The Captain’s Log
Summer is the season for road trips, and Captain Lawrence Brewing is indeed hitting the highway. Owner Scott Vaccaro is trekking to Burlington for the Vermont Brewers Fest July 20-21, giving the good people from the land of Ben & Jerry’s, maple syrup and Phish a chance to sample Westchester’s finest brews.
“We hope to be available in Vermont some day,” says Scott. “We’ll say hello to the people of Burlington.”
The first weekend of August is “Belgium Comes to Cooperstown,” hosted by the Ommegang Brewery. Scott will be filling his truck with Captain Lawrence, and hooking up a trailer holding a 200 pound pig that will feed the masses in Cooperstown. He’ll hope for better luck than last year; while backing out of a driveway in central New York, the trailer jack-knifed and fell on its side in the middle of some dark and lonely road. Only the kindness of some local passers-by enabled Scott to get the trailer upright—and get the pig roasted the next day.
Summer is also the time for special projects, and Captain Lawrence’s experimental brewing facility is positively hopping. The first three creations from the pilot system—the wheat ale Cold Cousin Brewski, hoppy session ale Pallino Ale and Scott’s own Palisades Ale—have come and, sadly, gone. Worry not—more brews are ready for their moment to shine. The pilot system is an opportunity for Captain Lawrence staffers to flex their creative muscles, and they’ve been making the most of it.
Batch # 4 is Brown Out Summer Porter. Justin Sturgess’ brown porter, with notes of chocolate and grassy hops and a smooth malt finish, is available in the tasting room. So is Ryan Kipp’s Breakfast Stout, which features tasty hints of oatmeal and coffee--but is not a recommended substitute for actual breakfast. “I couldn’t believe Scott let us do this,” says Ryan.
Scott says the pilot brews give the guys a break from cranking out barrel after barrel of mainstays like Freshchester Pale Ale, Captain’s Kolsch and the Captain’s Reserve Imperial IPA. “Everybody who works here loves beer,” says Scott. “They want to express themselves creatively.”
Also in the works are Batches # 6 and #7—Randy Shull’s dry hopped wit beer, Chico Loco (named for his Chihuahua), flavored with lemongrass; and Matt Levy’s Rye Saison, which the former Captain Lawrence intern whipped up out of some yeast from France, and offers hints of light spice and summery fruit.
The guys cop to some nerves as their brews move to the tasting room, but that has transformed quickly to satisfaction and pride upon seeing the faces of happy samplers. When the room shuts down at the end of the weekend, they check their numbers like day traders to see how the brew sold. Scott’s Palisades Ale went fastest of the first three, which the staffers chalk up to the boss’s established name in the brewing world.
The crew members say the experimental brewhouse has reignited their passion for home brewing. “If you’re going to home brew, why not make 250 gallons, and have people give you feedback?” says Matt.
The feedback has been unfailingly positive…so far.
“If their beer doesn’t sell,” quips Scott, “they have to drink it all.”
—Michael Malone (email@example.com)
Captain Lawrence Brewing, at 444 Saw Mill River Road in Elmsford, is open Tuesday through Friday (retail 2-7 p.m., samples 4-7 p.m.); and Saturday, with retail and samples 12-6 p.m., and brewery tours at 1, 2, 3 and 4 p.m. The author is paid by Captain Lawrence, partially in beer, for “Notes From the Tasting Room.”