Yankee Brew News April/May 2012 : Page 1
WORCESTER Captain Lawrence Makes Major Move Scott Vaccaro, Captain Lawrence Brewing owner and head brewer, mans the helm in his Elmsford, N.Y. brewhouse. By Amy Blair mid suburban strip malls in Elmsford, N.Y. — tucked away in the back of a commercial office park, past the Budget Rental company, through a parking lot lined with trucks — is the inconspicuous building that is the new home of Captain Lawrence Brewing. While the façade isn’t flashy, the space inside represents a huge opportunity for the now six-year old brewery. Previously, Captain Lawrence operated out of a signifi-cantly smaller and less convenient location in Pleasantville and lacked both the space and capacity to grow its bottling production. The new location is nearly twice the size of the old brewery — approximately 19,000 square feet all together — and there are several thousand square feet of available space to continue to expand as demand grows. “Our first year in business we sold 600 barrels,” said owner and Head Brewer Scott Vaccaro. “Last year we did 9,000. That’s in six years, and we’re 98 percent draft, so that’s a lot of draft beer.” Ideally, Vaccaro would like to be doing half his business in draft, producing about 10,000 barrels of both draft and bottled beer. The new location makes this a real possibility for the A Photos by Jamie Magee & Amy Blair emergent brewery, as it’s now, thanks to the greater capacity in the new location, able to package its beer in 12-ounce bottles for the first time. See Captain Lawrence p. 4 ILLUSTRATIONS BY: HANS GRANHEIM Photos by Mike Johnson By Josh Dion C ambridge. Boston. These are the first places that people identify as New England craft beer destinations. Without Worcester, Massachusetts, the list has to be considered woefully incom-plete. Those who haven’t had a chance to experience Worcester are probably wondering how this old mill city can stand toe to toe with the best beer cities in the region. The answer is a pleasant surprise. Today, you can’t go far without finding good beer in Worcester. There’s Wormtown Brewery, the massively popular Armsby Abbey (a good-beer bar and restaurant) and an array of bars and restaurants, festivals and liquor stores with endless beer aisles. It wasn’t always this way — there were the dark days. Despite being the second larg-est city in Massachusetts, Worcester has taken a long time to build up the craft beer scene. In the Beginning INSIDE Event Calendar ................ 3 Tasting Panel................... 8 The Alehouse .................11 Homebrew ......................12 Maps/Directory ..........18-23 State by State News E. Massachusetts ....................14 Boston ......................................16 W. Massachusetts ...................24 Maine ........................................26 New Hampshire .......................28 Connecticut ..............................30 Vermont ....................................32 Rhode Island ............................34 NYC/Long Island ......................36 Upstate NY ...............................39 See Worcester p. 6
Worcester Is Beer Town
Cambridge. Boston. These are the first places that people identify as New England craft beer destinations. Without Worcester, Massachusetts, the list has to be considered woefully incomplete. Those who haven’t had a chance to experience Worcester are probably wondering how this old mill city can stand toe to toe with the best beer cities in the region. The answer is a pleasant surprise.
In the Beginning
Today, you can’t go far without finding good beer in Worcester. There’s Wormtown Brewery, the massively popular Armsby Abbey (a good-beer bar and restaurant) and an array of bars and restaurants, festivals and liquor stores with endless beer aisles.
It wasn’t always this way — there were the dark days. Despite being the second largest city in Massachusetts, Worcester has taken a long time to build up the craft beer scene. Rewind the clock 20 years and the city was a craft beer wasteland. Sports bars filled with locals and domestic lager proliferated in the area. Those wanting options other than the fizzy yellow stuff were out of luck. Ben Roesch, Head Brewer at Wormtown Brewery and long-time Worcester resident described the upscale beverage options as: “Guinness, Bass, and one or two Boston brands”… if you were lucky.
The beginning of the evolution came in the mid-1990s. Some argue that the opening of Wachusett Brewery (in Westminster, about 25 miles north) in 1996 was an important milestone. About this time, local bars and restaurants like Brew City and Boynton’s started carrying craft beer. Although the selection in the early days would pale in comparison to today, for the time they were relatively good.
Taking the Dive
In 2003, Alec Lopez bought the hole-inthe- wall Dive Bar with one thought in mind:
“Why do you have to drive to Boston for good beer when it should be available right here?” Lopez began a crusade, evangelizing craft beer in Worcester and beyond. Dive Bar made a splash by removing all macro-brewed domestic beer from the menu and started selling nothing but quality beer from quality breweries. Lopez described the explosion of craft beer popularity in Worcester that followed as the “Dive Bar Effect” — the popularity of Dive Bar forced other restaurants and bars to start serving craft beers.
Growth bred more growth. As one location brought in more beer choices it created more beer fans, driving other locations to expand their selections. Lopez recalled how great it was to see “Joe America sitting there with his Budweiser and right next to him a guy drinking Sixpoint Bengali Tiger.”
Considering Worcester’s humble beerbeginnings, it’s amazing how quickly the scene has evolved into the bubbling beer-troplis it is today.
Saint Patrick’s Day 2010 will go down as one of the most pivotal moments in Worcester’s beery history. On that faithful day, beer from Wormtown Brewing began flowing from taps. Since then, Roesch has been a man on a mission, brewing over 40 different beers in under two years. Wormtown offers fantastic year-round beers such as flagship Be Hoppy IPA, seasonal beers like Blonde Cougar Summer Ale and a deluge of one-off creations.
“I’m willing to try any and everything,” Roesch said. “There are so many flavor combinations I want to try out. There are a million different beers I want to brew, and they change all the time.”
Roesch’s beers are available in nearly 150 bars and restaurants as well as upwards of 70 liquor stores.
Worcester has dozens of beer-friendly bars and restaurants. On Route 9, the Boynton Restaurant is still going strong sporting 51 taps, cask ales and occasional beer dinners. On Harding Street, there’s the Smokestack Urban Barbeque with a tap selection that includes Abita and Brooklyn breweries. At the ever-funky Beatnick’s on Park Avenue, there are a handful of good beers on the bottle list and Southern Tier on draft. Also on Park Avenue is Peppercorns. Adjacent to Wormtown Brewing, Peppercorns is the place to go for the latest Wormtown brews. The Flying Rhino, O’Connors, Mezcal … the list goes on and on.
No Worcester bar and restaurant list would be complete without Armsby Abbey. Since 2008, Armsby has delighted customers with a menu focused on local ingredients and a beer selection that is tough to compete with. In addition to a selection of close to 200 bottles, the bar has 22 taps and four coolers, each set to a different temperature to ensure beer is properly chilled. The clientele is all over the map: the arts crowd, professors, medical students and some hipsters.
“Armsby provides people a place to enjoy good things and to have really good company,” said owner Alec Lopez.
A Sweet Surprise
When it comes to craft beer, Worcester has some hidden gems. A local favorite that’s possible to miss is Sweet, a Shrewsbury Street bakery and bar that specializes in pairing dessert with beer. The servers can help customers pair any of 20-plus beers with freshly made desserts. For example, the brown sugar roasted pears and house-made raspberry sorbet is paired with Dogfish Head Raison D’ Être. Alina Eisenhauer, owner and Executive Chef, said that she and her staff pride themselves “on turning non-beer drinkers into fans of beer with dessert” and that “pairing desserts with beer is a new adventure.”
Do It Yourself
Shrewsbury-based Deja Brew, only minutes from Worcester, has a solution for the wary, wannabe homebrewer. The concept? Deja Brew provides the brewing and bottling equipment, the ingredients and the recipes. The customer does the brewing, bottling and drinking. With 200 recipes to choose from (both lagers and ales), there can be a decision paralysis: will it be Chowdahead IPA, Chocolate Cream Stout or maybe Honey Ginger Madness? Better yet, a group of friends can get together and brew multiple batches.
“Sports on the tube, good tunes and a pizza place three doors down,” said owner Ray Schavone. “People love the brewing and social aspect.”
Down at the Packie
Worcester liquor stores have caught craft beer fever as well. Mass Liquors’ owner Todd Greamo began ramping up his craft beer selection in 2005, and the store now stocks between 800 and 1000 craft beers. Greamo has seen craft beer sales and foot traffic increase monthly.
“Craft beer drinkers love coming into our store because of our vast selection and knowledge,” Greamo said. “The newest addition to the store is a custom built craft beer rack, which has been getting rave reviews.”
The buck doesn’t stop with Mass Liquors. Many area package stores understand the growing importance of craft beer.
Yo Soy Fiesta
In the last couple of years, Worcester has seen a dramatic rise in craft beer festivals. In 2010, Armsby Abbey got the ball rolling with its annual Stoutfest, which encompasses two days of nothing but the best stouts on the planet. The event is highlighted by brunch paired with stout. This year Stoutfest falls on April 14.
Wormtown brings Oktoberfest to Worcester every fall. The event is held at Union Station and features live music, appetizers and of course an endless supply of Wormtown beer.
In April 2011, the DCU Center hosted the first annual Brew Woo festival. This marked the first large multi-brewery beer festival to be held in the city. Brew Woo focuses on New England breweries. Last year there were 35 breweries in attendance. This year when the event is held on April 7, the selections will probably be greater.
Finally, this summer one of the most exciting beer festivals in the country will be hosted in Worcester. The Festival (June 23-24), hosted by Shelton Brothers (a beer import company), will feature some of the best international brewers in the world. Breweries from Belgium, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany and a slew of other countries will be on-hand. The most exciting part is that the head brewers from many of the breweries will be on-site pouring their beers.
The Crystal Ball
Worcester is experiencing rapid growth in the craft beer industry, and there are many exciting things on the horizon. Soon, Armsby Abbey will significantly expand its seating capacity. In addition to the expansion, Lopez is contemplating opening a new brewery or brewpub. Wormtown, which is planning an expansion, is ever evolving, and Roesch promises to keep coming up with new and special beers. Alina, over at Sweet, has plans to host Beer and Dessert and Beer and Savories educational events this year.
These are only a few of the highlights of what’s in store. When it comes to beer, Worcester has come a long way in a short time. One can only believe that the best is yet to come.
Josh Dion runs a blog at www.lostinthebeeraisle. com
Read the full article at http://ybnonline.brewingnews.com/article/Worcester+Is+Beer+Town/1035735/107658/article.html.
Captain Lawrence Makes Major Move
A mid suburban strip malls in Elmsford, N.Y. — tucked away in the back of a commercial office park, past the Budget Rental company, through a parking lot lined with trucks — is the inconspicuous building that is the new home of Captain Lawrence Brewing. While the façade isn’t flashy, the space inside represents a huge opportunity for the now six-year old brewery. Previously, Captain Lawrence operated out of a significantly smaller and less convenient location in Pleasantville and lacked both the space and capacity to grow its bottling production. The new location is nearly twice the size of the old brewery — approximately 19,000 square feet all together — and there are several thousand square feet of available space to continue to expand as demand grows.
“Our first year in business we sold 600 barrels,” said owner and Head Brewer Scott Vaccaro. “Last year we did 9,000. That’s in six years, and we’re 98 percent draft, so that’s a lot of draft beer.”
Ideally, Vaccaro would like to be doing half his business in draft, producing about 10,000 barrels of both draft and bottled beer. The new location makes this a real possibility for the Emergent brewery, as it’s now, thanks to the greater capacity in the new location, able to package its beer in 12-ounce bottles for the first time.
Staying in Westchester
While Captain Lawrence had no previous ties to the town of Elmsford, this particular space was the only available location in the area that really met its needs.
“We wanted to stay in Westchester County,” Vaccaro said. “That was always our roots, so we looked at a number of places. This was probably the seventh or eighth place we looked at. It was the last place, and I walked in and I said ‘This is it. This is the one.’ Wide open, 24-four foot ceilings, just exactly what we needed. Elmsford is a great location for us, because it’s so close to I-87, I-287 and all the major shipping routes, whereas Pleasantville was right off the Saw Mill Parkway, and it was a nightmare for the trucks to get there. You can’t drive trucks on the Saw Mill Parkway. They absolutely hated it. All the truck drivers, they were miserable.”
Besides honoring its Westchester roots, the craft beer scene in the county has gone from barely existent to exploding since Captain Lawrence began brewing in 2006 (thanks, not in small part, to its influence).
“I think Westchester has come a long way,” Vaccaro said. “There are a lot of great restaurants in Westchester, and there are a lot of people who do a lot of commuting into the city and spend a lot of time at the Blind Tiger or you name it, any of the good beer bars. Now being able to get it all up here is definitely helpful. For us, we do close to 2,000 growlers a week in the tasting room. That’s a lot of people coming in to buy craft beer, so, they accept us.”
The tasting room is a unique phenomenon in Westchester. While the brewery does not have a license to sell beer for consumption on-premise, is sells bottles and fills growlers as well as allows customers two three-ounce Samples of whatever is on tap (there’s capacity for up to 24 beers on tap at a time). Vaccaro said that the majority of his customers come in to fill up their growlers and hang out to sample the latest beers.
“It’s a pretty good scene on a Friday and Saturday,” according to Vaccaro.
On a typical weekend, there are as many as 150 people coming through, with tours of 15 to 20 people taking place hourly. As the warm weather rolls in, Vaccaro has plans to build a deck outside the tasting room so that samples can be enjoyed outdoors this summer. In addition, there’s a prep kitchen behind the bar area where meat and cheese plates from Murray’s Cheese Shop in Greenwich Village are prepared.
Not Another Drop Possible
The move to the new location took about seven months, and Vaccaro and his crew did most of the groundwork themselves “We had riggers come in and set up the big stuff,” Vaccaro said, “but as far as the piping and all that, the layout, I did that myself. It’s been a real treat. Luckily, we were able to make enough beer in Pleasantville, just enough. We were at the point that we couldn’t make another drop.”
Vaccaro believes this location is big enough to sustain the business for at least another 15 years before he might think about moving on.
“We can fit enough tanks in here that we think with the expansion space, we can do 50,000 barrels out of here,” Vaccaro said. “This year with adding in 12-ounce bottles, we expect to do 15,000 to 17,000 barrels.”
While Captain Lawrence now has the capacity to brew a lot more beer, Vaccaro believes in making sure that his local customers are the top priority. The beers are currently only available in the lower 15 counties of New York State plus Connecticut, and Vaccaro has yet to ink any deals with distributors in new territories.
“We’ve thought about the rest of New York State,” Vaccaro said, “and we’ve thought about Philadelphia or Boston and other locations, but we haven’t signed on with any distributors or anything. I always tell them when they come to ask, ‘First, we have to take care of our local market, get the 12-ounce bottles in the market and situated so everybody’s happy, and then we’ll think about expanding. There’s a tremendous amount of room for us to expand geographically, but we’ve just been focused on getting the market we’re in locally, so, even with the expansion, we haven’t taken on any new territories. We’re just going to get our 12-ounce bottles out to our current market and just keep going that way.”
Those loyal local customers will be rewarded with the single-time, experimental beers that will now be available at the brewery, thanks to the new 7.5-barrel pilot system that was just installed.
“Now that we’re in the new facility, we’ll start adding in the one-offs,” Vaccaro said. “That’s why we have the pilot system.”
The smaller system will allow the brewers to play with different ideas and with hope hit upon recipes for larger batches for wider distribution. The current plan is to make a new experimental beer in the pilot system each week, which will be available in the tasting room. So what will they make in the experimental brewhouse first?
“I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately,” Vaccaro said. “We did a beer called Five Years Later for our five-year anniversary, so we may do Six and Change, something along those lines, maybe another black-style IPA. Or we want to do some interesting spiced beers. I haven’t done a barleywine before. We did the black barleywine, but we haven’t done a traditional American one. I mean, it’s going to be anything and everything, whatever we feel like doing, really. That’s why I’m so excited we added that into the budget.”
Vaccaro grew up in Westchester, but his passion for homebrewing brought him to the Fermentation Science program at the University of California at Davis. From there, he landed a job as a Shift Brewer at Sierra Nevada Brewing. After working there for several years, he took two months off to tour the great breweries of Europe. When he returned, he began working as a brewer at Colorado Brewery and Steakhouse in Danbury, Conn. After just six months, however, Colorado went out of business, leaving Vaccaro jobless. The situation turned out to be serendipitous, however, as it prompted him to try his luck on his own, and from that Captain Lawrence was born.
Now, just over six years later, Captain Lawrence offers six year-round beers. Frestchester Pale Ale is an American pale ale that is not overly hoppy and is a great session beer with a slightly citrusy flavor. Smoked Porter is one of the smokiest beers out there. It pours dark with smoky flavors of coffee and licorice. Liquid Gold is a light Belgian pale ale with flavors of citrus, Belgian yeast and spice.
Captain’s Reserve Imperial IPA is intensely hoppy with some citrus flavors. Brown Ale is a drinkable American brown ale with caramel and toffee flavors. Captain’s Kölsch is an interpretation of the German Kölsch beer, slightly fruity and smooth. Numerous seasonal beers include Pumpkin Ale, Rosso e Marrone (Gold Medal winner for American Style Sour Ale at the Great American Beer Festival in 2009) , Xtra Gold (which also won the Gold Medal for American-Belgo Style Ale in 2008), St. Vincent’s Dubbel, Nor’Easter Winter Warmer, Cuvée de Castleton (another gold medal winner in 2008 for American Style Sour Ale), Golden Delicious (a Bronze Medal winner in 2008 for Wood and Barrel Aged Strong Beer), Flaming Fury and the Smoke from the Oak series.
Read the full article at http://ybnonline.brewingnews.com/article/Captain+Lawrence+Makes+Major+Move/1035741/107658/article.html.