Breweries, Cideries and Beyond: A Drinker’s Guide to the Catskills

vintge carskill postcard with images in the letters
Images Courtesy of Christian Harder, Moriah Wolfe, West Kill Taproom, Getty Images

Ask locals to draw a geographic line around the Catskills—the mountain range located 120 miles Northwest of New York City—and squabbling will inevitably ensue over which towns deserve inclusion. Now is probably the time to placate them with wine. But generally speaking, the region is said to encompass 700,000 acres of Catskill Park and parts of Sullivan, Delaware, Greene and Ulster counties.

With plentiful mountain water, an abundance of fish and game and neighboring Hudson Valley’s rich agriculture, it’s no wonder that Catskill farm-to-table restaurants, craft breweries, cider houses and distilleries are a destination.

But before you head out and explore this region, there are some important things to keep in mind; the Catskills is sprawling, cell phone service can be spotty, venues’ operating hours are often limited and don’t expect to come across taxis and other rideshare services easily. The good news is, several restaurants and bars listed also have lodging, so the commute to your bed couldn’t be shorter.

To help you drink Catskills-style—while also ensuring a smooth trip—we’ve compiled a list of some of the best spots accessible via Route 28, one of the main thoroughfares through the mountains.

Foxfire Mountain House

Mt. Tremper

Foxfire Mountain House
Foxfire Mountain House / Image Courtesy of Arden Wray

Just over two hours from New York City, the Foxfire Mountain House is everything you hope for in a mountain retreat. This restored 130-year-old house has Moroccan tiled floors, a stone fireplace, sheepskin blankets and antlers on the walls.

Foxfire’s cozy restaurant and bar is stylish yet unpretentious, and the drinks list reflects this. There’s a handful of cocktails, local beers and a cider. But wine is the star here. The concise, two-page list of 40 bottles strikes an elegant balance between European classics and natty favorites. For instance, there’s Bollinger Champagne along with an Oregonian pétillant naturel (pét-nat) from Swick Wines called City Pop. Pair these bottles with the three-course family-style food menu. On this veritable trip around the globe, you’ll find dishes like po’boys, mushroom wontons, coq au cider and pork schnitzel.

Foxfire Mountain House
Foxfire Mountain House / Image Courtesy of Arden Wray

You can also take your glass out to the bonfire pit, the lily pond or the glasshouse, an old outbuilding converted into a conservatory.

Note: MayOctober, Foxfire is open to public dining only on Sunday-Monday. NovemberApril it’s open Friday-Monday.

Peekamoose Restaurant and Tap Room

Big Indian

Peekamoose Restaurant and Tap Room
Image Courtesy of Peekamoose Restaurant and Tap Room

Open for nearly two decades and founded by Catskills native Devin Mills and his partner, Marybeth, Peekamoose remains a favorite of locals and visitors alike. The decor is cozy, quirky and quintessentially Catskills (think animal heads and tree branch lights strung from massive wooden beams). The food is locally sourced. And parents will sigh with relief to find a kid’s corner located far enough away from other diners.  

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Peekamoose’s wine list includes a few New York gems and a whole host of local brews—including 10 on draft from Catskills breweries, and another dozen in bottles and cans.

West Kill Brewing

West Kill

West Kill Taproom
Image Courtesy of West Kill Taproom

Deep in Hunter Mountain wilderness in the Spruceton Valley lies one of the Catskills’ most beloved breweries. West Kill has been providing cold, frothy brews to thirsty hikers since 2017.

Mike Barcone founded West Kill with his partner, Colleen, and head brewer, Patrick Allen. Their approach to brewing may resonate with natural wine lovers. They rely on native yeast for some of their fermentations. They also focus on the region’s terroirs by incorporating ingredients found on the property into their brews, like wild thyme, cherries and foraged mushrooms. They’ve also used bark, syrup and leaves of the area’s abundant maple trees. Even the invasive knotweed once made an appearance in a farmhouse Saison brewed with Brettanomyces, or Brett, (yes, the same one winemakers avoid like the plague).

During the pandemic, West Kill’s expansive outdoor area provided a rare safe space for locals to gather. Recently, the brewery opened a highly anticipated second location, West Kill Supply, in Barcone’s hometown of Kingston, the gateway city to the Catskills.

Prospect at Scribner’s Catskill Lodge

Hunter

Scribner's Lodge
Prospect at Scribner’s Catskill Lodge / Image Courtesy of Moriah Wolfe

With dramatic views of Hunter Mountain’s famed ski slopes, there are few classier ways to thaw out après-ski than Scribner’s restaurant and bar, Prospect. Miguel de Leon, wine director at SoHo’s Pinch Chinese and a 2022 Wine Enthusiast Future 40 recipient, now helms the drinks list, and the selection will soon be comprised entirely of New York State wines and spirits.

Top local wine labels like Wiemer, Barry Family Cellars and RGNY’s Scielo already nicely compliment the restaurant’s compact menu, which features locally sourced, seasonal dishes like pork chop with quince apple butter, and mushrooms and tofu with housemade kimchi. Bring a nightcap next door to the cozy fire, a centerpiece of the lodge’s eclectically stocked, mid-century modern library, or stay overnight in one of the 38 rooms.

Wayside Cider

Andes

On the western edge of the Catskills, 23 miles down Route 28 from Peekamoose, the terrain starts to flatten, the dense maple and pine forests giving way to dairy farms.

At the end of the historic main street in the quaint town of Andes is Wayside Cider, a funky vintage taproom housed in an old red barn. Wayside serves a simple pub menu to locals and weekenders alike. During the warmer months, patrons can knock back Wayside’s ciders (along with a few local brews and cocktails) beneath an endless open sky in the expansive outdoor courtyard and bar. The ciders themselves are light and quaffable, with one barrel-aged bottling and another fermented with mugwort. They’re all made from a combination of wild, heirloom and dessert apples along with those grown on Wayside’s nearby orchard and nursery.

Wild Common Wine
Inside Wild Common Wine / Image Courtesy of Christian Harder

Those craving wine can purchase a bottle across the street at Wild Common Wine. The shop has a natural-focused selection of mostly small-batch wines.

Weaver Hollow Brewery

Andes

If craft beer is more your bag, Weaver Hollow Brewery is a six-minute walk down the road from Wayside. Taproom hours are limited, but the beers are worth the effort. Owner and brewer, Luke Fuhrman, offers brews fermented entirely sans commercial yeasts and slowly aged in French oak barrels. Wine lovers’ taste buds will prick at the recently released Atto Terzo beer, brewed with Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes.

Brushland Eating House

Bovina

Brushland Eating House
Image Courtesy of Christian Harder

A 10-minute drive North of Andes in the sleepy, pastoral village of Bovina, is Brushland Eating House. Founded in 2014, proprietors, Sohail Zandi and Sara Elbert, serve hearty dishes like venison pot pie and celeriac and leek soup. The rotating three-course menu is accompanied by a wine list of two dozen bottles featuring mainly European natural wine superstars like Eric Texier from the Rhône Valley and Domaine de la Pepiere in the Loire. There are two apartments to rent above the restaurant.  

City Sipping: Kingston

Sonder Restaurant
Image Courtesy of Sonder Restaurant

If Kingston is on your list of Catskills stops, it’s worth spending the time visiting a few different booze-filled spots. Kingston is home to two natural-focused wine bars, Brunette and Sonder. The former makes for an elegant date night while the latter has a more relaxed vibe, with the best happy hour deal in town ($8 glasses of wine daily from 4–6 p.m.).

For beer lovers, Keegan Ales, which has served thirsty locals and travelers alike for nearly 20 years from its central location in midtown, is practically an institution, with its peanut shells on the floor, dart board in the corner and live music on the small stage.

Meanwhile, Kingston Standard is housed in an old transmission shop, with stark white walls and wooden benches. It serves some of the city’s best pizza alongside a small but creative lineup of beers including a German-style smoked lager and a Flemish red sour ale. Stockade Tavern is a local favorite for cocktails. And the much-anticipated January 2023 opening of Chleo Wine Bar by a pair of industry veterans, Hope Troup Mathews and Charles Mathews, both of whom boast Blue Hill at Stone Barns on their resumes, seems set to become a city favorite.

Take out bottles from one of two excellent wine shops, Ester Wine and Spirits and Kingston Wine Co. The latter, again, focuses on all things natural wine.

City Sipping: Woodstock

Deeper into the Catskills in Woodstock is a town filled with musical roots, good vibes and sips that you won’t want to miss. Start at the local dive Station Bar and Curio, housed in a converted old railway terminal. It’s an idiosyncratic and quintessential Woodstock haunt with a pool table and frequent live music.

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A fancier drinks experience can be had at Silvia, which boasts a stellar wine list including a Georgian Saperavi, a Slovenian pét-nat and an orange wine from Ontario. Or you could head to Silvia’s sister restaurant, Good Night, where cocktails like tamarind margarita and saké coconut colada are served at the bar, paired with creative Southeast Asian fare like walnut larb and Vietnamese pork chop. For a bottle to go, you can’t go wrong at the thoughtfully stocked Unfiltered Wine and Spirits.

But Wait, There’s More!

The Catskills is a big place, and there is so much more to explore! Check out these additional spots next time you’re in town:

Published on December 22, 2022
Topics: Travel