There are a lot of different types of trails around Maine for the pursuit of various recreational pleasures. I’m partial to the many miles of hiking trails myself, of course, as well as another rather unique trail that has only recently achieved official status.

The Maine Beer Trail extends generally from Eliot in southwestern Maine to Greater Portland, then on to Topsham, Lewiston and Hallowell. It continues east to the midcoast at Lincolnville and Belfast, crosses the Penobscot River and runs to Bar Harbor, then circles back and heads north to Bangor and Orono, and finally to The Forks and Carrabassett Valley.

Along this sinuous trail route you’ll find 25 brew pubs and breweries specializing in micro-brewed beers, fine food and good company — just the thing for tired and thirsty hikers seeking refreshment, liquid and otherwise, after a good day on foot in the woods and mountains.

The Maine Beer Trail was started as a way to promote Maine’s craft beer industry, according to Tami Kennedy, spokesperson for the Maine Brewers Guild, the membership organization of Maine breweries that works to market and advocate for Maine beer.

“The trail is a unique way for beer lovers in our state to experience the wide variety of beer that Maine craft breweries have to offer,” said Kennedy. “No matter where you are travelling in the state, you can find fresh, hand-crafted, locally produced Maine beer near you.”

The Maine Beer Trail brochure is a must for beer-loving hikers. Published by the Maine Brewers Guild, the brochure lists all guild members, briefly describes each and displays them on a colorful map. The best feature, however, is the passport on the back, which trail-goers can use to check off and keep track of the breweries they visit.

“Visit five breweries and receive a hat, 10 breweries and receive a T-shirt or be a trail warrior and visit every darn brewery in the Pine Tree State and receive a special collection of Maine beer gear,” Kennedy said.

Now that’s just the kind of challenge any hiker worth their hops and malt would be happy to take on.

Tuck your brochure right in there with your favorite trail guide and you’ll always know where a good beer can be found in relation to your chosen hike du jour. For a tasting sample, here are a few suggestions to get you started down the trail.

Hike the extensive Portland Trails network, from Stroudwater Trail to Fore River Sanctuary to Oat Nuts Park and you won’t be far from Gritty McDuff’s, Allagash Brewing, Geary’s, Maine Beer Co., and Rising Tide, Sea Dog, Sebago and Shipyard brewing companies.

After a pleasant hike at Thorncrag Bird Sanctuary in Lewiston, visit the retail store and enjoy a fun tour of the Baxter Brewing Co. Amble along through the fields and forests of Vaughan Woods in Hallowell, then head down the hill to the Liberal Cup for an oversized pint of delicious brew.

Revel in the bold ocean views from the pink granite mountaintops of Acadia, then stop in and say hello at Bar Harbor or Atlantic brewing companies. Traverse the ridgeline of Mount Megunticook in the Camden Hills, then trundle up Route 1 to Belfast for a visit to Three Tides and a healthy taste of Marshall Wharf Brewing Co. ales. After a hike to the heights of Moxie Bald or Pleasant Pond Mountain on the AT, head to The Forks and quench your thirst at the Kennebec River Brewery.

“As you travel along the Maine Beer Trail you will truly see Maine beer at its finest. Each brewery and brew pub has its own unique atmosphere and personality,” said Kennedy.

Well then, time to lace up the boots, stash some gear in the day pack and hit the trail. Got to work up a proper thirst, don’t you know.

Be sure to check the brochure for brewery and pub hours of operation and tour times before you go. Have fun, and of course, please hike and consume responsibly. Cheers!

Download a Maine Beer Trail brochure at www.mainebrewersguild.org. Or pick one up at visitor centers from Kittery to Calais, or ask at a participating brew pub or brewery.

Carey Kish of Bowdoin is an avid hiker, beer drinker and freelance writer. Comments are welcome at: [email protected]