Breweries, Bikes, and Beer: Exploring Goshen and Elkhart by Bike

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Toast to kick-off our ride

As you know, Meg and I both love biking and beer. Last Saturday, we decided that it was time to combine two of our loves and bike the MapleHeart Trail, while stopping at some of the region’s newest breweries.

The MapleHeart Trail is a five mile paved trail that runs from the outskirts of Elkhart to the outskirts of Goshen along County Road 45. In Goshen, the name changes to the Maple City Greenway, which runs another 3.2 miles into the heart of the city and then connects up to the Pumpkinvine Trail, which runs all the way to Shipshewana (read Meg’s review of the Pumpkinvine here).

We left South Bend around 11 am, which put us in the Goshen Brewing Company parking lot, our starting point, around 11:45 a.m. When we pulled up, we were pleasantly surprised to see that the Goshen Farmer’s Market, located next door to the brewery, was holding a Maker’s Market filled with tons of home goods and arts and crafts. We decided to take a stroll through the market, admiring the fresh produce and items for sale. I had no idea that, like South Bend, Goshen also has an indoor Farmer’s Market, and there were plenty of fun things to look at. I was intrigued by the smoothie and homemade cheese stand.

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Lunch at Goshen Brewing

After our quick detour, we started our official brewery bike tour with lunch at Goshen Brewing Company. I had the pulled pork sandwich with fennel slaw, my husband had the Hot Mess (pork shoulder, BBQ sauce, cheddar and pickled jalepenos) and Meg enjoyed snacking on the brussels sprouts, which were incredibly yummy. We washed down our food with some beer samples. I tried the Vesna, a pale lager, which I thought was delicious.

After lunch we hopped on our bikes and got on the wrong bike trail. The bike path right next to Goshen Brewing Company is NOT the MapleHeart Trail, so don’t get on it, and definitely don’t cross the river. When we realized we were clearly on the wrong path, we took an odd road route past the Old Bag Factory until we could hook up with the bike path. In order to avoid this mishap, stick to the mapped route below.

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Ox Bow Park Path

I wouldn’t necessarily call the MapleHeart Trail a scenic bike route. It parallels a road, runs next to the train tracks, and passes mostly houses, sub-divisions, and some old factories. However, there are some sections that are prettier than others, such as the section that passes Ox Bow Park. We decided to get off the bike path for a quick 10 minute ride around the park, and it was beautiful. Trees and flowers were blooming and it was great to see all that the park had to offer. There was a lookout tower, stables, soccer fields, an archery range, and hiking trails. We all commented that we’d love to spend more time there.

Eventually, the MapleHeart trail ends and you have to bike for about two miles on fairly busy roads to get to downtown Elkhart. It appeared there was an alternate bike trail along the Elkhart River, if we turned right off Sterling Avenue on to Lusher Avenue, so we tried it. Unfortunately, the route wasn’t paved so we took a very bumpy, muddy ride for about 10 minutes until our butts couldn’t take it anymore. It was a beautiful path that would be great for walking along, but it was not ideal for biking. The trail does finally become paved once you get to Studebaker Park, but I would recommend sticking to route below – it’s much faster.

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Iechyd Da

Our next stop was Iechyd Da, a popular brewery and restaurant in downtown Elkhart.  We shared the Bread of St. David (garlic cheese bread) to refuel and each got a taster-size glass of beer. The Local Blonde was light and refreshing.

We hopped back on our bikes and biked the eight or so blocks south to New Paradigm Brewing Company. The name is a bit misleading. It’s not actually a brewery, but rather a bar that has tons of craft beers in bottles and on tap. Supposedly the burgers are excellent, and based on the descriptions on the menu, I would definitely return to try them out. I had a pint of Sun King’s Sunlight beer. Sun King is based in Indianapolis. We also split the pretzels with beer cheese and mozzarella sticks appetizers. We clearly felt we had to load up on carbs for our bike ride back to Goshen.

It took us about two hours to get to downtown Elkhart due to our many detours and the rough terrain along the Elkhart River (14 miles total), while the ride back primarily using the MapleHeart and Maple City Trails only took us about an hour (11 miles).

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Thomas Steiglitz Brewing

When we arrived back in Goshen we celebrated the end of our journey with a beer at the newest brewery in the area – Thomas Stieglitz Brewing. Thomas Stieglitz is located in an old laundromat, and the building is really cool. The interior is tiny – there are just a few seats at a bar, but it has a large outdoor patio filled with adirondak chairs and tables. I enjoyed my favorite beer of the day – the saison. It was light and fruity and super refreshing on a warm spring afternoon. One of the friendly owners told us the brewery had just opened a few weeks prior. I’m sure they’ll have a large following soon.

Overall, the journey was extremely fun. We had a great time exploring parts of Elkhart and Goshen that we had never seen before. Our brewery bike tour was an amazing way to spend an afternoon.

-McK

The bike route:

 

 

 

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Hilltop Cafe

I love going out to breakfast on the weekends after a lazy morning of sleeping in. I’ve mentioned that I really like Bacon Hill Kitchen and Pub and Uptown Kitchen for a yummy brunch in a cool environment, but for a standard breakfast, my absolute favorite place is the Hilltop Cafe in Lakeville.

Lakeville-2I’ve heard many people say that you can’t screw up eggs or bacon – breakfast is breakfast. However, the Hilltop Cafe is not just your average breakfast, it’s a REALLY REALLY GOOD breakfast and the portions are huge. The bacon and sausage are way better than normal restaurant meats, the eggs are always cooked to perfection, and the hash browns have an amazing crunch around the edges. You can get a huge buttermilk biscuit instead of toast. And, if you’re really hungry, you can get the Hilltop Sampler – two eggs, two bacon strips, two sausage links or patties, potatoes, two biscuits and gravy, two pancakes, and two pieces of toast for only $8.25. You may go into cardiac arrest afterwards, but it would be worth it. I also really like the High Octane Pancake, made out of oatmeal, quinoa, flax, and sunflower seeds.

The Hilltop Cafe is located at 303 South Michigan Street in downtown Lakeville, about 25 minutes south of South Bend. If you’re looking for a yummy breakfast, Lakeville Cafe can’t be beat.

-McK

Holland Tulip Festival

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Windmill Island Park

There’s no better place to experience the beauty of spring and the blooming of tulips than the Holland Tulip Time Festival. No, I’m not telling you to get on a plane and fly to the Netherlands. Rather, you should get in your car and drive an hour and a half north to Holland, Michigan, sometime between May 7 and 14.

With five million tulips in bloom throughout the city of Holland and surrounding area, the  Tulip Festival is an absolutely stunning sight. There’s also a variety of other touristy attractions, such as an art and craft fair, Dutch dancing (complete with wooden shoes), a carnival, and trolly rides. The tulips are in bloom throughout downtown, and also at locations throughout the city, such as Windmill Island Park and several tulip farms.

The festival can get crowded, especially in the afternoon on weekends, so I would suggest going early. Here’s an itinerary to maximize your tulip viewing time:

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    Tulips at Veldheer Garden

    8:30 am – Depart South Bend, Indiana, with the goal of arriving at Centennial Park in Holland by 10 am. (If you decide to leave even earlier, try having breakfast at Deboer’s Cafe and Bakery for some Dutch treats.)

  • 10:00 am – Park at one of the many lots near Centennial Park in downtown Holland. Last year, parking was $5-$10 depending on the lot. Check out the art and craft fair as soon as it opens and see the many tulips blooming in Centennial Park.
  • Walk or drive over to Window on the Waterfront Park to see the tulips there.
  • Get the heck out of downtown – things start getting crazy around noon.
  • Drive over to Windmill Island Park – this is my favorite stop along the route and shouldn’t be missed. Windmill Island Park has a variety of attractions and is family friendly. In addition to the tulip fields, there’s a huge windmill you can climb up, a Dutch village, and a reenactment village complete with people dressed in period costumes. It’s the best place for some “Dutch” photo ops.
  • Head over to Salt & Petter Savory Grill and Pub for a late lunch. It’s outside of downtown so the crowds shouldn’t be a problem. Plus, it’s on the way to the next destination. The menu is creative and the food is super tasty.
  • After lunch, go to Veldheer Tulip Garden. Veldheer has millions of tulips to view on site. They also have bison. The best part is that you can purchase all of the tulip bulbs on display. Make sure to grab a booklet of bulbs so you can mark off which tulips you like best. I’ve heard Nelis’ Dutch Village also offers the opportunity to buy bulbs, but has more attractions for kids.
  • If you’re not super tired, stop in one of the many cute beach towns on your way home for dinner, like Saugatuck, South Haven, or St. Joseph.

FYI – you do have to pay a fee to enter certain places, such the Windmill Island Park, Veldheer and Nelis’ Dutch Village.

Have fun!

-McK

Book of Mormon (The Morris Center)

Hey Benders,

Back in 2013, I saw the Broadway cast of Book of Mormon perform in Chicago.  It was a fantastic night and well worth a jaunt up to the city.  But the only thing better than driving out to the Loop to see fine theater is walking to downtown South Bend for the same show.  Needless to say, I was thrilled when the Book of Mormon came through the Morris Center last week.  On Wednesday, a group of friends and I caught the performance.  It was nearly as good as the original Broadway production, and required far less parking hassle than up in Chicago.

IMG_4498The house was full, and we arrived about twenty minutes earlier to get snacks and drinks at the Morris bar.  I saw a lot of neighbors (and a few ND students) in line on the way in.  I guess South Bend appreciates the South Park humor.  The show itself was just as offensive and hilarious as I’d remembered.  The opening theme (“Hello!”) brought a raucous applause from this crowd.  And “All-American Prophet” had even our most reluctant and anti-musical friends howling.

The Morris is a beautiful space, and adds a healthy dose of culture to DTSB.  We grabbed Rocco’s before heading over to the show, but a night of the Morris would also be well-paired with Tapastrie, Cafe Navarre, Lasalle Grille or any of the other excellent downtown options.

I end up picking up a show at the Morris at least once a year, but honestly, I need to get on their mailing list since they have a constant stream of great acts coming though.  Between the Civic Theater, DPAC, and the Morris—there is too much to see!

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