I was pleasantly surprised when a Thrillist article entitled “Overlooked Towns Near NYC You Need to Visit” that I was perusing the other day, started with the upstate town of Roscoe, which I ended up visiting one of the first nice Saturday afternoons of this past April, loved, and immediately started planning a more elongated return trip to.
While Roscoe might not necessarily be near NYC (2 hours approximately), it’s a convenient hour from my home in Northeast PA, and equally as accessible to anyone from the eastern side of the state (3 hours and 20 min from Philly, which actually isn’t that bad at all), and is pretty much the opening of the Catskills, with several popular hiking trail-heads in the general vicinity. I’m not going to touch on those much, as I haven’t completed any myself, but my brother has been several times and assures me Roscoe would make a good home-base for those (Giant and Panther were two of the ones I know he hiked- you can find more info on those here).
I’ve come a little late to the Catskills party, probably due to my obsession with Adirondacks, which is a bit of a shame, as it’s much more accessible to us here in the Keystone state, and a really great destination in itself. Now, it can’t really compare with the Adirondacks in terms of elevation, or frankly, wild, undeveloped views, but it is a really great part of the state with solid hikes, great scenery, phenomenal beer, and plenty to eat.
Back in March, I had a day off of work, and copying my brother, who had already started his forays into the Catskills, went hiking solo at the Bonticou Crag for the afternoon. It was a nice, if uneventful hike, and my GPS decided to take me the scenic route home. I wasn’t really planning on making any pit-stops, but happened to drive right by the Catskill Brewing Company in Livingston Manor (approximately a 9 mile, 7 minute drive from Roscoe), so stopped in to taste a couple of their brews. While the server and music were bordering on maybe just a little too hipster (fun fact: while researching this post I found out the Catskills are a huge NYC hipster destination-this might be its one main detractor), it was a really cool brewery in an old barn style building, with great beer. The actual bar itself was tiny, which being solo was nice, as it facilitated conversation, but I noticed tables outside if you happen to come with a bigger group. Also, they had free popcorn which is high on my list of desirable bar traits. I really liked the beer I tried, in particular the Devil’s Path IPA and Ball Lightning Pilsner, and liked that rather than do an entire flight, you could simply purchase decently hefty samples for a dollar each. Back to the facilitating of conversation: the couple next to me ended up commenting on the shirt I was wearing, and it turns out that both of them had attended the University of Scranton prior to my enrollment. If you know anyone who went to the University of Scranton, you’re probably aware that most of us are obsessed with it, and can chat about our undergrad days for hours. They recommended stopping at Roscoe Brewing Company next, which I was planning to do, only by the time I left, our conversation had meant I needed to go straight home, as I told my mother I’d meet her out for dinner.
Roscoe is directly off New York thruway 17, which, I noted as I drove, is a really pretty drive along what I mistakenly assumed was the Delaware River. I also noted an ad for the “Roscoe Beer Company” painted on the side of a building in what I assumed was the town of Roscoe (this was a correct assumption), and made a third note that I’d need to come back to check this out, especially because, as I already alerted you, it really wasn’t that far from my home. A couple of weeks later, on the first Saturday of the year you didn’t feel like as ass wearing shorts, my brother, cousin, and two friends took the drive up to Roscoe, by way of Hancock, where we stopped for a preliminary drink. As before, the drive was gorgeous, although it was peppered with some complaints by weary day drinkers who didn’t think it would take this long (I may have lied and told them it was only 40 minutes…my bad), so by the time we got off the highway in Roscoe, everyone was ready to get to the bar. The first thing I noticed was the old fashioned trains sitting at the entrance to the town. Maybe it’s growing up in the shadow of Steamtown, but despite being very mechanically, and engineering disinclined, I always enjoy a good old train display. Apparently they belong to the Roscoe O&W Museum, which did happen to be closed the day we were there, but we did manage to climb some of them on our way out after we got a nice little buzz going for a quick photo session. The second thing I noticed was that Roscoe has the type of small-town Main Street one wants to slowly meander down. I took a couple of good pictures, but as Murphy’s Law rules my life, my phone decided to go completely dark that day for no good reason.
The Roscoe Beer Company is tucked just outside downtown, in what I’m assuming is a purposely rustic “log” building. Inside, you’re first greeted by a large fish tank full of live trout (we’ll get to these in 2 paragraphs), as well as a cozy sitting area with board games and such, which breweries seem to favor these days. We got a couple of flights and settled down to test them out, along with eating in inordinate amount of more free popcorn (this was turning out to be a great day). We didn’t stay awfully long, as we didn’t want to get stuck somewhere over an hour from home, we were hungry, and truth be told, I was traveling with some real animals who wanted to head somewhere they could get shots of Fireball (real classy animals), but I could definitely see this being the type of place where one could spend a nice afternoon. The other good news (besides more free popcorn) was that the beer was delicious. I was a fan of their brown ale, really like their Eagle Rye IPA ,which was correctly advertised as not being as bitter as a traditional IPA, and loved their Big Splash semi fruity pale ale, which I took home in growler. They don’t sell their beer in PA yet, but a nice plus is that it’s close enough that if I get a hankering for it (I can’t believe I just used hankering, but I think I’m keeping it), it’s just a short car ride away.
If Catskill brews and spirits are what you’re looking for, aside from Roscoe and the aforementioned Catskill, Roscoe is also home to its own Prohibition Distillery. Callicoon is 13 miles away and has a brewery of it’s own, while nearby Bethel also has a distillery.
Roscoe’s Brewery is nicknamed “trout-town,” because Roscoe itself is billed as “Trouttown USA” because of the excellent reputation it has in the fly fishing community, due to its locale near the convergence of the Beaver Kill and Willowemoc Creeks. I’m not particularly interested in fishing myself (unpopular opinion: I find it incredibly boring), but if you’d like to give it a go, there’s plenty of outfitters available to show you the ropes, and even a fly-fishing museum if that’s the sort of thing that tickles your fancy. You could make a weekend out of Roscoe with the fishing and drinking alone, but there’s also good food in the form of the “famous” Roscoe Diner (the caveats for being famous in this case, include having its own Wikipedia page), the Brandenburg Bakery, and the Arnold House, also in nearby Livingston Manor, that looks like it has a killer menu, and where I’ll be planning on dining on my return. Roscoe is also home to its own abandoned castle, and in close proximity to Bethel, NY the site of the original Woodstock, and a pretty sweet destination in its own right.