With a fresh blanket of snow across Westchester, it finally felt like the holidays. For many over at Captain Lawrence, it meant an opportunity to reflect on the merriest of Christmas memories—specifically, the greatest gift they ever received.
Whit Whitaker of Brooklyn may just be living his greatest-ever gift right now. Technically, it’s a birthday gift, but when you’re born within 10 days of Christmas, it all blends into one. Gal pal Sydney Tencer has taken Whit on an overnight tour of the Hudson Valley’s finest tap rooms—starting at Captain Lawrence, then on to Peekskill Brewery, with subsequent stops in Kingston (Keegan Ales) and Cooperstown (Ommegang). [Editor’s Note: Hey Whit—she’s a keeper!]
“I love tap rooms,” he says with a blissful shrug.
He does indeed. Whit, digging the Captain’s Kolsch, recently returned from a tap-room jaunt to the finest breweries in Colorado, including New Belgium and Great Divide.
“I didn’t hear from him for four days,” says Sydney.
“I kind of went dark,” admits Whit.
Sydney is enjoying the Ginger Man, a seasonal amber ale brewed with ginger. “Holiday-ish, but not overpowering,” she says. “The finish is clean.”
Whit’s tap-room tour is payback, in a sense, for the greatest gift Sydney ever got: Whit had a pair of hi top Converse All-Stars adorned with a miniature movie poster from her favorite film—the French art flick “Breathless.” She beams when she speaks of the custom-built kicks. “It helps when you have friends who are designers,” says Whit.
It’s a mellow Sunday. The football teams are losing again. Radiohead’s moody “Kid A” fills the tasting room.
At another table, Sarah Colacurcio of Oxford, Connecticut imbibes with a pair of Larry Pignatellos—senior and junior—of Danbury. They sampled the fearsome Frost Monster and give the ferociously malty imperial stout a thumbs-up. “Deep” is how Larry Jr. describes it—not something you feel on the tongue or even throat, he says, but further down in the chest.
They discovered Captain Lawrence at The Bayou in Mount Vernon recently, and decided to check out the brewery. Sarah prefers the Ginger Man. Her greatest gift? A puppy! A miniature pinscher, sporting a bow, under the tree when she was in fourth grade. “I couldn’t even pay attention to anything else after that,” she says.
Dennis Vaccaro, Captain Lawrence doorman/beer chip man, too mentions a canine as his most memorable Christmas gift—a cocker spaniel named Bianca he got as a kid. For Doug Roberts behind the bar, it was an army tank that shot plastic bullets—until it broke a week later.
“Either that, or a home brewing kit,” says Doug, creator of the small batch beer #69.
Elsewhere in the tasting room, Susanand Chris DiGregorio of Somers are also tackling Justin Perrone’s infamous Frost Monster. “Delicious, but I didn’t realize it’s 12% alcohol!” says Susan, a self-proclaimed Guinness girl. “Real nice aftertaste…Easy drinking, which is a bit dangerous.”
They are frequent visitors to the tasting room, and gift cards figure heavily into the current visit. [SPOILER ALERT! If you are Chris’s brother, skip the rest of this paragraph!] Susan and Chris are picking up a gift card for Chris’s brother for Christmas—and they are making good use of a card they were given. “He’s a big fan of the brewery,” says Chris of his bro. “I figured, he’ll be here anyway.”
Chris’s greatest gift was a Nintendo when he was 6. “The ultimate,” he says. “The big box, hiding behind the tree.”
For Susan, it was a Teddy Ruxpin teddy bear. Teddy, you may recall, moved his mouth as a cassette inserted in his back told a bedtime story. “Hey, that was the technology back then,” Susan says with a smile.
While everyone’s looking forward to collecting a few choice gifts in a few weeks, Susan cops to missing those childhood Christmases a bit. “You’re just not as passionate about gifts now,” she says. “Something like an iPad is a great gift, but when you were little, the gifts just meant so much more.”
True. But being a grown-up has its perks too, such as enjoying a holiday Frost Monster with your mate.
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/