Beer Day: My Trip To The Captain Lawrence Brewery To Make A Beer For Philly


What do you get when you put 50 of the city’s top bar and restaurant owners and managers, plus a few journalists (including me), on a bus and ship them up to a New York brewery for a day? Some industry talk, some goofing around and some beer drinking. Actually, lots and lots of beer drinking.

Such was the scene on Tuesday when the Muller distributor hosted a trip to Captain Lawrence Brewing in Westchester County to collaborate on a Philly-only release that hits the market in January. The beer, which doesn’t have a name yet, will be a low-alcohol, dry-hopped saison – an unusual experiment that results from asking 50 opinionated beer experts to independently identify a preference for color, strength, hop presence, yeast strain and whether or not to dry hop–a process that gives beer a distinct hoppy aroma. Captain Lawrence brewers tallied the answers and formulated a recipe for the medium-bodied brew, which will get delivered in a limited number of kegs to the bars that participated in the collab.

The trip forms part of Captain Lawrence’s strategy for entering the Philly market. They’re releasing a beer a month until January, when they hit us full-strength with their award-winning line-up of IPAs, Belgian styles, sours and barrel-aged brews. And though it’s not a traditional way to introduce a brewery to a city of sophisticated drinkers, Captain Lawrence and Muller are doing a slick job of giving bar owners and beer writers exactly what we want: free food, beer and branded swag.

When we met at Home Depot in South Philly at 8:45 a.m. to board the bus, Muller reps and local Captain Lawrence rep Dan Conway greeted us with bagels and coffee – a brilliant way to prevent fisticuffs among workers more accustomed to going to sleep in the morning than waking up. The full charter bus arrived at Captain Lawrence without much incident – save turning around to pick up Nodding Head owner Curt Decker who canceled an appointment last-minute to join us — and we unloaded and shuffled to the bar for early afternoon samples.

We took turns taking tours, watching the brewers make our beer and chatting with Scott Vaccaro, who founded the business in 2006 after studying brewing at UC Davis and working at Sierra Nevada and elsewhere. Tasting room employees served us lunch and kept the pours coming from the taps and bottles of Coco Lopez coconut brown ale, Hopsomniac coffee IPA and many others. When a bar manager asked about their highly respected sour beer program, they pulled out bottles of raspberry lambic that hadn’t been served to the public in two years.

Much socializing and brewing later, Vaccaro invited us to each take one of any item on sale at the mini-store behind the bar, then packed our bus full of cases and sent us back to Philadelphia drinking unlimited bottles of their flagships. Not surprisingly, the bus ride home was slightly louder than the one going up, but we managed to get home without leaving anyone behind, and were still arguing about what to name our strange brew when we arrived.

My vote: Back of the Bus Session Saison.

Captain Lawrence Brewing [Official]