Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Notes From the Captain Lawrence Tasting Room: Sun Blocked Out, But Fun Goes On

Yup, it’s snowing in the spring. Not a lot of it, but it’s there—late March snow. Yet the frozen precip has not prevented a gaggle of New Jersey guys from playing bocce outside the brewery. “We saw an open course, and said, why not give it a shot?” says Ryan Jahnke of Oradell.

It’s fitting that he and pal Dave Turner are indulging in winter sports; both are, after all, hockey writers. Dave had been planning this cross-Hudson trip for some time. “I’ve been trying to get them to Captain Lawrence for weeks…months,” he says. “We love craft beer.”

Both are enjoying the Smoke Up smoked porter, and Dave has taking a particular liking to the Seeking Alpha triple IPA, made with tomahawk, mosaic, cascade and citra hops. “You don’t realize it’s 11% (ABV),” he says. “It’s really smooth, considering what it is.”

The guys say the weather isn’t getting in the way of a good, vigorous bocce match. “You get used to the flakes after a half hour,” says Dave.

Inside the brewery, the staff is setting up for the evening’s wedding. Matt and Chelsea Birzon of Pleasantville recall their own nuptials—it was only in June—at Westchester Country Club in Rye. “I had no idea you could do it here,” says Chelsea.

She’s sipping the funky wheat ale Sun Block, and holding out hope for the spring weather. Matt goes for the full-bodied stuff—the smoked porter, the Palate Shifter imperial IPA, and plans to sample the Seeking Alpha as well. The pair was making a stop at the Westy storage facility across Rte. 9A from the  brewery, and decided to pop in. “Coming over here made the whole experience less painful,” Matt explains.

Across the room, Rachel Carvalho of Queens also enjoys the Sun Block. Rachael saw “hoppy” in the ale’s menu description, translated it to “happy”, and gave it a go. Pal Robert Aloysius of New York City enjoys the flagship Freshchester Pale Ale after a sample of Sun Block. He’d been to Captain Lawrence’s old Pleasantville locale, but it’s the first time at the Elmsford tasting room for both of them.

Hard as it may be to believe, baseball starts next week. Robert will try out a new team this season. “I’ve always been a Yankee fan,” he says. “But the Mets are a lot more attractive this year.”

He may be a fair weather fan, but any mention of fair weather brightens our spirits. The weird weather determined the couple’s plans on this day. “It’s a snowy Saturday—it seemed like a good thing to do,” says Rachel.

Same goes for Ana Nunez and Leslie Hand, standing at a nearby barrel adorned with a pitcher of the Belgian style Liquid Gold. “There’s not much else to do in this weather,” says Ana with a shrug.

Across the room, Andres Carrasco of Rye is dreaming of tropical temps—and his own brewing operation. A Spaniard, and a tennis instructor to boot, he’s planning to open a brewpub back in Barcelona, and is doing some field research with his friend Leslie Alberti, also of Rye. The operation’s name, Coco Vail, marries the tropical weather and the snow—not unlike springtime in New York, come to think of it. “I see a niche there that needs to be filled,” he says while sipping the Hop Commander IPA.

Meanwhile, out on the patio, the snow continues to fall, as do the bocce balls out of the hands of the Bergen County boys. Both the smoked porter and the triple IPA do wonders in terms of warming up cold souls, if not hands. “Beer and bocce,” says Dave Turner. “They just go together.”

—Michael Malone (malone5a@yahoo.com)

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. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

5 Beer Pairings with Barley's Angels

The Barley's Angels have taken flight in Poughkeepsie. Yes the Poughkeepsie Chapter has launched and had their first event at Mill House Brewery.

For the record, yes I like a good craft beer! What a great way to learn about beer than with a bunch of women.  I asked my friend and former college roomie Eileen to go with she brought her daughter too! Truly a "girls night out."

Barley's Angels is a network of chapters for women exploring beer around the world. Each chapter expands the appreciation and understanding of craft beer among event with craft beer professionals. The organization began in Seattle and now has chapters world wide.

The Hudson Valley Chapter launched Thursday, March 19 with an event at Mill House Brewing Company in Poughkeepsie.  The evening began with a presentation by the Brewmasters Jamie Bishop and Larry Stock, two best friends brewing beer together.

It seems the Hudson Valley is not only famous for wine but beer as well.  Matthew Vassar had one of the largest breweries in America in the 1840's  producing close to 15,000 barrels of beer. By 1860 they were producing 30,000 barrels.  Yes, in case you were wondering Matthew Vassar established Vassar College.

Beer has 3 ingredients, malted barley, hops and yeast.  According to Jamie, "the yeast eats the sugar, pee's alcohol and burps CO2." Fermentation usually last 2 weeks and you have a new batch of beer.

Just like wine, beer has a beginning, middle and an end, a finish.  Jars of yeast, hops and barley were passed around for us to smell.  The toastier the barley the more coffee and chocolate flavors came out.

Now let's get into our beer pairings.  We tasted 5 beers with various food.  One of the rules of Barley's Angels is you have to have a guest brew.  So our gust brew at this pairing was Keegan Ales Super Kitty.

The first pairing was Buffalo Fried Oysters with Mill House's Kold One Kolsch.  For this paring I can only comment on the beer,  A few years back I had a violent reaction to fried oysters while in New Orleans and haven't touched them since.  I will tell you they were delicious! However, I was not happy I couldn't partake in this paring because they looked good. Eileen said the oysters were spicy and it over took the beer.

The beer was a bit light. It did have some characteristics of Champagne, perhaps it was because of it's weight and the way the bubbles felt in your mouth.  It had a hint of honey on the finish.  As the beer finished in your mouth it went flat.

Pairing number 2 was Alpha Amber with Cheddar Bratwurst.  The beer was hoppy with a bit of a sour smell.  The Brats with the stone mustard and sauerkraut and the beer went very well together.

Our tables favorite pairing of the evening...The Pulled Pork Sliders with apple-fennel slaw paired with Kilt Spinner Wee Heavy.  This was a match maid in heaven.  Both blended so well together.   The beer had aromas of mocha, wasn't to heavy or hoppy with a coffee flavor finish.  The smokiness of the BBQ sauce mellowed out the coffee finish to a soft hint and it all blended well.

The guest beer Keegan Ales Super Kitty was paired with Fig and Pig Crostini with blue cheese.  The house made bacon was fantasatic!  The aromas coming from the glass was a bit lemony with a sour hoppy smell. The hint of lemon came through on the palate as well.  Paired with the Crostini, it made the finish of the beer very bitter.

Every pairing must have a dessert!  I wanted this supersized!  A Stout Milkshake served with as well as made with the Velvet Panda Stout.  The Stout had a hint of coffee.  Of course it paired very well with the milkshake. When you drank the milkshake then the Stout it did mellow the coffee flavor of the beer. The milkshake was like a New York Egg Cream made with Stout not seltzer. It was delicious!

The Hudson Valley Barley's Angels will be having events through out the region at different breweries. You can find them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/BarleysAngelsHudsonValley and if you want more information you can email barleysangelshv@gmail.com

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Wine Review: Priest Ranch 2009 Petite Sirah

Set high in the hills above Napa sits Somerston Wine Company. They have over 200 acres planted and the area has cool nights, late morning fog and warm afternoons.  This lends itself to a nice slow ripening at harvest.

The eastern part of the property sits Priest Ranch. The history dates back to 1849 when a man named Joshua James Priest gained the title to 638 acres of the Catacula land grant in a section called Soda Valley.  Today Soda Valley is called Priest Ranch.

The 2009 Priest Ranch Petite Sirah is 100% Petite Sirah. It has a pretty high alcohol content, clocking in at 15%.

Aromas of rose petals, vanilla and oak come out immediately.  The first sip was strong cherry licorice and very tight.  As the wine opened up it became very complex.  Layers of sour cherry, cassis and hint of licorice filled my mouth.

The wine is very inky in color and you will walk away with purple teeth.

This is a pretty big wine and a although I received this wine as a media sample over a year go, this wine could use another 4 - 6 years in the bottle.  So if you see it, buy it and cellar it for a few more years.  SRP $46

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Notes From the Captain Lawrence Tasting Room The Captain’s Log: A Tasty Triple Threat

Every few months, Captain Lawrence releases a limited batch of specialty four-packs of very unique beers. This time around, it’s the Seeking Alpha triple IPA. That’s right, triple—we’ll see your imperial IPA and raise you another blast of hoppy goodness. It’s a big, bitter monster of a brew; the Village Voice rightfully called this 11% alcohol beer “a palate-smashing beast of an ale designed for those times when a lesser IPA simply won’t cut it.”
Seeking Alpha, featuring Tomahawk, Mosaic, Cascade, and Citra hops, and created with alpha acid concentrate, debuted last year, but features a modified recipe now. “It’s ten times better than last year,” says owner Scott Vaccaro. “The second time around, we hit it on the head.”
Seeking Alpha represented Captain Lawrence, along with a few other not-quite-normal beers, at the Extreme Beer Fest at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston March 20-21. Hosted by Beer Advocate, the Fest describes itself as “the ultimate throwdown of craft beer creativity. Join us as we celebrate brewers who push the boundaries of brewing and raise a fist at the norm.”
Two years ago, the fest was cancelled due to a massive snowstorm. As the boys headed out of Elmsford on Friday, the snow was falling in New York, but the show went on in Boston. Also making the trip–the Frost Monster imperial stout and some sour ales.
FullSizeRenderIf extreme brews aren’t your thing, Captain Lawrence offers a variety of far more accessible beers. The newbie Effortless IPA (india pale ale), an easygoing 4.5% alcohol beer, makes its debut in early April. On up the hops scale, the Palate Shifter imperial IPA features new packaging and a new name, but the same heady, hoppy, fruity brew. Several beers are going through a rebranding; even the venerable Freshchester Pale Ale will get a new label and six-pack design, though the flagship beer, and its homespun name, will stay the same.
But another taproom standard may get a new name: the Captain’s Kolsch. Got any ideas for renaming the German-style ale?
Friday’s snow and this week’s chill notwithstanding, the fair weather is coming. That means outdoor beer consumption, including Tap New York at Hunter Mountain April 25-26, and the Captain’s own Tap & Pour birthday bash May 16. Tap & Pour encompasses the pig roast of years past, but there’s a wider array of food options, including victuals from famed Walter’s Hot Dogs, Gleason’s and The Cookery, in addition to the grilled swine. Bands will be set up in the brewery; Evan Watson plays the VIP hour at 2 p.m., with Phineas and the Lonely Leaves, Mark Sinnis and Space Bacon (yes, Space Bacon) among those performing. Tap & Pour celebrates Captain Lawrence’s ninth anniversary.
“We’re really trying to do it up this year,” says Scott.
Once the temperature climbs a bit more, there is the Captain Lawrence patio for bocce, cornhole, oven-fired pizzas and brews such as Sun Block, Brown Bird Ale, Liquid Gold and the funky pilot-system lineup. “We can’t wait to see people out on the patio again,” says Scott. “It’s been a long, cold winter.”
–Michael Malone (malone5a@yahoo.com)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Markham Cellar 1879 Blend

Located in St. Helena Markham winery is actually one of the first wineries founded in the Napa Valley.  Founded by Jean Laurent who built the winery in 1874, he was on of the largest producers back in the California wine boom of the 1880's.

One hundred or so years later, Bruce Markham purchased the property and founded Markham Vineyards.  He focused mainly on Cabernet Sauvignon and added Merlot with the 1980 vintage.

In 1988 the winery was sold to Mercian Corporation. Today under the direction of Kimberlee Nicholls, Markham is producing award winning wines.

Kimberlee's Cellar 1879 Blend was created as a homage to Markham founder Jean Laurent who built the winery's stone cellar in 1879.

The 2012 Cellar 1879 Blend is a blend of 36% Merlot, 21% Petite Sirah, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Syrah, 9% Zinfandel and 8% Petit Verdot.  The wine spent 12 months in the barrel of which 30% of the barrels were new oak.

The wine had a beautiful deep garnet color.  Notes of black cherry, blackberry and smoke filled the glass. On my palate I found flavors of blackberry jam, soft tannins and a beautiful hint of soft pepper on the finish.

The wine retails for approximately $25.  Definitely would purchase this wine again.

**Note: This wine was a sample from the PR agency representing the vineyard.**

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Thralls Family Cellars 2013 Chardonnay Antonio Mountain

I knew Ed Thralls from the wine blogging community.  He had a blog called "WineTonight," but we met in person in 2010 when a few of us took a hike in Napa. It was the 3 hour tour. Yes, it turned into a 6 hour hike.

Ed had just relocated to the Napa area from Atlanta to begin following his dream, producing his own wine.  Well, I must say it didn't take him to long to realize his dream.  Congratulations Ed! I'm real proud of you.

Of course I had to purchase some of his wine and try it. Boy did I like it and can't wait to taste the other selections.

The 2013 Thralls Family Cellars Chardonnay came from a vineyard in the Antonio Mountain Vineyard located in the Petaluma Gap. There were only 74 cases of this Chardonnay made.

The wine was aged in 50% neutral oak barrels and 50% stainless steel for 8 months.  It went through 100% malolactic fermentation and was aged 8 months before bottling in September of 2014. 

Aromas of Anjou pear, a citrus blend and a touch of butter filled the glass.  One sip and both Paul and I had smiles on our faces.  Well done! Flavors of red apple, Anjou pear,, creamy and delicate with just the right balance.

The wine was paired with Butternut Squash Ravioli in a brown butter sage sauce served over a bed of greens. Perfect pairing at that!

Unfortunately Thralls is only sold at select stores in California. But the god news is you can order from his website and the UPS man can deliver it.

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