Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Notes From the Captain Lawrence Tasting Room

"Notes From the Captain Lawrence Tasting Room" checks out what people are drinking, and what they're thinking, at the brewery in Elmsford, NY.

Happy, Ours

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere, as the adage goes—shorthand for, let’s put this lame workday behind us and go get a drink somewhere. In fact, it’s 5 o’clock right here in central Westchester—all the more reason to move on to the next, and way more fun, stage of the day.

Happy Hour. The words go together perfectly, like ham and cheese, or Snooki and Jionni. They need each other: Take Happy away, and Hour is bereft—a 60 minute mass of mirthless misery. Take Hour away and…well…come to think of it, Happy actually gets on OK without Hour there, tapping his watch, saying it’s almost time to go. Scratch that thought.

Regardless, Happy Hour is a blessed American institution--a chance to do for the workplace relationship in a few hours that which takes a few years when spreadsheets, bitter coffee and bosses are involved.

An array of workplaces is represented in the Captain Lawrence tasting room on this freakishly warm Thursday evening. There are the guys from a pension administration firm in Tarrytown around one barrel, and a fivesome from an I.T. staffing outfit around another. The I.T. folks are more fun than they might sound. Dean McGowan blissfully sips a sample of Family Meal—a citrusy and zesty Kolsch with four spices in the mix. “It’s a Christmas cookie in a beer,” says the sudsy sage.

Another barrel harbors, of all things, a church organist and his singer pal. The former, Danny Gray of Briarcliff, and the latter, Roxanne Smith of Pleasantville, performed at a funeral at Holy Innocents in Pleasantville earlier in the week, and lamented that neither had visited the new Captain Lawrence digs.

“We got to talking about how we hadn’t been to the new spot,” says Gray, who’s also a composer. “We decided it’s about time to do that.”

Gray, a boyish 25, sips a Ginger Man Ale. Smith quaffs a Family Meal. Don’t bother asking Roxanne to sing “Roxanne”—it’s just not happening.

While it’s prime time for the post-work crowd, not everyone is working off the workaday blues. In fact, Mike Mas of Houston is enjoying the first chapter of a minutes-old vacation. He and Eric Rosner of Hawthorne were pals from Arizona State, and hadn’t seen each other in six years. Mas, in fact, had never been to New York. Collecting Mas at the airport, Rosner threw out a novel idea.

“He picked me up at LaGuardia and said, wanna go to a brewery?” says Mas, sporting a gold ASU t-shirt and a ponytail.

Mas sips a Ginger Man; Rosner, an attorney, a Family Meal. Creedence’s “Bad Moon Rising” plays. (“Creedence? I love Creedence!”… a glass of Imperial IPA if you can name the movie.) A big, bright moon eases up over Westchester. There will be dinner down on Mamaroneck Avenue, touristy stuff in Manhattan over the weekend, a flight back to Houston Monday.

Before all that, there are brews to sample in a quiet corner of Elmsford. “It was a kick-ass idea,” says Mas. “I had no idea what to expect.”

Five o’clock turns to 6. A few more parties find a barrel and belly up. Family Meals and Liquid Golds are ordered. Workplace stories are shared, gossip dealt. The I.T. staffing crew says the tasting room is a pleasant alternative to a bar: more relaxed, more room, less cash. The topic of happy hour shenanigans—overserved co-workers behaving out of character—is brought up.

Kristy O’Driscoll scoffs. “All that happens in our workplace,” she jokes.

The I.T. folks laugh. McGowan ponders more colorful metaphors for the Family Meal.

All are happy. Work may be the common denominator for those around a barrel. But for now, it’s a distant notion.

--Michael Malone

(malone5a@yahoo.com)

The Captain Lawrence tasting room is open 4-7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 12-6 Saturday.

The author is paid by Captain Lawrence, partially in beer.

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