Westchester County's Best Beer-Focused Restaurants
There was a time when the most ambitious restaurants concentrated on their cellars, putting all of their beverage energy into amassing a distinctive wine list. Beer was, at best, a bone that real restaurants threw to diehards, because, for a restaurant to celebrate its beer taps would be for it to sacrifice serious intentions. In effect, concentrating on beer would mean relinquishing quail and foie gras for traditional pub grub like Buffalo chicken wings and burgers.
While you can still find local bars that pair serious beer with less-than-serious menus, a few of Westchester’s restaurants celebrate the craft-brew revolution with food that honors what flows through their taps. Manhattan icons like Daniel Boulud (DBGB) and Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich (Eataly’s Birreria) have led from above with beer-centric City venues that offer anything but the usual burgers. Locally, even elite Blue Hill at Stone Barns has gotten onto the craft brew trend, with the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture growing hops for Kelso of Brooklyn brewery and Pleasantville’s Captain Lawrence—two producers that, by the way, are regulars at the annual Blue Hill at Stone Barns Beer, Sausage and Grain Dinner. This winter event has surpassed Westchester’s wine-centered parties to become one of the county’s don’t-miss food celebrations.
At the restaurants below, you’ll find serious young chefs slinging serious food, all designed to pair with the diverse flavors of craft-brewed beer. And after experiencing the beauty of elite beers paired with equally delicious food, you might find yourself starting to hit the brewery instead of the wine store.
Photo by Anthony Volpe
Birdsall House always comes up with interesting charcuterie plates.
970 Main St, Peekskill
(914) 930-1880; birdsallhouse.net
Number of Taps: 20/*Growlers: Yes/**Flights: Yes/Spin: Locally produced beer and food/Special Beer Feature(s): Beer garden planted with climbing hops
Birdsall House is the byword in Westchester’s craft-beer-focused restaurants, and its reputation is centered on the restaurant’s hearty, locavorian cuisine. Most of the meats that this kitchen transforms into soulful American fare are sourced from about five miles away at Hemlock Hill Farm in Cortlandt Manor—a farm, by the way, that feeds its pigs with spent grain from Captain Lawrence Brewing Company. The corn for Birdsall’s dairy-soaked polenta comes from the Wild Hive Farm MicroMill in Clinton Corners, New York, while its cheeses are also drawn from the surrounding Hudson Valley. Sure, there are those who visit Birdsall House for the 20 craft brews mostly produced within a day’s drive, but many will return for the elegance of this kitchen’s straightforward cooking. Favorites include bowls of pork and stout chili paired with grilled-cheese sandwiches that ooze Adirondack black wax cheddar—perfect for a chilly autumn night under the stars in Birdsall’s hop-lined beer garden. We also love Birdsall’s sophisticated charcuterie (which is always paired with compelling garnishes), often including chicken liver pâté with preserved cherries, or rabbit terrine with crunchy pickled carrots. And, though Birdsall is pork-loving, vegetarians also are welcome—there are always a couple of tempting all-veggie options on the menu—and, PS, while beer is a must, Birdsall also offers bourbon and Scotch.
Photo by Ricky Restiano
Growlers Beer Bistro—craft beer and bistro bites in a re-purposed 1906 power station
Growlers Beer Bistro
25 Main St, Tuckahoe
(914) 793-0608; growlersbeerbistro.com
Number of Taps: 17/Growlers: Yes, but only for takeaway/Flights: Yes/Spin: New American small plates, with some French bistro classics/Special Beer Feature(s): Also offers 24 bottles and 12 cans of beer, plus eight “craft sodas,” including Fentimans Dandelion & Burdock and Sprecher Root Beer. Cask-conditioned ales available.
The name is a bit of a tease, as this new “beer bistro” only allows growler fills for takeaway, but the restaurant, which opened on Labor Day, does offer a wide array of beers—including trendy, cask-conditioned ales—on tap. (There are scores more in bottles and cans.) Growlers is housed in one of Tuckahoe’s architectural gems, a 1906 powerhouse that once helped to juice the nearby train line. Thankfully, the team behind Growlers kept the building’s scarred concrete floors, original windows, and brick.
On its menu, you’ll find a mixture of vintage/trendy treats (“devils on horseback,” or blue-cheese-filled prunes wrapped in bacon), mixed with brasserie standards like roasted marrow bones with parsley, or bowls of mussels with white wine and garlic sauce. And, though you will definitely find a burger here, there are no wings
Despite its beery name, Growlers also taps into trendy, esoteric sodas. You’ll find Fentimans English brews (Dandelion & Burdock, quinine-flavored Victorian Lemonade) along with Wisconsin’s Sprecher’s root beer and cream sodas; this makes Growlers a good pick even for the designated driver.
The Peekskill Brewery
55 Hudson Ave, Peekskill
(914) 734-2337; thepeekskillbrewery.com
Number of Taps: 16/Growlers: Yes/Flights: Yes/Spin: New American food with some German specialties/Special Beer Feature(s): Beers brewed onsite in attached brewery
*Growlers are 64-ounce bottles that you bring to or purchase from the restaurant. You may take away what remains in the bottle after the meal and refill the bottle at the restaurant or at a growing number of grocery stores and specialty beer purveyors, including DeCicco Family Markets in Ardsley and Brewster and Green Growler in Croton-on-Hudson. **Flights are a group, often five or six, of small sample glasses of beers served together for the diner to compare and contrast.
Brew-pubs were a restaurant phenomenon that had a boom-bust cycle in the ’90s, when it seemed that every mid-sized city sprouted a few burger bars slinging watery brew under gleaming tanks. Thankfully, time weeded out most of the faddists, leaving the brew-pub genre to stars like Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich (Eataly’s Birreria) and Sam Calagione (Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales/Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats). This new generation of restaurateurs—fueled by talent and love of beer and food—are reinvigorating the tired genre.
Cue Peekskill Brewery, nestled in the cute, Hudson-side neighborhood surrounding Peekskill’s train station. Its tripartite space holds a tiny brewery, a cozy bar, and a restaurant. There, in a sunny spot with a great sunset view dropping behind 19th-century buildings, you’ll find on-trend comfort foods like locally made cheeses, charcuterie, and house-made country garlic sausage, offered alongside quirky treats like sardines on toast and devilled eggs topped with house-made pickles. Though you’ll certainly find pub standards like burgers and onion rings on Peekskill Brewery’s menu, you’ll also find cioppino and a yummy version of jaeger schnitzel—an irresistible, breaded and fried veal cutlet served under a hearty, cremini-mushroom-loaded sauce. Beer flights are available, and center around Peekskill Brewery’s own brews—expect Hop Common, Vanilla Bourbon Stout, C.R.E.A.M. Ale, and Old Wagon to be standards, though the brewery is happy to swap out samples from the rest of its 16 taps.
102 Fisher Ave, Eastchester
(914) 961-0061; polpettina.com
Number of Taps: 3/Growlers: Yes/Flights: No, but samples are freely poured/Spin: Locally sourced, seasonal ingredients spun into pizza, meatballs, pasta, sandwiches, and fries/Special Beer Feature(s): Compared to other spots, Polpettina’s growlers are a steal.
The great news about Polpettina is that it’s a source for comforting Italian food that has a sneaky way of packing a delicious gourmet surprise. It’s a pizzeria that offers fresh fig, honey, Taleggio, and pancetta pies paired with escarole salads garnished with rehydrated apricots and deep-fried eggs. Sound fancy? It’s not: you’ll also see families with kids tucking into $7 meatballs and $18 crisp-crusted Neapolitan pies washed down with $3 cans of PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon) or even Cokes. Here is a democratic space where diners can choose from many ways to eat, including slurping up spaghetti dressed in sea-urchin butter paired with Captain Lawrence Kölsch. Also, look for 12 bottled and six canned beers—though Polpettina currently holds no license for spirits.
The bad news about Polpettina is that it has only 15 seats, and those few spots are hotly contested. Though growlers are significantly cheaper here than elsewhere, you still might find yourself leaving early to make way for other hungry diners—though it’s a testament to Polpettina’s welcome that diners keep coming back.
Blue Hill at Stone Barns
630 Bedford Rd, Pocantico Hills
(914) 366-9600; bluehillfarm.com
Number of Taps: 4/Growlers: No/Flights: No/Spin: Internationally recognized “farm-to-table” restaurant on a former Rockefeller estate
Special Beer Feature(s): Holds annual Beer, Sausage and Grain Dinner; grows hops onsite for Kelso of Brooklyn brewery and Pleasantville’s Captain Lawrence
That’s right. Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Admittedly, BHSB is focused on all things delicious (and not just beer), but the iconic farm-to-table restaurant has been a proponent of local craft-brewed beers since it opened in 2004. The restaurant’s relationship with brewers spawned one of Westchester’s greatest parties: the raucous annual Blue Hill at Stone Barns Beer, Sausage and Grain Dinner which is held every January to celebrate local brewers.
While Blue Hill at Stone Barns only holds four taps, no other beer-focused restaurant can boast that it grows the ingredients for its brews onsite. Though hops, the cone-shaped flowers that act as the major flavoring ingredient in beer, historically were grown all over the Northeast, this lucrative local crop fell out of favor in lieu of varieties grown on the West Coast. Hops (as well as herbs, honey, and some vegetables) grown at Stone Barns provide the flavor for a series of six beers brewed by Kelso of Brooklyn. The Center has also provided hops for Westchester’s own Captain Lawrence Brewing Company to include in that maker’s Freshchester Pale Ale. Meanwhile, on Blue Hill’s taps, you’ll find Blue Hill Heirloom Grain Lager; it’s brewed for that restaurant at Defian Brewery Company in Pearl River, New York, and uses locally sourced grain.
As if that’s not enough to lure motivated beer drinkers, Blue Hill also offers a world-spanning bottled beer list, stunning wines, and meal-of-a-lifetime food.
Julia Sexton is a Westchester-based restaurant critic and food writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times and the Boston Globe. She recently began to appreciate craft beer after suffering through repeated, unsuccessful, underage dabblings with Budweiser.