Is there anything more refreshing than a crisp, cold beer after a healthy hike? Lucky for us, Hastings County has plenty of craft breweries just down the road from stunning nature trails. From Stirling to Madoc to Bancroft, here are some of the top spots to pair a walk in the woods with a post-hike cold one.
The Hike: Sager Conservation Area
It may be a short 1-kilometre hike to the top of Sager’s 30-foot lookout tower, but it still should work up a thirst. Start in the parking lot at the rock with the decal of the tower on it, then head on up the 97 steps through the woods. It’s 48 more steps from the base of the tower to the top, but it’s well worth the climb. Up there you can see for miles around, including deep into the Trent River valley. Thirteen thousand years ago, you would be standing on Oak Lake Island near the northern edge of Glacial Lake Iroquois. If you’re not quite ready for a beer by the time you make it back to the parking lot, head past the picnic shelter for a short 0.5-kilometre forest walk. ltc.on.ca/conservation/ca/sager
The Hops: Longtooth Beverage Co.
You won’t have to go far for a beer after Sager. Longtooth is only about a five-minute drive north on the outskirts of Stirling. It’s one of the newer brewing companies in the area, and it usually has multiple beers on tap, including a pale ale, lager, Irish red, milk stout, and a seasonal or two. The lager may be the best choice after a hike, though. At 4.25%, it’s a crisp, clean, and refreshing brew best enjoyed outside under an umbrella. Pair it with a pepperoni pizza and a few jokes from owner Lucas, and you might just be inspired to head up to Madoc for another hike. longtooth.ca
The Hike: O’Hara Mill Homestead and Conservation Area
O’Hara Mill is known for having one of the most well-preserved 19th-century homesteads in Ontario, but there are also seven interweaving hiking trails here. They’ll give you a good sense of the terrain that pioneer families like the O’Haras had to tame. The longest trail is 1.75 kilometres, the shortest is 250 metres, but most will take you through mature forests, across creeks, and around marshes and old stone fences. Tree huggers should love the 1-kilometre Lois Wishart Way, which has 20 marked stations featuring a particular tree or forest. But don’t worry about sticking to one path. All trails connect and each one brings you back to two trailheads and the homestead grounds. oharamill.ca
The Hops: 7/62 Craft Brewers
While you can’t get lost on the trails at O’Hara Mill, you might thirsty after wandering there for a couple hours. Best to head for a cold one on the patio of 7/62, which is just a five-minute drive south in Madoc. Two statue pooches — Barley and Hop — will greet you at the entrance to the tented patio, where you can tuck into one of Scott and Al’s core brews or a rotating seasonal. The cores include Al’s Best Bitter, Madoc Dark, Hastings Canadian, Isolation IPA, The Little Irish, and Nutmeg Stout. The Hastings Canadian is a good post-hike choice. It’s a Kolsch-inspired, easy-drinking ale that’s light in colour and lightly carbonated. Food here includes small bites like pakoras and Bavarian-style pretzels as well as larger cheese and charcuterie boards. 762brew.com
The Hike: Eagles Nest Park
You won’t get a better vista over Bancroft and the surrounding York River valley than from the iconic Hawkwatch at Eagles Nest Park. Yet as jaw-dropping at those views are, there’s a lot more to explore here, including 18 kilometres of non-motorized trails. Most of them are under 1 kilometre, but each is unique, offering a variety of different ecosystems, plants, trees, animals, and other wildlife. The 700-metre Gerry Whyte Trail is good example. It’s a plant identification path that will also give you a good sense of why the Algonquin people have so valued this land since the end of the last ice age. Recent upgrades to Eagles Nest have included new kiosks, new signage, accessible washrooms, and an accessible trail to the Hawkwatch. bancrofteaglesnestpark.com
The Hops: Bancroft Brewing Co.
It’s hilly terrain at Eagles Nest, so you’ll need a beer from nearby Bancroft Brewing Co. to take a load off. You have a couple of choices to do so: the small patio of the brewery itself or the bigger patio of the Bancroft Brew Pub next door. Either way, the brewery makes about a dozen small-batch beers, all made with fresh, cold water found deep within the Canadian Shield. The three newest additions to the lineup are the Rocky Radler, Blueberry Wheat, and Black Quartz Dark English Ale. After Eagles Nest, though, you might gravitate to the Hawkwatch. It’s a New England IPA with a creamy mouthfeel and hints of apricot, mango, and pineapple. At 6.8%, it’s a good one to sip and think about where to head for your next Hastings adventure. bancroftbrew.ca
If you need some inspiration, check out this guide to 10 Adventures to Have in Hastings County.