My husband, John, and I made a quick trip to the Tarrytown, NY, area last weekend, which is just outside of New York City along the Hudson River…beautiful area, I might add. We specifically went up because my husband ordered tickets for a 2-hour guided tour of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery (with lanterns) Saturday night. Very cool experience.

We have family in and around the city, and a few cousins right outside of Tarrytown, so I did my research and it was decided that after touring their new house (most definitely a fixer upper, but will be spectacular when it’s completed) we went to check out a craft brewery barely two miles from their front door.

Captain Lawrence Brewing Company is located in an industrial park in Elmsford, NY. Interestingly enough, it was founded by a guy who first began homebrewing when he was in high school in that area of New York. Yes, high school. Scott Vaccaro was supposed to be on the collegiate-track to become an accountant, but he got the brewing bug after watching a friend’s dad make a batch of beer one Saturday afternoon in 1995. He was hooked. Months later he left for college, but after a couple of semesters at Villanova he followed his heart and (after probably convincing his parents he wasn’t out of his mind) went to California where he learned the science of brewing in a four-year Fermentation Science program at U.C. Davis.

Fast forward a few years: an internship in Great Britain at Adnams Brewery and graduating from U.C. Davis were followed by a couple of years learning even more as a staff member at Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, but it was time to head back east. Vaccaro spent a few weeks in Europe visiting breweries before returning to the New York/Connecticut area where he briefly spent time as a brewer at Colorado Brewery in Connecticut that eventually had to close its doors. As they say, when one door closes another one opens. Thus Vacarro launched Captain Lawrence Brewing Company in 2005 in Pleasantville, NY—named after the street he grew up on—with a 20-barrel system. By 2006 they were awarded the Matthew Vassar Brewer’s Cup, which recognizes the best craft brewery in the Hudson Valley, and they have been earning awards ever since.

In 2011 Captain Lawrence moved to their current, bigger location with a 40-barrel brewing system, a bottling line, more fermentation capacity and seven smaller barrel systems for specialty brew batches. Their beers are available in New York, Connecticut and Northern New Jersey. Captain Lawrence beers are influenced by the traditional Belgian ales but with Vacarro’s interpretation, incorporating not only special flavors or aging systems (ex: Frost Monster is a malty ale aged in rum barrels), but also using wild yeasts and bacteria.

Captain Lawrence Pumpkin Ale

Saturday Tasting

When we got to the brewery, it was a typical New York fall day: colorful, chilly and blustery. And it was packed. The large outdoor area has a lot of tables, a bocce ball court, wood-fired pizza oven, and people were lined up for one of three or four sets of cornhole boards. Inside it was just as crowded. But it was worth the relatively short wait for beers. I didn’t really get a chance to get many photos—it was crowded, but trying to juggle my phone and a beer wasn’t going to happen because we stood almost the entire time. And despite how crowded they were (inside and out), the tasting room staff were awesome. Really friendly people.

Their website has a list of what they brew as well as what’s on tap. For tastings they sell a .5 oz tasting glass and poker chips to be used to “pay” for samples; most of the beers are one chip—we each got 12 chips. These are what I tried:

Pumpkin Ale | 5% APV
Anyone who has seen what I write or tweet about knows I love pumpkin. This was pretty good. Nice amber ale without too many spices to distract from the pureed pumpkin. Smooth finish with nice malts. I had a few samples of this one (and we bought a 6-pack to take home).

Cooktoberfest Märzen Ale | 5% APV
This Märzen/Octoberfest-style beer was one of my husband’s favorites. I typically like something more hoppy than malty, but it was pretty good. Nice color.

Brown Bird Brown Ale | 5% ABV
Another really good one (I had a couple samples of this). Rich mouth feel, a bit nutty with medium body and subtle hops. I remember it was good with each of the wood-fired pizzas we had outside.

Effortless Session IPA | 4.5% APV
Now we are getting to my hoppy faves (I had a few of this one). They use a variety of hops both in the kettle as well as in the fermenter. It was very good: light-bodied and easy on the finish. We bought a 6-pack of this one for home (the IPA below was a bit too much for John).

Hop Commander IPA | 6.5% APV
My favorite. Hands down (saved the best for last?). Citrus hops on the nose and taste, medium body and a bit of tart hops and grapefruit on the finish. Nice golden color. Had a few samples of this. By far the one with some kick to it, also. Glad I wasn’t driving. This was also one I enjoyed with pizza.

I’m sure we will be returning to Captain Lawrence whenever we visit family. I might have to push that we make a trip around the holidays because I am intrigued by the winter brews they will release.

If you are located in the Northeast, check them out with a visit. For those of you in New York, Connecticut and Northern New Jersey you can get some of their regular brews by the bottle.

Captain Lawrence Brewing Company

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