Scott Vaccaro likes to credit fate for helping turn his passion for beer into his award-winning establishment, Captain Lawrence Brewing Company. But it’s a lot more than fate that took Vaccaro from brewing in his home on Captain Lawrence Drive in South Salem to his current status as owner of Westchester’s largest craft brewery.
Sure, it may have been fate that Vaccaro’s friend’s father just happened to be brewing beer one day, introducing the high-schooler to the brewing process. And it may have been fate that Vaccaro stumbled upon a magazine article about the fermentation science program at the University of California at Davis—leading him to transfer there from Villanova’s accounting program. But it wasn’t fate that took Vaccaro from jobs at Sierra Nevada Brewing Company to opening his own brewery in Pleasantville in 2004—it was a passion to create flavorful beers people could enjoy. “It was always a dream of mine to own a brewery and be able to make the beers I love for a living,” says Vaccaro. “And I realized that if I wanted to keep brewing and live in Westchester, I would need to open a brewery on my own.”
The result was Captain Lawrence Brewing Company, the now 30-plus-employee company located in Elmsford (it quickly outgrew its initial space), which sells its products in bars, restaurants, and supermarkets in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut (and will expand to Pennsylvania in 2015). Since its founding, Captain Lawrence has won numerous awards, including the 2006 and 2014 Matthew Vassar Brewers’ Cup (awarded to the best brewery in the Hudson Valley) at the TAP New York Craft Beer and Food Festival, and numerous awards at the Great American Beer Festival, which Vaccaro calls “the Super Bowl of beer festivals.”
After establishing a name for himself early on, Vaccaro has continued to stand out during the craft-beer explosion of recent years, in which new breweries seem to pop up regularly. Captain Lawrence has stayed ahead of the curve, Vaccaro says, by creating “exciting and drinkable beers that people can enjoy. We’re not out to make the strongest or the hoppiest—we’re out to help provide liquid enjoyment.”