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 Freshchester Pale Ale.
With the first-ever Pig Roast at the new brewery space coming up inside of a week, thoughts turned to the pig roasts of the past, when Captain Lawrence was a significantly smaller brewing operation, and the crowd gathered around the spit wasn’t much of a crowd at all.
The first one, in Pleasantville in 2006, had maybe 200 people, says Laura DeMaria as she sips a Chico De Leche, Randy Shull’s sweet and malty milk stout. There was a lone pig and maybe five beers on tap. “Scott Vaccaro cooked the pig himself,” she says. “You won’t see that anymore.”
Laura knows her pigs; her father is John DeMaria, owner of Hemlock Hill Farm that was struck by fire, and that Captain Lawrence has been working to raise funds for all week. [see “Notes, Vol. 63”] Hemlock Hill has been supplying the pigs to Captain Lawrence since the beginning.
Laura went to several of the early Captain Lawrence roasts, and is looking forward to the first in Elmsford June 22. “Captain Lawrence’s fans and customers are like a growing family,” she says.
Out on the patio on a mostly sunny Sunday, Loren Verkovod of Stratford, Connecticut was there for Pig Roast 1 as well with his then-wee boys Nate and Andy. He remembers Scott and his brother Marc smoking the pig, and a band comprised of brewery workers rocking out on the loading dock on Castleton Street. “It was pretty mellow–they didn’t advertise it very well,” he says. “It was like a Deadhead vibe.”
Enjoying the Basil Haze Belgian witte, brewed by Matt Levy, Loren—a prolific brewer and beer scribe–mentions helping Scott with those initial batches of beer when he was learning the craft, and watching the pig roast grow from a scruffy little affair, to one with people driving in from all over the map to try special beers released at the roast—only to return to the “friends and family” vibe, he says, when the special brews were released at a different time.
There are many reasons to be at the brewery on this particular day. It is Father’s Day, and several dads have used their clout for the day to get the family out to the tasting room. It’s 75 and dry. And it is Pilot Batch Takeover Day, with over a dozen small-batch beers from the past year brought back for the occasion: The Chocoholic Stout. The Pride of Elmsford pale ale. The Wild Rover Stout and the Belgian IPA.
Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys are Back in Town” courses through the house system, adding to the reunion vibe.
Todd Winchenbach of Port Chester is enjoying the St. Vincent’s Quad, a bolder (11 ABV, in fact) take on CL’s annual Belgian brew, as wife Deena tends to baby Ava. “We didn’t know Captain Lawrence was so close,” he says. “That made it a no-brainer.”
Bill Lewittes of Mount Kisco too has offspring in tow—a set of twins who are nearly 4. He’s proudly sporting a #1 Dad shirt—and a cup of the Wild Rover. “Dry, coffee flavored, a little bitter, smoky,” he says. “Good stuff.”
To borrow a phrase from Winchenbach, Captain Lawrence on Father’s Day was a no-brainer for Bill. “Beer and hot dogs—it’s the best way to spend Father’s Day,” he says.
“Don’t forget the kids!” reminds wife Caroline.
Bill nods. “There’s stuff for the kids to do,” he adds, as twins Isabelle and Henry romp around the bocce court. “It’s fantastic.”
Besides the stellar beer, Loren says he makes the trip to Captain Lawrence because his local brewery in Connecticut does not allow kids in the tasting room. Out on the patio, Kevin Marcinek of Deer Park and Claire Hsu of Glen Head note that dogs too are welcome inside and out. On their first visit to Captain Lawrence after scoring some Captain’s Reserve Imperial IPA at a local Long Island beer distributor (“Very impressive,” says Kevin), they plan to return with their Rottweiler. “I have these chips,” says Kevin as he fingers his drink tokens like a poker addict. “I think we have to come back and drink the rest of them.”
Also coming back is farmer’s daughter Laura and her friends Trish Vasta, who splits her time between Hemlock Hill Farm and San Diego, and Andy Morris of Briarcliff. Trish mentions cooking a 70-pound pig in a bread oven, marinated in garlic and cilantro, for a theater group in Vermont last summer. For his part, Andy is curious how the heck the cuts are made—and what the heck roasted pig tastes like.
“I’ve never been to one,” he says. “I look forward to coming back on Saturday.”