The Captain’s Log: Top of the Hops
Beer tastes especially good when it’s consumed out of a giant trophy cup that you were just given. Scott Vaccaro had that opportunity when Captain Lawrence was awarded the Matthew Vassar Brewer’s Cup for best Hudson Valley brewery at the Tap NY craft beer festival in Hunter Mountain in late April. Fully 78 breweries showed up, and the Captain was deemed best of the Hudson Valley bunch after submitting its India Pale Ale, Imperial IPA and Seeking Alpha triple IPA for consideration.
It’s Scott’s second Vassar Cup; he brought home his first in 2006, when Captain Lawrence was a rookie sensation—just a few months old. “It feels good to win once again, and bring it home,” says Scott.
The cup sits atop the counter in the tasting room. Matthew Vassar, for the curious, started a brewery in Poughkeepsie a few centuries ago and sold enough beer to create Vassar College.
The Seeking Alpha is a veritable hops monster. But the special release brew, one of Captain Lawrence’s quarterly four-packs, is in short supply. “It’s been a resounding success,” says Scott. “Grab it while you still can, because it’s here today and gone tomorrow.”
Next up for a four-pack special release is the Golden Delicious tripel ale that’s aged in apple brandy barrels.
Scott is also toying around with putting the beloved Nor’easter, a “strong and dark, Belgian-esque ale” aged with elderberries in bourbon barrels, out in a four-pack perhaps as early as January. Captain Lawrence has not produced the Nor’easter in about three years, and the idea of busting it out again is tempting. “It’s got a big, bold flavor,” Scott says. “There’s a lot going on with that one.”
Next up on the Captain Lawrence events calendar is the annual pig roast, held May 17—a month earlier than last year to beat those brutal summer temps. (If you thought it was hot last year, think of how the poor pigs felt.) A full lineup of pilot batch brews, including the Black Lodge Espresso, Six N’ Change Black IPA, and Demon Sweat pale ale, will go well with smoked pork if they can last until mid-May. As with last year, live music includes Rebecca Haviland and her Whiskey Heart outfit, and Evan Watson, former Captain Lawrence staffer and notable brewbadour. “We’re excited to have Evan, a Captain Lawrence favorite, back at the brewery for a day of fun,” says Scott.
And while it won’t happen before the pig roast, Captain Lawrence has submitted plans to the town of Greenburgh to expand its outdoor patio, which would involve turning vacant lawn space adjacent to the patio (currently occupied by cigarette smokers and dogs) into more room for tables and seats and, of course, al fresco beer/hot dog sampling. “It’s getting a little cramped back there and we don’t want people to feel cramped,” says Scott. “We want to give kids room to run.”
He’s been planting various flora, including forsythia and Norway spruce, to pretty up the place now that the favorable weather is finally coming around. “We’re trying to make it feel like a nice beer garden,” says Scott, “instead of a place that overlooks a Snapple distribution warehouse.”
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 India Pale Ale.
The “Notes From the Tasting Room” book is available at the brewery and on Amazon.