Photo by Austin Schatz/ Courtesy of Teatown
Soak up the colors and quiet of Westchester’s tree-topped splendor as you work up a thirst for a local craft beer, just a hop away.
By Michelle Gillan Larkin and Andrew Dominick
BLUE MOUNTAIN RESERVATION
HIKE: Verdant, rolling woodlands dotted with giant granite boulders, glacial deposits, and massive rocky outcroppings tango harmoniously with towering trees, curiously hued lichen, and flowing ferns to create one of Westchester’s most picturesque parks. At nearly 1,540 acres, it is also one of the county’s largest, with 20 miles of easy to strenuous trails centered around a pair of tall peaks that offer breathtaking views and glimpses of freshwater bogs and ponds, and a well-developed forest of beech, maple, and oak trees.
BREW: Head north on Route 9 for five minutes, to Peekskill Brewery (Peekskill; peekskillbrewery.com), for quality brews and a varied list of styles: puckering sours, hoppy IPAs, crushable pilsners, roasty porters, and more. Mid-October means it’s time for the annual anniversary party, so plan your autumn adventure accordingly. But as the weather turns over, grab their take on a Märzen; it’s bready, malty, and has pops of citrus.
GRAHAM HILLS PARK
HIKE: A hotspot for avid mountain bikers, this lush, 431-acre park is also a happy-day destination for families looking to tackle one or all of the four fairly easy trails, with loops of one to four miles in length. For a more strenuous outing, take on the narrow, steep routes, which challenge with quick elevations that range from 100 to more than 800 feet. No matter the road you choose, the senses will be dazzled by the blooming diverse habitats, rock formations, streams, and wildlife that call this local gem home.
BREW: Just up the road a piece is the cozy taproom at Soul Brewing Company (Pleasantville; soulbrewingco.com), an excellent place to grab at least a few fall Belgian- and German-style brews and maybe chug a sweet, biscuity Märzen or two. Monk’s Dream, a Belgian dubbel, is Soul’s ode to a Trappist beer. Before it’s canned or kegged, it gets a dose of fresh yeast and sugar, proferring a caramelly sweet offset to the hops, plus it undergoes a second fermentation in the can, and a natural carbonation.
HART’S BROOK PARK & PRESERVE
HIKE: This lesser-known, smaller-scale park still manages to check all the boxes for a great day in the great outdoors, with 18 hiking trails and 10 acres of tranquil, landscaped lawns adorned with specimen trees and shrubs, plus a nursery production space and pond. The Gaisman estate, former home of the Gillette Safety Razor Company chair, stands strong, along with a greenhouse, barn, and warming hut.
BREW: An eight-minute drive gets you to Wolf & Warrior Brewing Company (White Plains; wolfandwarrior.com), where homebrewer Mike Chiltern scaled up his love for flavorful IPAs when he opened this hop haven featuring India pale ales that are West Coast-style hoppy and piney along with unfiltered New England juice bombs. W&W got into the Oktoberfest game with Braufest, a richer, slightly higher ABV (7%) Märzen, made with pilsner, Vienna, and Munich malts and a hop profile of woody Northern Brewer and spicy, herbal Hallertauer Mittelfrueh hops.
HIKE: Spanning 147 acres, this native-wildlife sanctuary boasts three miles of easy to moderately difficult trails (daily, dawn to dusk), 1.5-miles of scenic Sound shoreline, a nature center, and a wealth of distinct habitats from ponds and creeks to meadows, forests, freshwater wetlands, and the only extensive salt marsh in the county. The conservancy is perched along the Atlantic migratory flyway, and more than 230 species of flyers have been sighted en route to only-they-know-where.
BREW: A seven-minute flight south is Decadent Ales (Mamaroneck; decadentales.square.site), Paul Pignataro’s brew lab (attached to Half Time), where creamy, fruity IPAs, crispy pilsners, sours, and sweet, boozy, pastry stouts are the norm on any given day.
There’s no telling what autumnal beer you’ll encounter, but expect an Oktoberfest and keep a lookout for Pecan Pie (lager brewed with crushed pecans and caramelized sugar) and Apple Cider Donut, a double IPA brewed with cinnamon, plus powdered and caramelized sugars.
MIANUS RIVER GORGE
HIKE: Fashioned from the flow of a glacier that ceased to be, this 960-acre wildlife and botanical preserve is one of the last stands of old-growth forest, namely hemlocks, in the Northeast. Close to seven miles of intimate hiking trails (open seasonally) wind past waterfalls, vernal pools, an old quartz quarry, and the 22-mile Mianus River, part of a vast watershed that spans five towns, two states, and supplies drinking water to areas of Westchester and Fairfield counties.
BREW: A 15-minute straight shot west leads to Captain Lawrence Barrel House (Mount Kisco; captainlawrencebrewing.com), the satellite location of Captain Lawrence Brewing Company and the perfect spot for indoor brews or a pint in the spacious outdoor biergarten. They don’t actually brew beer here, but there are plenty of taps and cans, like Autumn Blaze, a light, malty, pumpkin ale that in the mash process gets a helping of puréed pumpkin. Later, during the boil, a generous sprinkling of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice enhance that pumpkin-pie taste.
TEATOWN LAKE RESERVATION
HIKE: A boot-busting 15 miles of scenic hiking trails await at this privately held nature preserve, the largest of its kind in Westchester and open year-round (dawn to dusk) to outdoor types of all stripes. Encompassing a thousand acres, the well-maintained trails traverse diverse terrain and habitats, including fields, mixed hardwood forests, laurel groves, lakes, streams, swamps, and farmland.
BREW: A 12-minute swing southwest brings you to Sing Sing Kill Brewery (Ossining; singsingkillbrewery.com), where Ossining’s Eric Gearity and brewer Matt Curtin are all about local: Everything they use, including hops, grains, and malts, is New York grown. Expect endless taps (from IPAs and pilsners to cream ales, English special bitters, stouts, and farmhouse ales), plus Eric’s RyePA, piney and citrusy like a West Coast IPA, with a twinge of spiciness from the Hudson Valley-grown rye.