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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
The bike route: