The Hot List: Craft Beer

Used to be if you found a beer list with more than Budweiser and Amstel Light, it was something to celebrate.

Now there are more and more places where you can order craft beers of all kinds: from local brews to seasonal ales to bottles from places as far as Japan and as close as Brooklyn.

That’s why we’re introducing: the Craft Beer Hot List. Our editors have selected 10 restaurants from the Lower Hudson Valley where the beer menu is just as important as the one with food.

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If you’ve never done it, a beer tasting can be pretty eye opening. Notes of hickory, toasted grains or tart lemons will jump around your palate in an exciting and complex way. A dark, syrupy stout is so different from a hoppy pale ale it’s hard to even consider them the same beverage — which of course, they are not.

Thanks to the inventiveness pouring out of craft breweries and into your pint glass, no beer is created equal. And if you’re like us, you’ll appreciate a guide as you venture out into the July heat for a cold one. Here is the Craft Beer Hot List.

Bridge View Tavern, Sleepy Hollow |Holy Smoke BBQ, Mahopac | Birdsall House, Peekskill | Burger Loft, New City | Craftsman Ale House, Harrison |Growlers Beer Bistro, Tuckahoe|Keenan House, Ossining |Lazy Boy Saloon, White Plains |Peekskill Brewery, Peekskill |Thornwood Ale House, Thornwood

Birdsall House, Peekskill

Birdsall House

A gastropub with an Art Deco feel, with original (and gorgeous), deep red-brown mahogany bar and mahogany paneling. Three antique glass globe lights hang down over the bar from chains, the floor has black and white tiles, and there are booths along the east wall. Comfortable and inviting in a very masculine and old-fashioned kind of way.

Why it’s hot: There are 20 different craft beers on tap and many are from New York state, all of which are available for take out in growlers. The menu changes every month and chef March Walker curates it to complement the beers they are pouring.

What to try: All Day IPA, a seasonal summer ale from Founders Brewing Company in Michigan, is lower in alcohol (4.7 percent) and refreshing. Or Ommegang Witte, a Belgian-style wheat ale from Cooperstown, New York that is sunny colored and tart with lemon.

Details: 970 Main St., Peekskill, 914-930-1880,

Bridge View Tavern, Sleepy Hollow

TJN 0127 rwl bridgeviewThere is a spectacular view of the Hudson River and Tappan Zee Bridge from its sweeping picture windows and they work hard to be a few steps above the average local pub, offering an impressive array of artisanal beers, house-smoked meats and always-changing specials and desserts. We like the BVT Burger, prime ground beef, topped with smoky pulled pork and served on a brioche bun with zesty garlic fries and coleslaw.

Why it’s hot: The beer list is long and constantly changing as co-owner Chris Maceyak finds new ones to share with his guests. There are 18 draft lines (about 14 of which are switched out weekly) and more than 20 bottles.

What to try: Bridge View’s niche is hard to find, out of market West Coast beers. Try the Hazelnut Brown Nectar from Rogue Ales in Oregon, rich, malty and with a full-bodied aroma that smells like fall; or Cane & Ebel, a unique red rye beer from a limited-run series by Two brothers Brewing Co. in Illinois.

Details: 226 Beekman Ave., 914-332-0078,

Burger Loft, New City

Burger Loft New City

Burgers are ground fresh daily, Idaho potatoes are hand-cut and double deep fried, and dipping sauces like truffle aioli, three chili mayo and horseradish Dijon are made to order. The clean, sleek space has exposed brick walls, hand-made zebrawood tables and a bar.

Why it’s hot: There are 12 thoughtfully selected and uncommon beers on tap. The outdoor patio out back is nice for warm summer nights.

What to try: Alltech Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale (8.2 percent) is as smooth and robust as a nice bourbon (which are also a specialty at Burger Loft). Aged in decanted, charred bourbon barrels with flavors of vanilla and oak.

Details: 395 South Main St., New City, 845-499-2409,

Craftsman Ale House, Harrison

Craftsman Ale House, HarrisonFrom the outside it might not look like much of a destination, but don’t be put off by the unmarked black awning and spattering of beer logos in the window. This is a neighborhood bar that cares about the quality of what fills the flights, growlers and pints. There is a full calendar of craft-centric events, like home brewers meet up, tap takeovers, kill the keg and new launches as well. They also offer a build your own burger option, and pairing suggestions with any item on the menu.

Why it’s hot: There are eight rotating taps and more than 100 bottles. Every beer is an American craft. There are no imports with the exception of a rare Belgian Week from July 19 to 26.

What to try: Blueberry Pancake Ale from Kuhnhenn Brewing in Michigan. Adventurous drinkers will love the smell, which is spot on blueberry pancake batter, and is surprisingly drinkable for a sturdier brew. There is also a nice selection of domestic sours, like Oude Tart from The Bruery in Southern California.

Details: 235 Harrison Ave., 914-630-7484,

Growlers Beer Bistro, Tuckahoe

TJN 0705 keenansThe people at Growler’s Beer Bistro really want you to love craft beer and local, artisanal food as much as they do. The intimate, yet industrial-style (it’s located in a former railroad electrical plant) atmosphere is relaxed and open, and the menu not too complicated. The Hot Artichoke Spread (a family recipe from one of the owners) and the Devils on Horseback — blue cheese-filled prunes wrapped in bacon — are noteworthy, and the knowledgeable and attentive staff will set you up with a perfect pairing. And, true to its name, you can get growlers to go, or ask about their local growler delivery service.

Why it’s hot: There is a long and informative beer menu (upwards of 40 brews) with an equally helpful wait staff. Sampling is encouraged.

What to try: Harpoon Hoppy Belgian Blonde, a hop heavy beer with a sharp finish or Monk’s Mistress by Midnight Sun Brewing, a strong (11.50 percent) and highly-carbonated dark ale for daring drinkers.

Details: 25 Main St., Tuckahoe, (914) 793-0608,

Keenan House, Ossining

TJN 0705 keenansReclaimed wood sets a rustic, industrial tone, making the brand new space feel like an old neighborhood favorite. The menu is a collection of American staples, such as pizza, burgers, mac and cheese and pastas, albeit with homespun flair. They grind their own beef, smoke their own pork, craft their own pizza dough as well as their own bourbon barbeque, and create their own desserts.

Why it’s hot: There are 90 bottled beers, along with a series of 12 on-tap ever-rotating ones (many from small batch limited editions). The building is historic and lovely, a unique place to enjoy a thoughtfully selected flight of crafts.

What to try: Sofie Paradisi from Goose Island in Chicago is a limited release summer beer that’s been aged in wine barrels. Fruity, spicy and a must-drink. Also noteworthy is Orkney’s Skull Splitter, a bold Scotch ale that is dark and sweet.

Details: 199 Main St., Ossining, 914-236-3393,

Lazy Boy Saloon, White Plains

Outdoor DiningA cornerstone of the downtown White Plains bar scene, with so many beers that you’d be hard pressed to walk out disappointed. The atmosphere is easy going, friendly and rowdy on weekend nights. The beer menu is the star of the show, but the burgers are nicely done, served on toasted brioche rolls with a side of shoestring fries and homemade coleslaw. Other menu standouts include chicken wings in tequila citrus sauce and seasoned waffle fries.

Why it’s hot: The beer list is flat-out astonishing. There are several hundreds of bottle varieties, along with 42 unique drafts that rotate daily, plus cask-conditioned beers that are either pumped or gravity-poured from the bar.

What to try: Petrus Aged Pale Ale, sour with a bite similar to champagne. It is blended from two pale beers and one dark, the latter aged for two years months in oak barrels. Kuka Andean Tripel, from Andean Brewing in Rockland, is a high-alcohol, high-carbonation beer with Belgian candy sugar and maca root for a sweet and fruity finish.

Details: 154 Mamaroneck Ave., White Plains, 914-761-0272,

Holy Smoke BBQ, Mahopac

PTH0330 CRAFT BEERBourbon, barbecue and craft beer. That’s the name of the game at this unassuming spot that has developed a fan base beyond the locals. Turns out, people are willing to travel for good barbecue and Holy Smoke is a popular destination. The atmosphere is casual and full of happy noise — mostly the sounds of groups diving into large platters of crispy spring rolls filled with Texas brisket, pulled pork quesadillas and the incredibly popular Trash Ribs (they sell out quickly so if they’re available, order them).

Why it’s hot: Special beer events happen regularly, like the popular Brewery Series nights, which features all the “core beers” from one favorite craft brewer. It’s hard to choose from the 26 drafts and nearly 20 well-chosen bottles, but tasting flights are offered along with growlers to go.

What to try: Maple Porter from Wagner Valley Brewery in Lodi, N.Y., is dark, toasty, only subtly maple flavored and pairs well with a plate of smokey barbecue. We also like the big, bold taste of Old Ruffian Barley Wine from Great Divide Brewing Co. in Colorado.

Details: 241 Route 6N, 845-628-9795,

Peekskill Brewery, Peekskill

TJN 0703 hot list beerA beer drinker’s heaven with an innovative, locally focused chef. There is a brew house and tap room on the first floor, a pub and dining room on the second floor and private dining on the fourth floor. The tasting room on the first floor has an industrial-chic look, with polished concrete floors. Try the roast pork belly sandwich, hand-cut fries or grilled skirt steak with duck fat fingerling potatoes.

Why it’s hot: All of this brewpub’s beers — about 10 varieties — are made on the premises, and pair beautifully with the inventive, artisanal dishes coming out of chef Sean Corcoran’s kitchen. Plus, this restaurant is getting tons of buzz; so much that we’ve also included it on our Small Bites Hot List of 10 trendy restaurants.

What to try: Liger is their very first lager and the newest for the season, made with toasted rye. Also gaining a fan following: Share The Rainbow, a Belgian-style wheat beer crafted with fresh oranges, pink peppercorns and a little yeast for depth.

Details: 47-53 S. Water St., 914-734-2337,

Thornwood Ale House, Thornwood

Thornwood Ale House 8-26-11Laid back, with two shaded patios and a menu that shakes up classic pub food. Spinach dip is flavored with white truffle and Mexican cheese, and the chili is made with venison and black beans. Don’t worry, the menu also has straightforward food, like sliders, hand-cut fries and even milkshakes. Wait? Milkshakes? Yes, there is a milkshake happy hour every day from 4 to 6 p.m.

Why it’s hot: This is a casual sports bar with a selection well beyond the typical Bud and Bud Light. There are eight rotating drafts and anywhere from 75 to 80 bottles.

What to try: Brews from Westchester’s Captain Lawrence, including this season’s new Sun Block, which is a good start for aspiring craft beer drinkers and tastes slightly herbal, with citrus and a satisfying zing from the hops.

Details: 665 Commerce St., Thornwood, 914-365-2020,

UPDATED Sept. 25, 2013.
OUT: Yard House; Alamo Drafthouse
IN: Bridge View Tavern; Holy Smoke BBQ