which takes you by Molly Stark Mountain via the Appalachian Gap. It’s all twists and turns with a viewing area at the top normally populated with motorcycles. Finally you’re dumped out onto the 100, which traverses the length of Vermont from north to south and we join while it follows the banks of the Mad River.

We recommend getting off the 100 at the 107 but when we did this route as part of the 2011 Fall Tour the bridge was out, forcing us to take the 4 eastwards – a pleasant enough road but it is quite heavily trafficked and gets stuck in a couple of towns en route. However, it also passes the Long Trail Brewery, which makes an excellent stopping place for lunch.

The 107 will take you over to the I89 which you can jump on to take you to the I91 north, exiting for the 25A if you want a simple and quick route, but you can also avoid the Interstates by joining the 14 at the I89, then the 132 and then the 10 north to the 25A.

The 25A is okay but the really interesting stuff kicks in again as you enter the White Mountains and the 118, which is a great little (albeit slightly rough) mountain road taking you to the town of Lincoln and the start of the Kancamagus Highway.


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What can you say about the Kanc? It’s one of my favourite roads – wide, voluptuous and fast — the Kanc is a marvel. Just beware, the countryside is pretty spectacular too, so you’ll have to choose to either keep your eyes on the road and let her rip, or slow it down and enjoy the views.

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Bear Notch is well worth a diversion.
photo: Richard Seck

The Kanc ends at Rte 16; left a mile takes you into Conway, then North Conway, a good route if you want to stop in at Whitehorse Press.

Oh and also please let us know your thoughts on this format as we plan to expand it into a usable series and want to be sure we get it as good as it can be. We’d also like to offer GPS files of each day’s routing but that’s a little beyond us right now so if you’re good at that and have some time, we’d be happy to add them (hint, hint). 🙂

5 thoughts on “DYR – New England’s Brew Pubs”

  1. Excellent write up. I seem to spend several extra long weekends a year on these roads, although more through southern VT, NH, and into CT and MA. Middlebury also has some good places to eat, specifically the Two Brothers Tavern (www.twobrotherstavern.com).

    I’ll be keeping this article for ideas for one of next summer’s jaunts!

    On this summer’s ride to Key West Fl, my friend and I had three simple rules:
    1) don’t plan too much.
    2) stay off the interstates whenever possible, look for the squiggly lines.
    3) always end up at a ride up motel located close to a steak house and a gas station (for motel supplies and of course gas)…

    Also, I second the poster that suggested western PA. I have not had much luck picking good routes and places to stay there. Maybe I’ll try the pub quest web page and work backwards from that.

  2. Nicely Done guys,

    I don’t think you need to spoon feed every route detail. Let readers explore for themselves too. For me, I like to use a small scale map, showing all the backroads, then pick the twistiest way through. It’s almost better to list the ‘avoid’ routes that are too busy, too straight or un-paved.

    I’m going to experiment with a 10″ tablet running Google Maps/GPS in my tankbag. Have you tried that yet?

    Next up – do western Pennsylvania, closest to Toronto.

  3. Thank you for this. I’ll keep this road archived for a trip sometime in the future. This road is nicely accessible from New Brunswick. I like the format you have shared on Google Map. If someone has an account, it is easy to save the map on our own accound, and then work with it for our own use.

  4. Just love the Tracy Rd…Dirt the first time I rode it then a yr or two later lovely and freshley minted asphalt…lovely ride…Thanks

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