Thursday, May 3, 2012

Aye Aye Captain!

Ok this post is gonna be different. Different because I am going to review multiple beers (that isn't different) and a brewery all together. Skip the typical format, give overall impression, and let people up north know what they are or might be missing.
Last week, I went up to New York to help celebrate my sister's 30th birthday. We were in Elmsford, near White Plains, and I took the opportunity to try some new and local beers. In doing some research, I found that the Captain Lawrence Brewing Company had their brewery about 2 miles form where we staying. It seemed perfect. Little did I know, I was underestimating just how perfect it would be.

Brewery #1, beers #21-26
Captain Lawrence Brewing Company  Elmsford, NY

A small brewery, tucked behind an industrial park, this place was a Beer Advocate aided find. Quite literally, you'd have to be going there to know it was there, and even then you might miss it. It is through the gates, around the back, with only a vinyl sign attached to the fence to announce its presence. Thanks to Google maps, and the iPad for your assistance. A large wooden barrel is in the parking lot, but you need to go further around, because the entrance is up against the back fence. Felt almost like being in on a secret, like a speakeasy, getting in. Just a main room, two restrooms, and a couple high top tables, with a bar to the left, and the brewery behind some glass doors in front of you as you enter. Not a lot to take in. We made our way to the bar.
As my dad and I got to the bar, we were greeted immediately by a friendly staff, who explained straight away that to sample you had to shell out a whopping $2 each for 3 oz souvenir glasses. $2?? Really?? Come on, man, I'm thinking. What's that you say barman? Oh, that's it, no more than that? My bad, this is a little better. And I what? I get two 3 oz samples of each draft at no additional cost? SOLD! With six drafts to choose from, the math is 36 oz for those math challenged. That is 3 full beers for just two bucks. Best deal going, and if you bring your glasses back, no more purchase necessary, just tips. Outstanding! They also have a variety of cheeses and meats to choose from, served up on a slate board, from a local butcher/deli. This costs extra, but at that point, I was euphoric anyway. Lets dive in!

First choice was the Family Meal, described as a 4 spiced pumpkin ale. I was a bit leery, considering I don't much care for pumpkin beers, but it was a lower ABV, so I started there. A brilliant, shining golden ale appeared in miniature before my eyes, and I immediately thought that this was no fall ale. It looked crisper, brighter, and no pumpkin aroma was discernible. Lots of spice, however, with clove and cinnamon hitting the right notes, and the right amount of carbonation to balance the light hops and faint yeastiness. It was like Thanksgiving on the tongue, with familiar tastes, and a refreshing finish; it was everything but pumpkin to me, but that made it more pumpkin. Like a donut, where all the other flavors of pumpkin pie are there, except the pumpkin filling. It was delicious, but I helped myself to my second serving just to be sure. Yep, I was right, very nice indeed.

Next up, we moved to the aptly named 'Brown Ale.' Honestly, there just isn't much for me to say here. Its not my favorite style, and this wasn't memorable. It was textbook brown ale, with the nuttiness, and malt character you'd expect. It was a little thin tasting, and there were some hop notes, but again, as most browns go...this one went. As did the second 3 ouncer...

Captain's Kolsch next. Cold, wet, good palate cleanser. Not my thing, I moved along. Not even seconds here, I tasted it simply to taste, but felt no need to linger, so I moved on to...

Liquid gold. Now, here is one i was looking forward to. A Belgian pale, well rated, pretty popular, and on the edge of my favorite style. Some excitement. And a let down. Too much 'funk' here. I like the Belgian beers for that yeasty, farmhouse, grassy aroma, flavor, finish, but I was left wanting here. The notes were there, but too overpoweringly so. There was little balance. It clung to all parts of my mouth, and down the throat. It just seemed off. So I asked the barman if this was the intention. He had a sip and admitted it seemed a bit different. He tried the other line it was assigned to, declared that one proper, and served me that. No use. I had been tainted. I could taste nothing else at that moment, and the faint notes in the good glass, stood out strong in my flavor memory. Sad times. I look forward to trying again at some point in the future.

Some food would be nice. And was it! Strong & mild cheeses, prosciutto, salami, gherkins, olives. Salt and protein. Mmm. Very lovely indeed.

Now, I saved these last two for last, because, well, I wanted to.  They are more along my preferred types, and I wanted a strong, hoppy finish. But before we could get started towards the pale ales, tragedy struck. With a swift swipe, the bartender drew a line on the chalkboard through the Xtra Gold, the Tripel, the coup de grace. I was aghast. How could this be? Maybe if I'd started there, things would be ok, but no going back. I needed to drown my sorrows, three ounces at a time.

Freshchester, or Captain Lawrence Pale Ale was next in line, and I was very pleased. I'd seen this throughout town, but had refrained, wanting to try it direct from the source. I'm glad I did, but I'd soon wish that I'd indulged sooner. A bright, crisp pale ale with a more malty nose than expected, and some decent head retention and lacing. The hops are piney and noticeable, but a definite East Coast rendering, with the fruitiness down played. It reminds me of a generously buttered chunk of rough bread, the creamy butter fighting hard against the yeast and holding its own. Pine dances here and there, and a light finish complete a well constructed beer. My six ounces would have to be enough on this day, but dangit, opportunities--see, 'pints'--missed by passing this up previously. Not quite a session beer at 5.6% ABV, but it has that all day drinkability to it for sure.

As dad and I were settling up, sad that we'd been robbed of our final choice, the people in line next to us were doing a growler fill. They too were disheartened at the news of no Xtra Gold. But this keen-eyed gentleman noticed two bombers sitting in the display behind the counter, not on the 'for sale' aka empty shelf, but with the shirts and hats and coolers and such. He asked the bartender if he could have those, got a yes, and before I knew what happened, I blurted, 'I'll take one of them from you!!' Um. Rude. 'I mean, if that's ok with you.' Better. But not by much. 'Man.' There, that should do it. And to my beer geek happiness, he smiled and said, 'sure, why not.' VICTORY! I almost hugged him. Feeling that might have been too much, I simply nodded and offered profuse happiness. Dad and I had a hotel beer!

After a nap, while prepping for my sister's surprise party--that's how this all started you remember--we enjoyed this 10% ABV beast. It was happy to see us too, carbonation abounded. Froth upon froth poured out and I feared we had shaken or disturbed it. It finally settled, and the aromas of pear and apple and orange and lemon hit me. Like a fruit basket buoyed by yeast, with faint caramel, toasty malt. The funk is present, its here, but in much greater balance than the previous BPA. Its a lovely dance, each ingredient playing its part, knowing its steps. A little thin on the mouthfeel, and the carbonation gave it almost a champagne quality that I didn't expect, but also didn't completely hate, but I'm nit-picking. I really enjoyed this, and it was a great close to a great day, with an above average run of beers.

Well, if you've made it all the way through this rambling narrative, and you haven't discovered that CL is the best $2 money can buy, I suggest Econ for Dummies, widely available everywhere. Staff, and beer, and food were way above par; facilities on par, though a bit small. And a friendly group of craftbeer people, in Elmsford, NY, who are definitely in on the secret. And they know it, the smiles above their 3 oz mini-pints prove it. If you're anywhere near, please don't miss out. Thank you for a great day Captain Lawrence staff!


1 comment:

mbutler said...

Nicely done indeed, Chris. It was a great day indeed & Captain Lawrence was a great find to finish off the day!