The weather outside wasn’t exactly frightful, but it would be pretty messy in a matter of hours. Snow was in the forecast, which some found irritating, but others felt enhanced the festive holiday mood in the tasting room.
Jeff McDonald and his wife Judy Duhl of White Plains stopped into the brewery with their daughter Laura and her friend after cutting down their Christmas tree in Easton, Connecticut. The 9-foot Douglas fir is strapped to the car’s roof outside, eager to shake free from its nylon sheath. “We started to go there 20 years ago, and it became a tradition,” says Jeff.
The brewery part of the excursion, suggested by Laura’s friend, Bridget Reilly of Larchmont, is a newer tradition that may have some staying power. Jeff likes the Freshchester Pale Ale while Judy enjoys a small-batch selection. “I’ll tell you what’s good—the Schwarzenegger!” she enthuses, pointing to the German black lager Schwarzer Hund on the beer menu. “We went to Ireland, and it reminds me of Guinness.”
Laura has also opted for an offbeat choice: a cup of sauvignon blanc. “I’m not a beer drinker,” she concedes. “But I do like the setting here.”
She likes the wintry weather as well. “It gives things a Christmas-y feel,” says Laura. “It reminds me of being with my family.”
The tasting room is half full on this cold Sunday. The Rolling Stones’ “Loving Cup” spills from the speakers. Matteoand Dana Pungello of White Plains are loving their cups of Liquid Gold, a beer they discovered at the new Yonkers beer and a movie joint Alamo Drafthouse. They’re at the brewery for a friend’s 29th birthday. “We happen to love day-drinking,” says Dana.
Matteo has also discovered the Ginger Man, a Belgian-styled amber ale that he says goes perfectly with a wintry day. “It’s like eating a gingerbread cookie,” says Matteo. “I probably would not enjoy it as much in June.”
Across the tasting room, Richard Walker of Somers and Jennifer Mandel of New York City are celebrating passing the bar exam. When Jennifer learned of her winning score, her employer gave her a congratulatory ice cream cake. When Richard passed, his co-workers got him a Captain Lawrence sample glass—and 13 beer tokens.
“I’d rather have the beer, for sure,” says Jennifer.
Richard says the malty, spicy Winter Ale helps him cope with the frozen forecast. “I hate winter, I hate snow,” he says. “In fact, I despise everything about winter. The only good thing about it is Winter Ale.”
The 2 p.m. tour of the brewery wraps up and the tour-goers fill up the tasting room. That includes Jim and Jean Casey of Mahopac, Jim’s brother (and rival for best hair in the place) Kevin, and a handful of Casey offspring. Jim is enjoying the darker beers on the menu, including the small batch #69 and the Winter Ale, and taking the winter weather in stride. “It doesn’t bother me—it is what it is. It’s part of living in New England,” he says, employing a very broad definition of New England.
The sample lines are non-existent. The holidays are upon us, “Exile on Main Street” is on the house music, and the mood is upbeat. (Heck, the Jets even won.) The Casey clan takes delight in playful ribbing–and locally brewed craft beer.
“It’s nice to have a place like this around,” says Jim. “We need it.”
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.
The “Notes From the Tasting Room” book is available at the brewery and on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Notes-Captain-Lawrence-Tasting-Room/dp/0985632844/