The midwestern United States has always been known as a great beer-producing area, thanks to a major influx a century ago of immigrants who just wouldn’t be without their favorite homeland brews. Today, many great brewpubs and microbreweries carry on the tradition.
The Midwest also provides some outstanding mountain biking. Mountain biking!? Ya hey, you betcha! There is more to the Midwest landscape than endless prairies and rolling cornfields, as anyone who has traveled there is well aware.
Combine the terrain with the beverage and you have a winning combination: bike first, beer later. You might need a little help finding the trails, though. Not a problem with Todd Bryant Mercer’s new guidebook, Bike and Brew – Midwest Region. This book follows Mercer’s first guide, to the Rocky Mountain region, with a similar format of detailed accounts of trail and brewpub pairings.
The author is an experienced athlete, and he is obviously just as interested in good beer. This edition covers Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. While this area may not be as majestic or romantic as the Rocky Mountains, it may have much more diverse terrain, and hence, may be more accessible to all riders.
Anyone who rides, this reviewer included, knows that one need not have mountains to have outstanding mountain biking (more appropriately called all-terrain biking). The Midwest offers long, rolling, rugged trails that are reminiscent of trails further west, and these are appropriate for a rider of any skill. The region is also rife with twisty, rocky, tight courses that were carved by glaciers and water. Lakes and rivers lined with steep bluffs and valleys abound in all areas of the Midwest. Wisconsin’s north woods are secluded and beautiful, and Michigan is one of the best mountain biking areas in the United States, period. Definitely something for everyone.
In this guide, the author gives each state its own chapter, which features up to six selected trails with killer riding. Even the single area listed for North Dakota has 100 miles of trail through some serious badlands. Overall, Mercer describes 34 areas in detail, giving trail length, technical and aerobic difficulty, and his overall impression of each. Prime stuff here.
He also lists bike shops to visit, places to get detailed maps, and local contacts to give you a better grip on the experience. He provides his own map and, though not especially detailed, gives a helpful layout of each destination with street and road names and cute symbols that show the proximity of the key locations (trails and pubs). Nearby alternative riding areas are also given. A short chapter on riding the “concrete jungle,” at the end of the book, points out the unlimited fun a nimble cyclist can have in the city.
Mercer spares nothing in his brewpub assessment, either. The two most important factors of a good pub―atmosphere and fare―are treated equally. He sets the scene so nicely, and provides some photos, that readers feel as though they are there.
This is followed by very contemplative, descriptive notes on the available beers, presented just as well as the trails. Beer prices are noted, as are happy hours times. Looking for a little more beer, or some to throw in the cooler for nourishment back at the camp? Mercer provides some information on where to find other quality brews in the immediate area.
Mercer really loves to explore the beer/bike marriage, which is an adventure, indeed. The pubs and trails are never more than a short drive apart, so he really helps make your trip more efficient.
If you like to travel, ride, and enjoy fine American craft brew, then check out Mercer’s guides and book a trip. You will discover what some of us have known for a long time―that beer is the best recovery food after a fun, tough ride.
Now, go hit the trail!