Story & photos by: Martin Lortz
I like bikes and I like beer, it appears, by the amount of times our group rides end around a cooler or patio full of local brew; I'm not alone. So when the opportunity presented itself to partake in both indulgences in Ontario’s Grey County, the answer was, when and where?
Located along the southern shore of the Georgian Bay, Grey County has established a solid reputation for the quality of the area’s cycling opportunities courtesy of an abundance of rolling hills and quiet country roads. As luck would have it, the locals possess a flair for turning the spoils of the area's fertile soil into many tasty liquid refreshments, aka beer, wine and cider.
The idea is simple, ride three cycling loops and along the way sample the goods of ten establishments.
At 27 kilometres this is a perfect introduction to the idea of exploring Wineries, Cideries and Breweries by bike. The loop takes in both paved and gravel roads, two quaint Grey County towns and two breweries. We made our start and end point at MacLean's Ales in Hanover. Nobody was interested in sampling ales at 10 am but the location became ‘the carrot at the end of the stick” motivation for the riders. Travelling clockwise we made our way south along paved roads to the picturesque town of Neustadt. A collection of historic stone buildings that house antique shops, studios and restaurants, Neustadt was once referred to as "One of the Prettiest Towns in Ontario”.
The most impressive stone building in town belongs to Neustadt Springs Brewery. First established in 1859, this is reputed to be the oldest operating original brewery building in Ontario. You can sample their selection of natural premium ales and beers and enjoy a tour of the historic building and brewing operation.
Back at MacLean's Ales, the smiles were ear to ear and the beer was cold and delicious. With an option of hanging out on the sunny patio or the tasting room inside, nobody was in a hurry to leave.
Owen Sound Loop
More distance, more paved road, more gavel road, a bit of recreational trail and even some rail trail and of course more stops. The 58 kilometre Owen Sound loop steps up the challenge for our legs and taste buds with a sampling promise of wine, cider and beer. We start the day at Best Western Inn on The Bay, our overnight location, and the perfect starting point to the loop with the bike trail and the waterfront at its doorstep. We make our way north along the path shared by the Waterfront and Tom Thompson Trail.
For 23 kilometres we follow the recreational trail on to paved roads and eventually gravel roads before arriving at our first stop, the spectacular setting that is Coffin Ridge Winery. With a selection of wine and cider to sample along with their vintner’s plate made up of delicious local charcuterie, cheeses and artisanal breads, we linger perhaps too long.
The next 30 kilometres is all downhill, well, with a few exceptions, and is dominated by gravel and rail trail.
Stop number two, Killanan Brewery, where we sample the 25-year-old owner/brewmaster, Spencer Wareham’s German inspired creations.
Back on the road we take in the impressive cascades of Inglis Falls and end the day on the patio of one of Owen Sound’s favourite hangouts the Mudtown Station restaurant and brewery. Good food and a sampling of beers from the in-house brewery, a perfect end to an awesome day; and to make things even more perfect our accommodations at Best Western Inn on The Bay are just minutes by bike away.
Beaver Valley Loop
When the word valley presents itself in a name, I think it is fair to anticipate that you are in for some ups and downs. At 57 kilometres, today’s loop could be a challenge, but with five tasting stops plus lunch on the itinerary there will be plenty of opportunities for recovery. After a quick stop at Good Grief Coffee in Thornbury, we roll out of town. It doesn’t take long before we arrive at stop number one, the Spy Cider House where ciders are sampled in a beautiful setting surrounded by the rolling hills of Ontario’s Blue Mountains.
The ride must go on, but not for long. We pop into the Blackbird Pie Company, a very popular stop with local cyclists and anybody else that appreciates a fine sandwich and tasty baked goods. Then it’s on to Beaver Valley Orchards and Cidery and stop number two. It quickly becomes obvious that this ride is as much about beautiful locations as it is about the products they produce. From the stark modern setting of Spy Cider House to now a spectacular historic post and beam restoration. Of course as expected, the ciders sampled are delicious.
We are halfway into the day but our next destination will require some sweat equity courtesy of some challenging ups. The effort is rewarded with spectacular views of the surrounding landscape and some tasty wines at The Roost Wine Company.
The Georgian Hills Vineyards is stop number four on the day. It was another spectacular experience, both visually with its surrounding views of the vineyards, hills and the Georgian Bay to the north, and the wines and ciders sparkling in the afternoon sun.
Home stretch. Up to now all roads have been paved but to add some adventure to this adventure we opt to take in some gravel as we dip down towards the Georgian Bay. The crushed stone path along the Georgian Trail guides us to our final stop at Thornbury Village Cider House. The hustle and bustle of the patio is a stark contrast to the country setting we experienced all day. With 57 kilometres and a few hills in our legs, the energy is appreciated as is the cool and delicious beer and cider.
I like bikes and I like beer, and as it turns out I like ciders and wine too. Grey County has some of the best cycling opportunities in Ontario; they also have some of the best wine, beer and cider producers in the world. Combining the two is genius. So grab a bike, grab some friends and hit the road in search of Wineries, Cideries and Breweries, but be sure to bring a bag to collect all those tasty treats you find along the way.
About Martin Lortz
Martin Lortz is a freelance photographer/writer specializing in the outdoor lifestyle. Whether he is covering adventure motorcycling, kayak, fishing or family oriented outdoor pursuits, his passion for capturing the beauty of nature and the people that partake in it, is evident in his work. His photos and articles have appeared in magazines and blogs as well as in calendars, catalogs and brochures.