Monday, August 6, 2007

Captain Lawrence Brewing Co.

On Saturday, Mandy, my sister Carrie, and I had to drive to JFK to pick up my brother who had been studying in Switzerland for the summer (hence the trip to Europe mentioned in my intro post). This finally afforded me an opportunity to check out a small brewery that I've heard many good things about but have never been able to try. You've probably never even heard of Captain Lawrence unless you live in southern NY, as that's just about the only place to currently find their beers. They are only open for tastings on Friday from 4-7 and Saturday from 12-6. Since it's 1.5 hours from our house, it's a bit too far to go just for some samples. However, the up side to fighting the NY traffic on the way to the airport is that Captain Lawrence was just a quick detour for us.

A few quick turns off the Saw Mill Parkway and we arrived at the tiny brewery located in a very small industrial park in an aptly named town called Pleasantville. Yes, Pleasantville. There was a small parking lot with a few cars there when we arrived around 4.

As we walked in, we entered a fairly small tasting room with a nice bar on one side and some round tables with stools on the other. The actual brewery was located straight past the tasting room. There was an open window to check out the brewery operations, or you could just walk through the open door. A very festive atmosphere permeated the place and it was more crowded than any other brewery I've been to of this size that didn't serve food. I was told later that this was actually a slow day!

As we stepped up to the bar we were greeted by a nice gentleman who took the time to explain a little about the brewery and their tasting setup. They have 4 beers on tap that they make available for sampling (3 oz samples). They have a specific order they take you through to avoid wrecking your palate on the Double IPA, or you can just specify what you'd like to taste.

First up was the Liquid Gold, a Belgian-style Pale Ale at around 6% ABV. It was a very light looking beer in appearance, but packed a punch in the taste department. Sturdy malt backbone with some straw-like influences and a citrusy finish. A very nice beer that told us we were in for a treat for the rest of the samples. Second was the Pale Ale. This, to me, was their weakest beer. Seemed like a fairly typical Pale, held up by a nice malty backbone with a bit of a hop bite. It might not be my favorite Pale Ale, but that definitely doesn't make it a bad was very tasty. Third was the fantastic Smoked Porter, which was extremely smooth with some chocolate notes in the front finishing with just a hint of smokiness. People who crave smoked beers will probably wish it had more smoke, but it makes it more accessible to people who would like to keep the smoke in their meats. Personally, I love a ton of smoke, but I can also appreciate beers that are more subtle than Schlenkerla. Finally, there was Captain's Reserve, a Double IPA clocking in around 8%. Absolutely fantastic hop aroma bursting out of the glass. The taste is bitter with a fantastic citrusy component from the hops, all supported by a malty sweetness lying in the back. Really, really great...and dangerously drinkable.

In addition to their 4 draft offerings, they seem to brew one special beer in limited quantities for bottling in 750s every month or two. They had their St. Vincent's Dubbel, which I did not purchase. They will soon be releasing Smoke From the Oak, where they age the smoked porter on Oak. They are making 80 cases.

This place makes some great beer and their tasting setup is very unique. I can imagine I'd be here very often if we lived in the area. Unfortunately, 1.5 hours is a long drive to make if this is my only destination. I was told that they should be distributing to southern CT (Fairfield and maybe New Haven Counties) in September/October and maybe the rest of CT by next Spring. The prices are a little steep, but worth it for the quality you are getting (not to mention the free samples). We bought a growler each of the Liquid Gold, Smoked Porter, and Captain's Reserve.

We'll be passing through the Friday before Labor Day driving to AL to visit Mandy's parents. We'll definitely refill the 3 growlers, grab a sample or two, and keep our fingers crossed that there are still some bottles of Smoke From the Oak available after 2 weeks!


Loren said...

Stumbled over via Lew's site. Just an FYI but the Smoke From The Oak - Rum is VERY limited and probably won't last 2 weeks. Especially if the "hoarders" find out and center a party around its release at the brewery.


Dave said...

Yeah, I figured I'd be cutting it close. Oh well, I like living dangerously!