Stowe’s 4 Points Vermont Offers Insider Brewery and ATV Tours | Staytripper | Seven days

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  • Jeb Wallace Brodeur
  • Marina Meerburg, co-owner of 4 Points Vermont

According to tour guide Rick Sokoloff, there are four things to keep in mind when carving antlers on a mountain bike: get up often, keep your feet level with the ground when not pedaling, cover the brakes at all times and keep your eyes on the track ahead. The name of his travel agency, 4 Points Vermont, refers to these principles – and to the four cardinal directions, which the compass rose in its logo implies.

A fifth principle could easily be added: Relax after the ride with a good craft beer. Sokoloff, a longtime Stowe resident, offers ATV and brewery tours through 4 Points. He and a team of knowledgeable guides take groups on excursions to craft breweries, cider houses and distilleries in the mountainous region. Sokoloff also holds mountain bike clinics to teach riders certain skills before taking them out on the trails.

Primarily aimed at tourists, 4 Points tours are often booked by bachelor or bachelorette parties and corporate groups, but people of all kinds sign up. For $99 per person for groups of 14 or fewer, cyclists and drinkers get an insider’s perspective on the vast array of trails and booze found in and around Stowe.

Sokoloff has been a professional tour guide and mountain bike and ski instructor for decades.

“Have I ever done anything professional? he joked to his Swedish-American wife, Marina Meerburg, on a recent drive through Stowe. She and Sokoloff met in the 1980s in Bad Gastein, Austria, a resort town where they both worked in the ski industry. A long-time translator, Meerburg also leads tours as a 4 Points guide. She said the only tours she doesn’t do are bachelor parties.

“I don’t want them to feel like their mother is there, do I?” she says.

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Heady Topper at the Alchemist Brewery - COURTESY OF THE ALCHEMIST

  • Courtesy of the Alchemist
  • Heady Topper at the Alchemist Brewery

In the early 2000s, Sokoloff co-founded the Stowe Mountain Bike Club, which has since become the Stowe Trails Partnership. He has also served on the board of the Vermont Mountain Bike Association. He has been offering mountain biking lessons for nine years and estimates he has taught the sport to over 1,000 people.

The upcoming season is Sokoloff’s eighth brewery tour. He combines wheels with beers in his bike and beer tours. But some people have misconceptions about it.

“They think you’re going to mountain bike for [each of] breweries, which would be a really bad idea,” Sokoloff said.

Instead, the day begins on Stowe’s mountain bike trail system. The groups go to the first brewery, but once the booze starts flowing, the bikes are locked in a trailer and transported from place to place. Sokoloff takes alcohol safety seriously and requires visitors to sign a waiver at the start of the day indicating they understand the risks.

A newer offering, Sokoloff’s bike and beer tours aren’t as popular as its brewery tours.

“The barrier for mountain biking is higher than for drinking beer,” he joked.

But it is not an impossible barrier. George Lewis, innkeeper at Stowe’s Brass Lantern Inn, said he was an experienced road cyclist but had never tried mountain biking before taking lessons with Sokoloff.

“There’s a technical ability that you need to be safe and take advantage of,” Lewis, 61, said. But after a day at Trapp Family Lodge, where Sokoloff holds his clinics, Lewis was ready to hit the trails.

Sokoloff can tailor the lessons to each individual, Lewis continued: “He looks at the person and can determine what their abilities are and then modify their teaching.”

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Snacks and a flight of beer at von Trapp Brewing Bierhall - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR

  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Snacks and a flight of beer at the von Trapp Brewing Bierhall

The 4 Points circuits are also customizable. Before planning, Sokoloff asks his clients about their tastes. Beer drinkers are the easiest to please, but not everyone drinks beer, he pointed out, and some people have special diets or food allergies. Most producers on a 4 Points tour will have some sort of alternative, like the homemade hard seltzers at Rock Art Brewery in Morrisville.

“We adapt it to their tastes,” Meerburg said.

In fact, 4 Points will work with potential clients to organize almost any type of tour they want, although this increases the cost. Want to see covered bridges and waterfalls? Sokoloff will get there.

A typical 4 Points brew tour hits spots such as The Alchemist, Green Mountain Distillers, Ten Bends Beer, Stowe Cider, Idletyme Brewing, Von Trapp Bierhall Brewing and Hill Farmstead Brewery – although this last, in Greensboro, which is a little further from the Stowe Circuit and often has long lines.

Sokoloff takes care of everything for its customers. He picks them up and drops them off with one of his passenger vehicles, including a brand new 14-seater Ford Transit. It alerts hosts to each step of the tour before they arrive, helping them prepare for guests. Many places offer flights, which can include up to eight small glasses of beer. These take a long time to sink, especially if there are up to 14 people waiting to send them back.

Recently, Sokoloff took his team members on a brewing tour to get them ready for the summer season. At each stop, he shared facts about the different breweries, including information about their ingredients, machinery, and processes.

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Idletyme Brewing's beer garden;  - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR

  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Idletyme Brewing’s beer garden;

4 Point tours will put some food in each guest’s belly, but not a full meal or even a full appetizer. At Idletyme, Sokoloff ordered a few small plates to share with the group. He makes sure his clients have dinner plans made in advance so they don’t have to scramble after a long day of drinking. He’ll drive people to restaurants, recommend caterers, and even drop them off at the grocery store.

Sokoloff recently acquired a fleet of e-bikes. These cannot go on mountain trails, he noted. Instead, they are intended for gravel road circuits. Sokoloff said he has his eye on some vineyards in the Champlain Islands, which cyclists will reach via the Colchester causeway.

Although Sokoloff and his guides are very knowledgeable, they are not the focus of a 4 Point tour. Instead, they prioritize the pleasure and satisfaction of their customers. Sometimes that means letting their guests take center stage, especially if they know a lot about beer.

“Let them show how smart they are,” Sokoloff said. “People love it. We don’t have to be experts. We’re here to show them a good time.”

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