Beer Review: Captain Lawrence Golden Delicious
Captain Lawrence Brewing Co. head brewer Scotty Vaccaro is arguably one of the finest and most well-respected brewers in New York State. Considering New York is the nation’s second-largest grower of apples, it’s appropriate for the University of California Davis fermentation science grad to brew Golden Delicious, an American-style Tripel aged in apple brandy barrels from one of the oldest distilleries in the U.S. (which Vaccaro declines to name). The ale, which won a Great American Beer Festival bronze medal in the “Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer” category in 2008, the first year it was released, appears seasonally. More than any other beer I’ve tasted, Golden Delicious mirrors the season in which it’s sold: evolving gracefully from a summer afternoon chiller to a chilly autumn liqueur as it warms in the glass.
An aggressive pour into a goblet results in a rocky, three-finger head that radiates a gorgeously clean, pure ivory. Though the head doesn’t stick around too long, it does leave behind a heavy lacing on the glass.
The color is gentle brass, more yellow than red, and the clarity is hazy but not cloudy, somewhere between opaque and translucent in way that recalls opening one’s eyes in a heavily chlorinated pool. Some drinkers might call it “blurry.”
An initial nose full of alcohol belies the taste of well-balanced sweetness and the light interplay between the apples and the faint Amarillo hops. There’s also a mild sour aroma that doesn’t translate to the flavor. The taste is tart rather than sour, and tingly instead of biting.
As it warms, the brandy shines through in a way that takes this ale from an upbeat warm-weather bite of green apple to a fireside liqueur that would feel at home on a dessert table. Exactly like the season when it’s meant to be drunk.
Photo by Tara Nurin