Captain Lawrence Xtra Gold

captain-lawrenceI’d like to formally add Captain Lawrence to the list of breweries that I wish had distribution in Maine.

Captain Lawrence is one of those breweries that I stumbled across (don’t worry, not literally) at a beer fest, tried one beer from, and immediately fell in love with.  After trying a couple of other offerings from the brewery, I was happy to find that they weren’t a one-trick pony – all the beers were stupendous.  With American-style, Belgian-style, sour and barrel-aged brews, Captain Lawrence is gaining a reputation as a boundary-pushing small brewery.

Don’t be too surprised if you haven’t seen (or even heard of) Captain Lawrence.  The brewery is on the younger end of those we’ve looked at on Brews + Books, only opening it’s doors in 2006.  Head brewer and owner Scott Vaccaro had plenty of brewing experience before opening the brewery, starting as an (underage) homebrewer, graduating from UCD’s Fermentation Science program and working at the Sierra Nevada and Adnams breweries.  Scott has stated that one of the goals of Captain Lawrence is to brew “distinct, flavorful beers”, and so far they’ve been doing a great job.

If you don’t live near the Captain Lawrence brewery, finding any of the beers they brew can be pretty tough – distribution covers most of the state of New York, with a few spots in New Jersey and Connecticut as well.  That’s about it, though they do have a fairly robust schedule of beer events afield.  Of course, you can always try trading for the beer as well.

I was lucky enough to score a bottle of the Captain Lawrence Xtra Gold from a friend when I went down to the NEIBA Trade Show in Hartford.  The brewery describes the American-style Tripel like so;

This beer is an American adaptation to the classic Belgian style of beer known as a Tripel. Historically Tripels were brewed to have a very light golden color, a moderate hop presence, and be around 9% alcohol. But we are not in Belgium, so I decided to crank up the hops, dry hop the beer with American Amarillo hops, and brew it to 10% ABV. This is our American Tripel, enjoy.

So, a Belgian beer brewed with American hops, then additionally dry-hopped.  Sounds interesting, but how does it taste?

The Xtra Gold pours radiant yellow – gold, even – with some healthy haze and a snow-white head.  Carbonation is on the level of champagne, fizzy and terribly active.  The nose really shows the hybrid nature of the beer, with sweet and fruity yeast battling for dominance with the grapefruit “super Cascade” awesomebomb of hops that is Amarillo.  With a couple deep inhalations, there are no harsh hints of the promised 10% ABV.

The taste of the brew starts off with a spicy kick, a nice Belgian clove-and-pepper mix.  Also present are apple, some residual sugary-sweetness, and yeasty bread.  The end of the sip is where the Amarillo really kicks in, with loads of grapefruit, orange citrus and some IPA-level bitterness.  The total turn is a bit of a shock, but the sweet, spicy and fruity blend together awesomely.

Like I said, Captain Lawrence knows their stuff.

The mouthfeel is bubbly and champagne-like, with just enough alcohol warmpth to remind you what you’re sipping on.  Slick sweetness counters the hoppy bitterness, and American hop bitterness balances out the Belgian sweetness.  At 10% ABV, can you say dangerously drinkable?

The Xtra Gold is a unique beer for sure, with a definite European tang and body that aren’t overpowered by the Amarillo hops.  Truly a tasty hybrid.


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