I’ll cut right to the chase here: At the Oxbow Beer Garden in Oxford, you can cross-county ski, snowshoe, or fat bike on the trails – for free – then head inside the restaurant for pizza and beer. Maybe head out back and loiter by the bonfire if you’re so inclined.
To summarize: Trails. Beer. Pizza. Bonfire. All in one spot.
Cross-country skiers will be familiar with this location – it’s the former Carter’s XC Ski Center on Main Street in Oxford. Carter’s still runs their Bethel location, but parted ways with this spot a couple of years ago.
Last year, Oxbow Brewing Company reopened the doors (and the trails). And I love what they’ve done with the place.
If you simply did a quick drive by, you might not immediately notice the changes. The big barn is still there. A congregation of short buildings. A dirt parking lot.
But then there’s that nice Oxbow Beer Garden sign and the old barn’s sharp-looking exterior. And just wait until you step inside that cool renovated space. Big changes have definitely take place in there.
But before we go inside, let’s talk about the trails.
There’s just under five miles of multi-use trail here [Trail map]. Some of those trails, like the two-mile outer loop, are groomed. No tracks, though, for you classic cross-country skiers.
Still, the terrain is welcoming to skiers, snowshoers, and fat bikers who mix and mingle in perfect winter harmony. And while the trails do feature some bumps and small hills, they’re kid-friendly and first-time-on-a-fat-bike friendly.
They’re dog friendly, too.
As you tromp or ride or ski, you’ll undoubtedly greet plenty of other folks on the trails who are happily doing just the same. No surprise there – trail access is free, which is downright wonderful. (And makes the trails that much more accessible to everyone.)
Don’t forget to swing by the warming hut, located on the outer loop.
If you have your own gear, you can simply show up and go. If you need to rent, there’s an option for that, too.
Portland Gear Hub – which operates mostly out of their Portland location – set up a rental shop here this winter. And it’s awesome. Open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, Gear Hub rents snowshoes, cross-country skis, and fat bikes. They also have a small selection of used gear for sale (if you’re in the market for gear – particularly bikes – definitely check out their Portland shop on Washington Ave).
After you rightfully wear yourself out on the trails, it’s time to head inside for some sustenance.
And the sustenance is good.
The renovated barn looks downright handsome – those big windows, those bar stools, that upstairs loft that lets you look at all the people eating pizza below.
The Oxbow Beer Garden menu is focused on wood-fired pizza. Like, the Nduja pizza featuring spicy Italian pork, honey, and chilies. Or the mushroom pizza with ricotta, mascarpone, and kale. Or the cheesy potato, decked with mozzarella and bacon. There are not-pizza options, too, like soup, salad, and winter vegetables. Plus dessert. Cast-iron cheesecake! Homemade ice cream! [full menu – scroll down]
There’s plenty of Oxbow beer to be had, too, on draft or by the bottle. Farmhouse Pale Ale, Town Line Porter, Luppolo – Italian-Style Pils. [beer list – scroll down] You can also try a house-made soda, specialty cocktail, or wine.
If there happens to be a bonfire going during your visit, make a point to hang out near it for a bit. Winter bonfires are a glorious thing.
However you choose to piece it together, a visit here is a stupendous way to spend a winter day. Trails are always open. Oxbow Beer Garden is open 4-9 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; noon to 9 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday. Portland Gear Hub rentals open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Oxbow Beer Garden
420 Main St, Oxford
Free use of the trails, some of which are groomed (no tracks) for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and fat biking. Trail map
Family friends, dogs welcome, rentals available.
Oxbow Beer Garden serves wood-fired pizza and Sunday brunch.
FMI Portland Gear Hub rentals: