Investigating the uncommon, unusual, and rare within the craft beer community.

Captain Lawrence Cuvee de Castleton

Released: December 2011

Style: American Wild Ale

ABV: 9%

Perhaps the most popular and well-known Captain Lawrence wild ale, Cuvee de Castelton is one of the numerous sours that put the New York brewery on the map with beer nerds throughout the Northeast and beyond. A Belgian golden ale fermented with Muscat grapes and aged in wine barrels with Brettanomyces, this vibrant beer delivers a wonderfully sour profile imparted with vinous character from grapes, spice and oak.

While the original batches were released in 750mL format, head brewer Scott Vaccaro made the switch to the 375mL bottles pictured here for later releases. The exact specs vary between batches, but the one featured was part of 1000 bottles originally released on 12/3/11 (limit 4 per person for $15 each), coinciding with Barrel Select Cherry and Barrel Select Raspberry (which were a mere 240 bottles each). Known for raucous early morning tasting parties at the lone picnic table outside the brewery, people flocked from across the Northeast to share beers and hopefully leave with their allotment of CdC.

This was also the final release to utilize the now infamous deli ticket counter system to determine line order for attendees, before the brewery packed up and moved from Pleasantville to Elmsford, where they’ve been opting for the “silent release” method.

At some point throughout the night, a Captain Lawrence employee would place a ticket counter right outside the front door, allowing people to pull a ticket which saved their place in line. Due to increased demand, line jumping, ticket trading and some choosing to pull more than their fair share of tickets, the batch 5 release saw dozens of people shut out, leaving empty handed after waiting upwards of 6 hours in freezing temperatures.

Typically an annual release, Cuvee de Castleton might be due to emerge from barrels stashed within the brewery, although Vaccaro and company usually stick to a “the beer will tell us when it’s ready” policy. There’s already been three more wild ales released since batch 5 (Barrel Select Black, Mother Barrel and Hops n’ Roses) – will CdC be next?

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