Originally Told: June 16 2017
We are big weekend warriors. Friends often comment that “we’re never in Boston.” We love to travel, and love to take weekend trips to escape the city. Sometimes we like to even pretend we live elsewhere and are escaping a different city. Enter the Catskills and the Hudson Valley.
Approximately 2.5 hours from Brooklyn, the Catskills and Hudson Valley are the mountain escape of New Yorkers. It’s what Vermont and the Berkshires (MA) are to Boston-ites. However, getting there from Boston only tacks on an hour to the trip enjoyed by New Yorkers, so we have adopted it as our own. It’s a place I would travel to regardless of the great beer and cider in the area. In any season it’s a beautiful mountain retreat from the concrete and grime of the city. Everything feels local. Every store, hotel, farm, restaurant or brewery you visit is run by a small business owner. It’s easy to instantly feel immersed in the community.
As frequent visitors to the Catskills and Hudson Valley (this is our 5th trip), Maybeth and I have wanted to stay at Scribner’s Catskill Lodge since its opening in the fall of 2016. Our chosen weekend is a special occasion, our anniversary, so we book the trip and start planning. Since we’ve been to the area many times, our itinerary a mix of past favorites, and a list of new destinations.
For me, my wish list includes a place we have yet to visit on one of these weekend getaways: Suarez Family Brewery.
I pick up Maybeth at work, and we make the long 0.30 mile trek from her office to the highway. After an excruciating 20 minutes, we head west towards New York. We hit more traffic getting out of the city, but eventually the road opens up and we’re on our way.
“What is that feeling when you're driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? - it's the too-huge world vaulting us, and it's good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”
- Jack Kerouac, On the Road
After a rainy drive, we pull up the driveway to Scribner’s Lodge.
The Lodge, which looks more like a lodge-barn combo, is perched on a hill, overlooking an array of trees and a track of ski slopes. As we enter, we walk down a brick pathway to the check in desk. In past uses, before being renovated by the current proprietors, this was where people used to unload cars. The ceilings are high, giving the feeling of a grand entranceway. Standing at the desk, we can see into the common area, a beautiful combination of a mountain lodge sitting area, game room, and library. At the other end is Prospect, Scribner’s onsite bar-restaurant. More on that later.
We check in to our room, the Bungalow King. With a plush king-sized bed, a large seating area, and a gorgeous view off our private deck, the room is a perfect home for the next 2 nights.
We’re starving, so we head to Prospect for dinner.
Prospect doubles as a public bar-restaurant and the onsite breakfast site for guests of Scribner’s. The space is inviting, comfortable. Perfect for an anniversary dinner or a casual gathering of friends. We have a reservation, but it’s not crowded so we saddle up to the bar.
When making our reservation 2 months before, I had checked the beer menu at Prospect. All of the drafts were local options from nearby breweries. Great news, I would get to try some new things. We sit down and on the menu I see a Suarez Family Brewery option, a “Wheat Pale Ale.” I immediately order it and then start looking at the food menu. (The next day at the brewery, I would learn that the “Wheat Pale Ale” is really Crispy Little, their flagship beer. It reminds me of 3 Floyd’s Gumballhead, one of my favorite beers.)
Back to the menu… I want it all! Moroccan Spiced Carrots, Salmon, Bucatini, Roasted Chicken… Chef Joseph Buenconsejo curates an elegant, yet approachable menu, describing the food as a “playful twist on local cuisine inspired by the rich and diverse offerings of the Hudson.” Because the ingredients are locally sourced, the dishes change daily, but there are some staples on the menu as well.
I ask the bartender for his recommendations, and ultimately choose the Prospect Burger with butter lettuce, red onion, cheddar, aioli, and french fries. It’s the perfect pairing with my Suarez Crispy Little. Maybeth orders the Moroccan Spiced Carrots and Citrus Salad, and then we share the Sourdough Bread (made on site) with cultured butter. We hang at the bar long enough for me to try another local beer, Catskill Brewing Co.’s Devil’s Path IPA.
Our afternoon plans include beer, some shopping and food. Pretty standard for us. But this morning, we decide to take advantage of Scribner’s amazing common area and plan our next mini-vacation to London. But first, breakfast.
I head back to Prospect, hungry and in need of some coffee. Prospect serves both a small breakfast menu (served all week from 8am - 10am), as well as a full brunch on the weekends. I get to the restaurant before Maybeth, secure a seat and look at the menu. The breakfast menu is simple, but enticing. Maybeth arrives a few minutes later and we order. Sunny Side Up Eggs with Bacon and Field Greens for me.
As we wait for our food, it’s my first opportunity to look around in daylight and take in the views. Prospect has floor to ceiling windows which allow diners to look out on the mountains. Inside the restaurant, there is a bar dead center, with tables and booths scattered around. In the corners near the window sit two cast-iron stoves, perfect in any season. My breakfast is fantastic. We pay and then retreat to the common area for some travel planning.
The common areas at Scribner’s are beautiful. Within the room, the designer has managed to fit 5 spaces in one: 3 seating areas, a pool table, and then a table which could double as a dining room or work table. The centerpiece though is a beautiful propane stove set beneath a skylight.
Pine floors and woodwork, a liquor cabinet that boasts Pappy Van Winkle, art, gorgeous rugs, books. All the makings of a modern mountain cabin.
Maybeth and I settle in near the fire, set down our books and computer, and I start researching the London beer scene. After 90 minutes or so, we decide to get up, shower and hit the road for the day. Our first stop, Suarez Family Brewery.
Everywhere in the Catskills feels like an hour drive from something else. The drives are serene, winding along country roads through farmland, over a mountain, or passing by a waterfall. The drive to Suarez from Scribner’s takes about an hour. We arrive at 2pm and there are barely any cars in the parking lot.
Suarez Family Brewery describes itself as a “mom and pop production brewery specializing in ales of mixed fermentation, unfiltered lagers, and other crispy little beers.” Although technically true (the brewery is owned by the husband/wife duo Dan and Taylor Suarez), their roots are anything but.
Dan started at Sixpoint in Brooklyn NY and in 2010 met Shaun Hill of Hill Farmstead in Greensboro VT. By February 2011, Dan had accepted a role as Hill’s first Assistant Brewer and the two would be responsible for conceiving and brewing some of my favorite Hill Farmstead beers.
Side Bar: There are two great articles written about Suarez that I recommend for anyone looking to learn more about its owners or the brewery’s history. The story telling is elegant, the stories captivating.
As you pull into the parking lot, the first thing you notice is the building. When Taylor and Dan were choosing the location, they partially chose Livingston for its proximity to Gaskins, a restaurant owned by Dan’s brother Nick and his wife, Susan. But the choice of the actual building was more inspired. Built in the 1930s, the factory was most recently a lamp factory. However, the building had been dormant for years before Dan and Taylor started driving past it, felt inspired and eventually chose it as the site of their family business.
I walk through the door and enter the tasting room. The counter sports a sample of the bottles for sale, and against the wall are taped write-ups of the draft beers available for onsite consumption and growlers. I approach and order the 4 beer tasting menu. I let the gentleman working the counter choose my line-up, a routine I often employ at a new venue believing that he would know better than I would which beers and in which order I would most enjoy the experience. We also order 2 of the soft pretzels, a must for any visitor (I can’t lie, we went back and ordered two more 15 minutes later).
As we sit and wait for our beers, we take in the space. It’s beautiful: a simple space with lights strung along the wall, and a mural made by Dan’s father. One wall sports a phone, a now famous relic. There’s a variety of visitors: families, couples, friends. It’s hard to tell the locals from the out-of-towners as everyone is sitting comfortably, chatting and enjoying their beers. In the corner sits a family, which I quickly realize is Dan and Taylor’s son, Enzo, and what appear to be family friends. One of the little ones wanders over to our table and gives out a few high fives while Vanah, the Suarez family dog, patrols the brewery.
Dan and Taylor are very present in the brewery: Dan behind the white wall, Taylor more visibly pouring beers and boxing bottles for visitors to take home. Taylor calls my name, and I pick up my beers which have been placed on one of the two barrels on either sound of the counter.
We watch as people enter the building and approach the counter. Some know exactly what they’re here for, growler in hand. Others wander in and approach the counter with hesitation. I hear the gentleman at the counter say to one group, “we serve beer here.” A quaint nod to the newness of the brewery, but the Hudson Valley as well. I imagine this group driving down the road, seeing the sign and discussing whether to stop… “What do you think that is?”… “I don’t know. The building is cool, want to check it out?” Flipping on their blinker, they make the turn into the parking lot. A brewery in a more urban area may not be as inviting to newcomers. Parking lots packed with people, lines lapping city blocks, and beer fans on a mission, it can be intimidating to a curious person passing by. But Suarez Family Brewery is inviting. If we lived in the area, it could almost be my “local bar.”
All in all, I try 5 beers (including Maybeth’s single pour):
Suarez is the quintessential “own premise brewery:” a brewery that sells its beer through its own taproom. With breweries like Suarez, the concept of drinking locally means more than ever. To try their beer, you have to be a temporary local and visit. Or trade, from someone who visited and has that first hand experience of tasting the pretzels, petting Vanah, and interacting with Taylor and Dan.
I trade with “locals” all over the country, people who appreciate beer, and want to share it. Even though I have never visited 3 Floyd’s (at least not outside of Dark Lord Day), Tired Hands, or Side Project, the people I trade with have and the beer they’re sending me is directly from the source. Similarly, the beer I am sending them came directly from one of the countless visits made to Trillium or Hill Farmstead. We don't just share beer, we share experiences. Texts about what the taproom looks like, or how the growler line works. Whether there are food trucks on site, or how good the brewpub food is. Stories of the lines stood in to get the beer we’re sending one another and the people met while getting it.
When leaving, I purchased a few growlers and bottles. Some to keep and share with friends in Boston, and others which eventually made the trek with me to Dark Lord Day the following weekend. Sharing Suarez beer at those bottles shares gave me the chance to tell their story to those that had never heard of them and to relay the details of my experience. Drinking local is relative to where you are. Not only relative to where you physically are, but also relative to your proximity to someone who experienced the beer, brewery, and people firsthand. That’s the beauty of sharing.
That makes it sound so far away. It really isn’t. It’s like 10-15 minutes away. But, Germantown is the town which hosts Gaskins, the restaurant owned by Nick and Sarah Suarez. They don’t open until 5pm on the weekend (how old do I feel right now), so we venture to a new store to the area, Alder East, and poke around.
Gaksins was a stop on our first trip to the Catskills and Hudson Valley. At the time, before Suarez Family Brewery opened, I couldn't understand how they were able to have a Hill Farmstead beer on tap. Now it all makes sense. Regardless of the beer, the food was outstanding and since then Gaskins has become a go-to favorite when we travel to the area.
Nick and Sarah describe Gaskins as “a gathering place for the community and an extension of our home… We’ve chosen a life as chef and host, so we can do what we love: feed and take care of people.” The parallels to the gathering of locals and travelers at Suarez Family Brewery are not lost on me.
It’s early so the restaurant (which doesn't take reservations) is empty. We’ve traditionally sat in the dining area, so tonight we decide to grab seats at the bar. We strike up a conversation with a woman next to us, a local waiting for friends. On previous visits we have had similar encounters, generally while waiting for a table. On one occasion we spoke to a group of men from NYC who had recently purchased vacation homes in the area. We chatted and discussed why they chose the Hudson Valley and Catskills over beach towns and the scene of the Hamptons.
The decor is elegant, yet fitting of the mountain environment. Wood floors, a marble bar, and simple decorations make the space inviting and warm. Their beer list generally contains 1 Hill Farmstead beer, 3 Suarez beers, and then a variety of local options. The bottle list ventures beyond NY beers: Tecate, Bell’s, Narranganset. But, there are local options as well including some of the Suarez bottles we purchased today, and cider from the local Westwind Orchard (story on that location coming soon!).
The menu has a farm to table feel with quality ingredients sourced from local farms: a Grass-Fed Burger, Wood-Roasted Half Chicken, Burrata, Fish Tacos… it’s hard to choose. On this particular day though, there is a Soft-Shell Crab Sandwich on the menu. Generally only available in late spring/early summer, I jump at the chance. I order a Suarez Bones Shirt (their black lager), and Maybeth and I chat and watch as the restaurant slowly fills to capacity.
It really hasn’t been a long day, but we’re tired none-the-less. We’ve both had long work weeks and the chance to turn in early is too appealing to turn down. I grab a Crispy Little from the bar at Prospect and take it back to our room. We climb into bed with my laptop and watch Master of None until we fall asleep.
I guess that’s what happens when you go to bed at 9am. Maybeth is still sleeping so I grab my laptop and head down. We have an 12pm brunch reservation in Tivoli, but I can’t wait that long to eat. I order a light snack, the Smoked Salmon with Cucumber, Yogurt and Capers and settle in at the large table in the common area to do some writing. I get to pet a few dogs and interact with all of the people living in Brooklyn who are comparing neighborhoods. Maybeth wanders out around 9:30am and we head back to the room to shower and check out.
Hotel Tivoli is a Maybeth find. The restaurants usually are. The Corner is Hotel Tivoli’s onsite restaurant. The interior of the hotel looks like the inside of an art gallery, white and clean with art and furniture which add pops of color. The first thing you notice when entering the restaurant is the massive, glass chandelier over the marble bar. The tables are simple, the decor is anything but. The menu is similar to others in the area, farm to table, local ingredients. Amazing.
1:45pm: Hudson NY
On our way back to Boston, we stop in Hudson. On a trip to the area last year we stayed here and instantly fell in love. Many of the small businesses, restaurants and hotels are owned by former urban dwellers from Brooklyn or NYC. It’s a central jumping off point to access other towns in the area, and boasts some of our favorite coffee shops and restaurants. The main drag of Warren Street is a the perfect place for a lazy stroll on a Sunday afternoon. A few of the high points:
Moto Coffee Machine: Motorcycle shop slash coffee bar, Moto has the best cortado in Hudson.
Mutiny: My favorite store. A mix of men’s clothing, lifestyle items (such as notebooks, pens, key chains), and home collections.
Fish and Game: A block off of Warren Street, Fish and Game has the coolest bar in Hudson: leather couches and a huge fireplace make it a great place to hang with friends. The dining room on the other side of the building sports taxidermy and stuffed birds (fake, real, I don't know). The menu is heavier than other restaurants, but if you love meat, this is the place. The beer options are solid (last time there I had a Half Acre Daisy Cutter) and they also offer a nice selection of cider which is listed on the wine menu.
Talbott & Arding Cheese & Provisions: A great place to grab food for lunch (to take away) or as we often do, to take home for the week. The selection of cheese is incredible, the baked goods irresistible. We always make a pit stop here.
It’s been another great weekend in NY. I really do love the serenity of road travel, the scenery. On the trip home we’re already talking about when we can come back again, the places we haven’t had the chance to visit. But Suarez will be a regular stop going forward. I mean I like beer, and they sell beer there.
Suarez Family Brewery, Triangular Nature