By Wendy and Mike Pramik
Posted On: May 19, 2021
On a cool, sunny Sunday afternoon in late April, my husband, Mike, and I packed up our bicycles and drove an hour south of Columbus to Athens to experience Brewed on the Bikeway.
We had barely ridden away from the Eclipse Company Store, a midway stop along the beer-tasting trail, when the spring peepers brought us to a screeching halt.
We hopped off our bikes to listen and record the chorus of frogs on our phones and welcome their sweet sound that hearkens spring. If the rest of our ride was going to be this pleasant, we were in for a time, indeed.
It was, as we enjoyed the lush surroundings of the trail, which is part of the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway, a 22-mile former railroad line that stretches from Athens to Nelsonville and meanders alongside the Hocking River and through the Wayne National Forest. From our bike seats, we spied groves of wild blue phlox, a flock of sheep grazing in a field and baby fox frolicking near their den.
You can pick up the self-guided Brewed on the Bikeway trail at several locations, and there's a map located on the Bike Athens Ohio website. Athens itself is a bicycle-friendly town that features bike lanes along the roads, 26 miles of single-track at Strouds Run State Park and a network of world-class mountain biking trails at the Baileys Trail System in nearby Chauncey.
The Athens County Convention and Visitors Bureau created Brewed on the Bikeway in 2017 as a fun way for tourists to sample craft beers while working off calories. The trail connects several breweries, a cider house and a distillery.
"Folks that enjoy riding usually enjoy beer," says Boone Troyer, executive director of the Athens County Convention and Visitors Bureau. "It's the perfect opportunity to get outside and do something active and feel safe and confident and enjoy some local made beer. The food at those locations also is amazing."
As of early May, the bikeway was down to just a handful of stops, and their COVID restrictions varied. We recommend checking with the visitors' bureau, and the establishments themselves, for updates before you go. Here are places we encountered, some on the bikeway and others a short ride away:
Little Fish Brewing Co.
Here's a hip place for hops that keeps it local and real, sourcing its grains in-state and generating electricity from solar panels and wind. Have a seat at the outside beer garden and enjoy farmhouse ales, barrel-aged sours and a milk stout infused with local coffee beans. Pork & Pickles operates the kitchen, offering small plates including beans and rice, smoked fingerling potatoes and kids’ quesadillas for $5.
Jackie O's Taproom & Brewery
This Athens favorite has a rotation of more than 50 varieties of craft beers, ranging from mixed-fermentation saisons to wood-aged sours. Enjoy a flight of beers served on an Ohio-shaped serving tray on the outdoor patio.
Jackie O's Public House Restaurant
For a real taste of uptown Athens, hop off the bike trail and ride a mile from Jackie O's brewery to Jackie O's original restaurant and bar, where you'll find more than 30 of the brewery's offerings and fine farm-to-table food.
West End Ciderhouse and West End Distillery
One-half mile off the trail in Athens, you'll find craft cocktails and hard cider pressed on-site from Ohio-grown apples. Unique varieties include fresh-pressed pear juice and semisweet ciders infused with hibiscus, rosehips and lemongrass. Patio seating is available first come, first served, and there are carryout options as well.
The sister company is West End Distillery, located just across the street. It specializes in handcrafted spirits from local grains, fruits, herbs and roots. Bottled spirits include a gin made from Ohio grapes, elderberry brandy and rum made from sorghum. Carryout orders for cocktails and snacks may be enjoyed in the picnic area.
Devil's Kettle Brewing
This microbrewery's mantra is to make good beer without superfluous ingredients. There's a variety of stouts, lagers, ales, IPAs, sours, and German-style doppelbocks and barrel-aged beers.
It's on the brewery trail, but we found that it was open for take-out only when we visited in late April, so it doesn't currently cater to trail cyclists.
Eclipse Company Store
This bar/eatery is located in Eclipse Company Town, a former coal-mining town with rows of cute, little white houses in The Plains. The town was built by the Hocking Valley Coal Company at the turn of the 20th century and serves as rentals today.
The company store doesn't brew its own beer but offers a few dozen local, regional and faraway brews, wine and spirits. There's a large outdoor seating area with a spacious stage for family-friendly performances.
The bikeway's northern terminus is downtown Nelsonville, which is about 14 miles from downtown Athens, but several miles longer if you take the bike trail. There's no longer a brewery there that's on the bike trail, but it's an intriguing town to explore. Cool off with a beer at The Mine Tavern, located on the historic Nelsonville Square.
Step into Stuart's Opera House, a fully restored, 19th-century theater that's the site of more than 70 events a year when fully running. It also is the host of the annual Nelsonville Music Festival, which draws acts and attendees from all over the country.
You can learn more about Brewed on the Bikeway and other bike trails in Athens County, by visiting BikeAthensOhio.com. Don't have a bike? No problem. Black Diamond Bicycles in Athens offers bike rentals. If you do have a bike, a good place to start is at mile-marker 0 at the Athens County Convention & Visitors Bureau, 667 E. State St., Athens, where you may park in the parking lot. You're also welcome to park and start your ride at any of the participating breweries.