Books, Blues—and Brews
There were a number of compelling reasons to pop into the brewery Saturday. Live music on the patio. A semi-famous beer author in the house. A ballyhooed new brew to sample.
All of the above are factors in a full house turning up Saturday. Fittingly, “The Whole World” by Outkast booms through the speakers as Joshua M. Bernstein, beer writer extraordinaire, sets up shop amidst a bustling tasting room. Josh recently concluded a book tour for his dazzling, and wholly educational, The Complete Beer Course, including visits to San Diego, Portland and, of course, the Great American Beer Fest in Denver, and made the trip to Elmsford from Brooklyn for the day–checking his phone regularly for updates from a very pregnant wife.
Josh, whose books also include the craft beer guide Brewed Awakening, had been to Captain Lawrence’s old Pleasantville locale, but not Elmsford. “It’s amazing how they were able to transport and replicate the place,” he says with a smile. “It’s got the same homespun feel.”
Fritz Fernow, who met Josh during one of the author’s guided tours of homebrew operations in Brooklyn, came along for the ride—and to try the special release, the Fall Back English Mild Ale, with four different varieties in casks, the hand-picked hops compliments of J&A Farm in Goshen, NY. “I give it 10 out of 10…by far. And I’m pretty critical—I rate beer,” says Fritz, who runs FritzBrew.com. “But I have no problem giving this one a 10.”
Fritz said he’d “hitchhike to get here.” Kristin Plater, star of “Notes, Vol. 57”, has arrived from Brooklyn via bicycle. Rob Squires, of Livermore, California, opted for an airplane. There’s no place he’d rather be than Westchester in the fall. He was here for the area’s Halloween festivities last year, but his trip was cut short as Hurricane Sandy beckoned. Rob was on the last flight out, he says, after a harrowing ride in a rental car, running on vapors, which barely made it to the airport.
Enjoying the Kolsch, Rob is working on a book on travel centered on local cuisine. “But the real reason I’m here is to come to Sleepy Hollow around Halloween,” he says, mentioning the Horseman’s Hollow and the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze, “and experience the culture around it.”
Guitar slinger Evan Watson, who worked at Captain Lawrence before hatching his own Plan Bee Farm Brewery, performs his bluesy oeuvre to a full patio—he’s but one of several growlers in the yard. Fittingly enough, Evan has fronted a band called the Headless Horsemen.
The crowd is making the most of a perfect autumn day that’s still warm enough to enjoy outside. Adding to the seasonal flavor, the Pumpkin Ale is back for a limited engagement, and tasting room manager Aaron Pozit is sporting a ‘stache that will, in a matter of hours, bring his Inigo Montoya/Princess Bride costume to life.
Josh Bernstein shimmies to the Toadies now spilling from the tasting room speakers. Selling a few books and talking beer with whoever comes near his table (we were actually selling a few of our books as well), he’s digging the Fall Back Mild–the first Captain Lawrence beer run through a Hop Back contraption for maximum hoppiness–as much as Fritz is. “Milds get slagged as unexciting and boring beers,” he says. “But this one is incredibly drinkable.”
The India Pale Ale, Josh notes, is “sunshine on your lips”—and a bit different to his savvy palate than when he had it a few months back. “It’s brighter, not as much heavy malt on the backbone,” he says. “It’s more in line with a West Coast IPA.”
Josh has seen all manner of brewery tasting rooms while doing his book research, and finds a special vibe here at Captain Lawrence. “It’s communal,” he says. “Everyone brings their friends and brings their dogs—and makes new friends.”
Captain Lawrence Brewing, at 444 Saw Mill River Road in Elmsford, is open Wednesday through Friday (4-8 p.m.), Saturday (12-6 p.m.) and Sunday (12-5). The author is paid by Captain Lawrence, partially in Freshchester Pale Ale.
The “Notes From the Tasting Room” book is available at the brewery as well as on Amazon.