Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Notes From the Captain Lawrence Tasting Room: New Year’s, New Beers

They don’t have the cache of Christmas and New Year’s, but these days in between are, in a sense, holidays in their own right—time to seek out old friends, knock off the things you’ve been meaning to do all year, and start planning for next year. Chris Crane and Kristen Johnson had been intending to visit Captain Lawrence all year, and got it in with days to spare. “We’ve got the week off, and wanted to see what’s going on here,” says Kristen.

The two are on their “penultimate” beer, says Kristen, working their way down the list—the Freshchester Pale Ale, the Liquid Gold--with just the Hop Commander IPA to go. The topic of new year’s resolutions comes up; Kristen scoffs at their mention. “We’re already perfect!” she says. “Why tamper with perfection?”

Chris smiles. The two clink their penultimate samples together as Kristen cries out, “Slainte!”

Across the tasting room on a mellow Sunday, Brian Sasso and Rob Kenney of Hartsdale are burying their noses in samples of the Kolsch. “Always the Kolsch,” says Rob of the German-yeast concoction, though he’s bending the rules to allow for a sample of the small-batch pilsner known as Point Proven. “It’s like a Hefeweizen—without the Hefeweizen,” he says. “Does that make sense?”

Sort of.

Brian has his in-laws in from France, and offered to take them to the brewery. His wife shot down the suggestion, so he brought Rob instead. “I thought it was a point of genius on my part,” he says of the suggestion.

Brian is equally proud of his sideburns, which took top prize in the Mutton Chop Contest at a ski vacation over Christmas. His resolution? Defend his Mutton Chop title next December, and “drink something other than Bud Light when I go out.”   

The Red Hot Chili Peppers play on the house speakers. Behind the bar, Doug Roberts’ new year’s resolution is to make it through another year alive. “I’m 25 for 25 so far,” he says proudly. Jack Reilly’s is to take his workout regimen beyond 12-ounce curls. “I’d like to say I’m going to go to the gym more,” he says. “But I know that won’t happen.”

Kristen DeGrazia too has fitness in mind for ‘15. She lives here in Elmsford, and vows to try walking home from the brewery one of these days, offering Westchesterites a rare pedestrian sighting in Elmsford. It’s her first time at Captain Lawrence; pal Craig McClintock of Valhalla was here the day before, and apparently was excited enough about the visit to entice her to join him. “It’s a lot nicer than I thought,” she says of the contrast between the industrial exterior and homey setting inside.

Kristen’s New Year’s plans involve skiing, Vermont and friends. Craig’s are, for the moment, up in the air. “I’m not sure yet,” he says. “But I’m sure beer will be involved.”

Beer is involved in the double date going on at a nearby table. Carolyn and Sal Longo share a few with Karen and George Proctor; all are from Pleasantville and fondly recall the Captain’s early days there. “It was our hangout place,” says George. “You’d fill the growler, hang around a bit, and see familiar faces.”

Karen pulled off a surprise 50th birthday at Captain Lawrence in March for her husband; George says he was “dumbfounded” when he walked in to find 65 friends and family members waiting to celebrate.

“You were shaking,” says Karen.

The foursome is trying the full array of brews on tap. Sal is partial to the Melchior, a Belgian session IPA brewed with Crystal, Mosaic and Chinook hops that’s named for one of the Three Wise Men. He’s quick to come up with the second king, Gaspar, and quickly closes in on the third one. “The restaurant down in Soho,” he yells. “Balthazar!”

They discuss New Year’s plans at Hudson Social, a new restaurant tucked into the Dobbs Ferry train station building. Resolutions? “Drink more beer, worry less,” says Carolyn.

Adds George: “I like that worry less part.”

—Michael Malone (malone5a@yahoo.com)


Captain Lawrence Brewing, at 444 Saw Mill River Road in Elmsford, is open Wednesday through Friday, with weekend brewery tours on the hour, starting at 1. The author is paid by Captain Lawrence, partially in Freshchester Pale Ale. 
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