A Glorius German Biergarten for your Catskills Bucket List
The Catskill Mountains are filled with hidden gems, but the Mountain Brauhaus is more like a hidden treasure trove, a secret doorway into a world of retro vacation vibes, breathtaking waterfalls, giant beers, piles of bratwust, and—if you’re really lucky—a live oom-pah band covering “Sweet Caroline.” If you make a point of visiting one new-to-you spot in the Catskills this summer or fall, you must find your way to this indoor biergarten on the grounds of the Crystal Brook Resort in Round Top, NY.
Outside it looks like a little gingerbread house in the woods:
Inside? Friends, get a load of this:
Garlands of plastic grapes hang from the rafters, a white-bearded baritone in a Hawaiian shirt sings German drinking songs at the bar. Waitresses in dirndls deliver giant beer mugs and generous wurst samplers—bratwurst, knackwurst, and bockwurst are cut into bite-sized pieces, pierced by fancy toothpicks, and encircled with slices of buttered rye and white bread. My kids are living their dream as they eat sausage, enjoy the air-conditioning, and play an epic game of “I Spy” in a time capsule of taxidermy, beer steins, and nostalgic German signs. Meanwhile, I'm soaking up the good vibes of the thousands of parties held since the place opened its doors in 1948.
They’ve got a stage for live music and large dance floor, which is still put to good use. The Mountain Brauhaus entertainment schedule includes performers like the Bratwurst Boys (the self-proclaimed “hottest Oktoberfest band out of Long Island”) as well as traditional Schuhplattler dancers. As we walked back to the parking lot after a long lunch on a July afternoon, we passed an accordion player hopping out of a red convertible. He was wearing lederhosen and a handlebar mustache. We wondered if we should never leave. (You can see their extensive 2019 event schedule here.)
Their selection of German and German-style beers includes the foamy and smooth Hofbräu Hefe Weizen, the malty and crisp Spaten Oktoberfest, and the very drinkable Dinkelacker CD-Pils, among many others. The bier is served in half-liter pilsner glasses and 2-liter growlers. Here’s my 5-year-old demonstrating the size of the growler in comparison to her head:
This is not a sponsored post—we bought our own lunch, and the opinions here are entirely our own—but we did accept a tour of the grounds from Joseph Hasenkopf, whose family owns the Mountain Brauhaus and Crystal Brook Resort. It’s impossible to capture the majesty of this place on a screen, but you can actually walk behind part of this waterfall, and it’s one of the prettiest and most peaceful places I’ve ever seen:
If you don’t want to follow the trails to the waterfalls, there’s also very clean pool for resort guests. It’s located beside a little playground area on the edge of the woods.
The guest rooms keeps in line with the old-timey charm of the place. Personally, I love the hearts cut out of the green shutters and dark wood railings, and I’d describe the rooms as “classic” rather than “dated,” but you can scope out the rooms here and decide if they jive with your preferred hotel aesthetic.
Much like Gavin’s in the Irish Catskills, Crystal Brook guests are invited to eat all their meals at the resort. The sample menu offers plenty of stick-to-your-ribs meat-and-potatoes options, many with a German spin (think wursts alongside sandwiches for lunch, sauerbraten or wiener schnitzel for dinner, sauerkraut as a regular side dish). The Spanish look of the dining room, which includes a large oil painting of a matador, is just a product of our guide Joe’s grandmother’s tastes. We didn’t get a chance to sample the fare, but I love how every room tells a story here.
This photo below looks like a vintage postcard, but I took this picture with #nofilter during the July heatwave of 2019.
You’ve got to see it for yourself, and while you’re in the neighborhood, take a ride around the Round Top area to discover a whole enclave of long-standing resorts, including Glen Falls House (home of the great Trotwood restaurant, right down the road), Riedlbauer’s Resort, the Winter Clove Inn (which has its own bowling alley!), Bavarian Manor, and the Blackhead Mountain Lodge (equipped with an 18-hole golf course)—plus the new Long Neck Inn, which just opened on the grounds of the old Catskill Game Farm.