The anticipation in the tasting room was almost as great as it was for that Guns N’ Roses album that took like 32 years to be released.  

Hops N’ Roses, the malt sour ale brewed with a veritable bouquet of flowers–including hibiscus, rose hips and elderflowers–was on tap for the first time, in limited supply, at Captain Lawrence over the weekend. And people turned out in hordes to sample it.

David Leaver and Virginia Steinberg made the trip from Mount Kisco. The decision to try the Hops N’ Roses was a no brainer for David; his mother is named Rose, he says, and his daughter is Devon Rose.

“So I like the name of the beer,” David deadpans.

David and Virginia are enjoying a picnic table on the patio, leafing through Ale Street News, trying to find a brewery that fits into their upcoming trip to Lake George to drop son Taylor off at camp. Taylor and Devon Rose are on the lawn, playing catch with a football…though it looks more like Taylor is using poor Devon Rose for dodgeball practice.

“It’s got great flavor—you can really taste the rose,” says David.

“I like the nose better than the taste,” Virginia says.

As for Axl Rose, Slash and the boys, Virginia and David voice their respect for the seminal hard rock band, but say Taylor is the real fan in the family. David calls him over, giving Devon Rose a chance to catch her breath.

“Taylor–what’s your favorite Guns N’ Roses song?” asks Dad.

“Sweet Child O’ Mine,” the boy says matter of factly.

David leans over and whispers: “He likes Deep Purple too.”

It turns out Taylor plays viola, and handles lead vocals on “Sweet Child O’ Mine” in his band. That’s right, G&R tunes on the viola.

Such was the buzz for Hops N’ Roses that it caused a stir on Twitter.  Tweeted @Brewstoria: “Love the hops and roses. The roses and hibiscus come through… Highly drinkable. Great carbonation.”

Said @TattooedBrewer: “Hops n’ roses is my new favorite brew.” Noted @app4insanity: “So floral, but good.”

Back on the patio, Jeremy Cox and Raquel Spitzer of Dobbs Ferry, in full-on tattoos and piercings, look as though they’ve got an app 4 insanity as well. It’s their first time at the brewery. Jeremy says he made a couple trips to the deli recently to buy six packs of Freshchester Pale Ale, and decided it was worth his while to drive to Elmsford and fill up a growler.

“A couple trips?” counters Raquel. “It’s more like every other day.”

“OK, I lied,” says Jeremy with a shrug.

They enjoyed the Hops N’ Roses. “The name is an excellent explanation for what it is,” says Raquel, “though the rose is mostly in the scent, not on the tongue.”

Jeremy, sporting a Black Flag t-shirt that looks like it’s survived a few mosh pits, didn’t sense as much rose. “I very much enjoyed the hibiscus,” he says. “But the nose could’ve been more…oomph.”

Jeremy and Raquel rave about the Brown Ale, the Imperial IPA, the summer sensation Chico Loco. “And your St. Vincent’s slays,” says Jeremy.

The two laugh derisively when asked if they’re fans of G&R. “We listen to a lot more punk,” says Jeremy. 
In a quiet corner of the tasting room, Tracyand Neil Goldberg of Hastings, two small children in tow, were in high school when “Appetite For Destruction” landed in ‘87. “It was many, many years ago,” says Tracy with a laugh. “I’m dating myself.”

She casts a vote for flower power. “I like the color of the Hops N’ Roses, I like the uniqueness, I like the idea of a beer made of flowers,” Tracy says.

Some loved the beer, though the Hops N’ Roses’ sour notes may be better suited to the hardcore craft brew enthusiast. Others in the tasting room preferred the bold, and familiar, flavors of the Pale Ale, the Kolsch, the Birra di Cicco.

Guns N’ Roses, meanwhile, still seems to hold a place in people’s hearts, though one visitor—a concert promoter from Yonkers named Mark Traub—still appeared peeved about the band’s behavior at Madison Square Garden decades ago. “They’re alwayslate,” he says through gritted teeth.

“Sweet Child O’ Mine” won the favorite G&R song poll in the tasting room, despite bartender Rob’s impassioned plea for “Civil War.” (“The slow start before it kicks in with a blast, the Cool Hand Luke quote…it’s such a rip-roaring song!”) “November Rain” was the G&R song most likely to be the next Captain Lawrence special release—an autumn ale, suggests Neil Goldberg–though “Mr. Brown Ale” has potential as well.

As the evening wound down, and the Hops & Roses taps shut for the night, people shuffled for the door. At least one was overheard saying, just like Axl howled way back in ’87, “Where do we go now?”

—Michael Malone (

Captain Lawrence Brewing, at 444 Saw Mill River Road in Elmsford, is open Tuesday through Friday (retail 2-7 p.m., samples 4-7 p.m.); and Saturday, with retail and samples 12-6 p.m., and brewery tours on the hour, starting at 1. The author is paid by Captain Lawrence, partially in beer, for “Notes From the Tasting Room.”