OXFORD — Jesse Hemingway came to Oxbow Beer Garden’s year-old Nordic ski trails for lunch and a ski with friends. He left more than two hours later – after a few more loops around the trails by himself.

In a state chock-a-block with micro-breweries, Hemingway, who lives in Westbrook, appreciated the chance to visit a beer garden that also offers a unique outdoor experience, especially in Maine, where wild, natural scenery is as popular as, well, beer.

“I don’t know if other beer gardens are going this way. But it’s good to mix in some activity that goes beyond just bellying up to the bar,” Hemingway said. “This place is beautiful and the trails are in great shape.”

Last year, Newcastle-based Oxbow Brewing Co. opened its third Maine tasting room. The new tasting room is inside an old farmhouse that had been owned by the Carters, a farming family who every winter for years offered Nordic skiing trails at their farm in Oxford, as they still do at their Bethel farm. Oxbow owner Tim Adams bought the Oxford farmhouse and barn and has kept the cross-country ski trail network there – on land still owned by Ann Carter – as a perk for his beer customers; the trails are free.

Friends enjoy beer and lunch on the back deck after cross-country skiing at Oxbow Beer Garden. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

To encourage use of the trails, Oxbow brought in the experts from the brewery’s neighbors on Washington Avenue in Portland: the nonprofit Gear Hub, which sells refurbished, affordably priced bikes and ski equipment to inspire more Mainers to get outside. Gear Hub now runs a rental shop on the weekends at the Oxbow Beer Garden, offering skis, snowshoes and fat bikes. With its rustic, renovated farmhouse; welcoming fire pit; and woods trails, the beer garden appeals to both skiers and beer lovers.

“It would cost $100 to go downhill skiing. It’s free here,” said David Lane, who came from Falmouth and was eager to sample both microbrews and the ski trails.

Luckily, the state has many places that cater to both beer and outdoors enthusiasts. A number of Maine’s 100 or so breweries are located practically on the doorstep of long-standing trails. We know this because we’ve hiked them. The Maine Brewers’ Guild doesn’t indicate nearby trails on its map of Maine breweries, so we’re remedying that by highlighting some of the Maine breweries with hiking, biking and skiing trails close at hand. Here is just a small sampling:

Bangor breweries, specifically Black Bear Brewing, 193 Exchange St.; Orono Brewing Co., 26 State St.; Sea Dog Brewing Co., 26 Front St.; and 2 Feet Brewing Co., 80 Columbia St.: The Kenduskeag Stream cuts through the center of downtown Bangor within a few blocks of four of the city’s breweries. The 2-mile trail along the stream leads away from the city, rising and falling along the Kenduskeag’s banks with views of the stream’s wild rapids. Trail tip: By far the most thrilling time to explore this trail is in April during the annual 16-mile-long Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race, now in its 54th year. With the water running high after the winter melt, racers often dump out of their canoes at the rapids along the trail, and often need volunteers to help haul them out.

First Mile Brewery, 28 Market St., Fort Kent: Fort Kent is not only the northern terminus of 2,369-mile U.S. Route 1 (which runs south to Key West, Florida), it also is home to the 17-mile Saint John Valley Heritage Trail, a rail trail that stretches along the Saint John River past farm fields and woodlands. The trail begins at the Fish River just a few blocks from the brewery. Trail tip: One of the most festive times to visit downtown Fort Kent, which stretches out in front of the river and rail trail, is during the annual Ploye Festival and Muskie Derby. Come see 20-pound freshwater fish and the world’s largest ploye being made before you head out to bike or hike the trail. Reward yourself after with good local beer.

Abi Maycock, left, and Julianna Lord cross-country ski on one of the trails at Oxbow Beer Garden in Oxford. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Machias River Brewing Co., 86 Main St., Machias: This brewery may have all the other beer-and-trail destinations beat. It’s just a block away from the Down East Sunrise Trail, an 87-mile-long dirt rail trail that passes along coastal waters where Nordic skiers, snowmobilers, hikers and bikers play. Trail tip: The rail trail runs along the former Brewer-to-Calais railway line, which opened in 1898 and famously helped transport President Franklin D. Roosevelt to his summer home in New Brunswick.

Rising Tide, 103 Fox St., Portland: Located in the city’s Bayside neighborhood, the brewery is just a block from the paved Bayside Trail, which connects to the Back Cove and Eastern Prom trails, collectively covering five miles. Its location makes the tasting room here a great jumping-off point for seaside bike rides and walks. Trail tip: The Bayside Trail is less than a quarter-mile from a stone staircase that leads to a network of dirt trails connecting to the Eastern Promenade with its sweeping views of Casco Bay.

Steam Mill Brewing, 7 Mechanic St., Bethel: This 2-year-old micro-brewery lies in the heart of an outdoor-oriented ski community. Four blocks from its doors are the ever-expanding Bethel Village Trails, where secluded woods trails offer trail running, walking and, come winter, fat biking and Nordic skiing with trail passes. Trail tip: The nonprofit Bethel Village Trails hosts a trail-racing series in the summer and fat bike races in the winter.


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