Head to this Elmsford, NY, hotspot for original beers, a peek behind the scenes of a brewing operation, a few games of bocce and a salmon dog.
It would only be a mild exaggeration to say that I haven’t had a beer since college. Even then, I was only drinking the flat, vaguely warm version because it was the only beverage available at whatever frat party I was attending. I’m a chardonnay-drinking girly girl to the last drop, and at the age of 31 I’ve let all other pretenses go. Sure, I used to try and play “cool girl.” You know, the one in natural-looking makeup sipping from a bottle of Amstel Light and talking about the game like I understood it. No one was buying it. So it goes without saying that if I were to be missing, Captain Lawrence Brewing Company would not generally be the first place you’d look for me. Nevertheless, my husband Mike, my brother, his girlfriend and I all crammed into my Mini Cooper and headed out of Manhattan and into Elmsford, NY, for a beer night.
Turns out, Thursday night at Captain Lawrence is bocce ball night, and all you need to join in is four people and a team name. I haven’t played much bocce in my day (see paragraph one) but, in any sport, I am nothing if not a professional smack talker. I will fully whiff the golf ball, and then heckle the next person up at the tee. And tennis? Forget it. You don’t even want to play at the same facility as me for the racquet hurling, net kicking, “Hey blondie, you suck” antics. It was this attitude that led me to send the following email to the man in charge of bocce night:
“In regards to our team name…is Ball Busters too lewd?”
To which I received this in response: “Not at all, considering I’m making a beer for the brewery and my wedding called Ball Bustin Brown.”
And so it was that Team Ball Busters was born. Game on. After Mike and I had a brief gender war direction-based spat (“Sweetie, there is no way we’re in the right place; we’re in a municipal building parking lot.” “Well, dear, I just followed the directions you gave me.”) we discovered that the brewery was in fact housed in a large warehouse-looking building behind a parking lot. The four of us piled out of the car and ambled in for a badly needed drink.
The inside of the brewery was wood paneled with a large glass wall that looked out onto a pretty massive field of metal cylinders and other brewing machinery. Up at the cash register we ordered a round of Kolsch. It was the lightest beer on the menu and I still congratulated myself on resisting the urge to just check and see if they had white wine. Surprisingly, I quite liked the beer! It was indeed nice and light, and extremely refreshing. That first plastic cup went down like butter. As did the next one. I ordered my third beer, just to make triple sure I really did like it, shimmied my pencil skirt into place and approached the Hagrid look-alike holding the clipboard to announce the arrival of Team Ball Busters.
We ventured out to the bocce court for the tournament. The court is surrounded by picnic tables, and friends and families of all ages lazed away the evening chatting, watching the game and taking their turns at play. Soon the Ball Busters were called to action, and we shook hands with the four men on the opposing team who undoubtedly did this every week (they were practically stretching out and strategizing). Once again my husband patiently attempted to explain the rules of the game to me. “I got it, honey,” I said dismissively as I picked up the other team’s ball. “I can see that,” he said as he handed me one of our balls with a laugh. I launched my ball at the small ball at the other side of the court and it rolled to a stop only inches from its intended target. I tossed my hair back as if to say, “That’s just how I bocce” and faux-humbly accepted my new nickname, “The Ringer.”
The next few times “The Ringer” was up, the ball crashed into the back wall, hopped over the side wall and landed a mere one foot in front of me. The nickname went from a sign of admiration to one of mockery. But like I said, smack talking is my jam and this crowd could dish it out and take it. Despite valiant efforts at a comeback from the men on our team, Ball Busters was out after the first round. That didn’t stop me from bouncing up and down on the sidelines begging for a do-over.
Not only does Captain Lawrence Brewing Company offer a wide variety of award-winning, freshly brewed beer, it also provides great food options. Village Dog of Tarrytown, NY, sets up a grill and hot dog cart on the outdoor patio Thursday through Saturday, serving up a menu of salmon-, pork-, and beef-based dogs and more than 20 toppings. On Friday evenings, The Cookery of Dobbs Ferry, NY, swings by with their wood-burning “Doughnation” Pizza truck. Always available for light snacking are assorted nuts, jerky and all-natural potato chips.
All in all, it was a great evening and I recommend a visit. The pace was a nice, easy change from that of neurotic Manhattan. The people were cool and different. The beer was damn good. The bocce ball was a fun, new activity that kept the night feeling wholesome and that little touch competitive that makes drinking more interesting. I’ll go back for sure, with as many people as I can squeeze into a car the size of a golf cart. And long live Team Ball Busters! We’ll get ’em next time.
Captain Lawrence Brewing Company
444 Saw Mill River Rd.
Open Wednesday through Friday 4 to 8 p.m., Saturday noon to 6 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m., 914-741-2337, captainlawrencebrewing.com
The Man Behind the Glass
by Carly Sutherland
Scott Vaccaro, owner and head brewer, has been brewing since the tender age of 17. To him, the perfect beer is an exciting, always-moving target. One of Vaccaro’s first brews was a pale ale, and lives on in Captain Lawrence Brewing Company’s Pale Ale. While tasting the many other styles of beer, guests can watch the brewing process in action through tall glass doors. CLBC has been open for tasting, tours and trivia nights since 2006, and can be reserved for private events.
Photo Credit: Bruce Plotkin