Nor' Easter | Captain Lawrence Brewing Co.

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Nor' EasterNor' Easter

Brewed by:
Captain Lawrence Brewing Co.
New York, United States | website

Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 12.00%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
This is a truly unique brew, combining some unusual elements to create a powerful, yet flavorful brew. I brewed a similar beer to this one back in 1998, while I was home brewing out in California. Only this time around, I decided to age it in bourbon barrels to add a new element to the already rich sensory profile. The combination of dark malt, elderberries and bourbon barrels makes for an interesting tasting experience. This is a sippin’ beer, so sit back by the fire and enjoy.

Added by Billolick on 02-12-2007

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Reviews: 212 | Ratings: 313
Photo of kscaldef
2.14/5  rDev -47.7%
look: 2 | smell: 3 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Batch 5. poured a murky red-brown. During the pour, there's a nice whisky aroma. In the glass, the elderberry dominates. The taste just off, sour in a nasty way, more like rotten fruit than any sort of pleasant tartness which might be expected from the berries. We gave this a decent try to see if it would get better, but in the end just couldn't drink it.

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Photo of AlexFields
2.23/5  rDev -45.5%
look: 2.25 | smell: 2.25 | taste: 2.25 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.25

Poured July 2011.

Very dark reddish brown, almost black, without much of a head.

Smells of bitter dark fruits (I don't really know what elderberries smell like but I'm assuming they smell like this), bourbon, maybe some bitter dry cocoa. Also smells sour which I didn't think it was supposed to be. The various parts of the nose aren't necessarily bad on their own but they aren't playing well together.

Taste follows pretty closely. It's very dry/bitter with plenty of tart dark fruit, whiskey, dry red wine. It's sour too, which isn't bad in and of itself but the sourness is not going well at all with the berries and bourbon. These flavors just aren't working well together, I'm struggling to enjoy this beer.

Mouthfeel is kindof thin and flat in a way that accents the things I'm not liking about the beer.

I'm really disappointed in this. I expected to really love this beer based on everything I'd heard but it's just not working for me. It's sour in a weird rather than a pleasant way and the flavors are clashing something fierce to the point where I'm puzzled over the A- average and wondering if I just got a bad bottle.


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Photo of Damian
2.6/5  rDev -36.4%
look: 4 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Drank from a 1 pint, 9.6 fl oz bottle at The Ginger Man, New York, NY
batch 4
Served in a snifter

Dark chestnut in appearance with a bubbly, frothy, cocoa colored head that quickly faded to a thick ring.

The aroma was absolutely horrendous. Super earthy and herbal was an almost fecal-like component. Dark and dank. Somewhat soured (as in bad) with mild oxadative notes. This in fact may have been the worst smelling beer I have ever encountered.

The taste was thin and disappointing yet not nearly as offensive as the aroma. Dark fruits including plums and raisins were noticeable up front. A touch roasty with berry-like notes. Herbal. Licorice was detectable. Somewhat sour but not much sour flavor backing up the tartness. Winey and a bit oaky. Woody. The bourbon component was practically nonexistent.

The body was a bit thinner than I anticipated. Light and airy with a spritzy, somewhat aggressive carbonation.

Drinkability was a mixed bag. This beer really hid its alcohol prowess quite well. The aroma however was so putrid that this alone made drinking it quite a chore.

With a straight "A" on BeerAdvocate, I was hugely disappointed by this release from the folks at Captain Lawrence. The $20 price tag made it that much more difficult to stomach.

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Photo of LilBeerDoctor
2.74/5  rDev -33%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

Reviewed on 4/29/08. Bottle, batch 2. Pours dark black with no head (only slight bubbling from an extremely vigorous pour). Aroma strongly of bourbon, oak/wood, some sweetness. The flavor was slightly less bourbon, but it still dominates. I didn't get any elderberry fruitiness, just sweetness from the alcohol, producing a roasty, alcoholy, sweet taste. My throat was warmed after just a few sips. Unfortunately, this was too bourbon-dominated for my liking. If I do ever develop a liking for bourbon-aged beers, I will revisit this one.
5/4/5/4/13 (3.1/5)

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Photo of oakbluff
3.15/5  rDev -23%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

750ml bottle courtesy of Glouglouburp -batch 2. Been waiting a while to crack this baby. Pours a very murky dark ebony with minimal head. Nose- slightly sour fruit, earthy, boozy. Body is on the thin side, dark fruit and boozy hot. This beer is going in 20 different directions, some are the wrong way on a one way. Oxidation starting to creep in, worsening the thinness of body and taste.

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Photo of alcstradamus
3.16/5  rDev -22.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Pours a near black color with a two finger head that leaves some webby lacing as it retreats. The barrel smell here is not very refined, and it gives off a metallic element that I sometimes find and despise in barrel aged beers. Luckily there seems to be some nice complexity underneath which saves it. The 11% alcohol is definitely noticeable.

The taste here is a bit odd. Those metallic notes due carry over a bit to the palate, but aren't too bad. But the flavor profile underneath isn't really good enough to overcome the glaring faults. There is some cherry, cola, raisin, banana peel, and candy notes. Very sweet, perhaps a tad cloying.

Mouthfeel is fine for the style. This one wasn't bad, but wasn't good either. An average score will have to suffice.

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Photo of homebrew311
3.2/5  rDev -21.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A: appears like dark cola with almost no head, no lacing to note

S: waves of berries come through with hints of vanilla, leather and oak among other earthy notes

T: starts very sweet with dark fruit and becomes somewhat acidic and tart, some cloying sweetness in there, bourbon comes through at the end along with a considerable amount of anise

MF: minimal carbonation, very sticky body

O: this certainly doesn't lack flavor, it is very intense and is in your face with sweetness

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Photo of bob3701
3.3/5  rDev -19.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a taster glass. Pours dark brown almost black with an off-white head that rapidley disapates into a ring. Dark fruit and burbon dominate aroma. Very sour and burbon dominate the taste. Sour after taste and what ever beer there is was overshadowed by burbon.In my opinion not very drinkable.

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Photo of wcintula
3.3/5  rDev -19.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

This beer was frightening. In a snifter it was black and had the smell of bourbon coming from it before it reached my nose. Bourbon was the only noticeable quality until it warmed up and then it took on some sweet character with slight hop bitterness in there. The high ABV keeps hammering at the palate. Cannot see drinking too many of these.

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Photo of caddybuyer
3.42/5  rDev -16.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured at cellar temperature from a 750 into a tulip glass.

Batch #4. I picked this up in the spring and thought I'd crack it open.

A-Blackness with garnet highlights that can be seen in the pour but only at the edges when held to light. Thick, creamy tan head that settles fairly rapidly.

S-Pungent and robust. Berry, vanilla, bourbon, molasses, chocolate. The nose is truly decadent. I am expecting greatness.

T-Sour astringent elderberry hits the palate first. The initial impression is the taste doesn't live up to the promise of the nose. It hides the abv well and is a bit creamy, but less so than I had expected, Belgian yeast and darker fruits establish themselves mid pour followed by more sourness and a burned astringent finish of oak and spent ashtray. This batch could really benefit from some sweetness and body. Glad I opened this as nothing in the aging process is going to cure these ills. Bummer.

M-Decent balanced carbonation is the best thing I can say here. Slighly creamy but very light bodied for this type of ale.

D-This one was a letdown. Saved it for the holidays and I'm glad I only bought one (this set me back $25) I love barrel aged ales, I love strong Belgians, I love strong fruit ales but this one does not hit the highs that I expected. Looking over the reviews I feel I am drinking a different brew. I'm not a fan of sours, although I can appreciate them, and if thats your thing, give it a whirl. Hopefully, you won't be as letdown as I was.

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Photo of Pahn
3.43/5  rDev -16.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

750ml bottle into Duvel tulip. Batch #5.

Appearance: Free pour yields a one inch, frothy, light tan head that dissipates steadily leaving a solid wall of lacing. Pours black with light brown highlights. Leaves large walls and arches of lacing.

Smell: Bourbon, vanilla, caramel, coconut, mild berry note, and maybe some acetic sourness. With warmth, the berry note picks up along with various dark fruit notes, while the bourbon and oak take a step back and become highlights. Complex and nice.

Taste: First sip: bland flavors leading to a hot and bourbony finish. Flavor is like having a word at the tip of your tongue... it's like there's something there, you think you know it, but it's just out of reach. Faintly suggests a BSDA or some berry flavor.

Flavor opens up a little bit further into the glass, but I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around it. Strange, somewhat unpleasant tartness rounds the flavor out every so often, clashing with the bourbon and oak flavors in the hot, dry finish.

I'm not sure if it's me or the beer, but I'm not getting it... it's like the beginning of a good, fruity BSDA... pleasant notes of bourbon and American oak... vinous as advertised... but it's all just kind of low impact. The majority of the flavor is low impact, then the alcohol heat hits like a brick and brings pleasant (but out of place) bourbon flavors.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied. Low carbonation. Dry finish. Lots of alcohol heat.

Overall: I don't know about this beer. I don't mind the heavy heat, but the flavors can't stand up to it. The bourbon barrel has given some good flavors, but its influence isn't really integrated that well with the base beer, which itself seems to be muddled and lost. The berry flavors are nice, but again kind of weak (it seems that dryness is the main legacy of the elderberries advertised on the bottle).

This beer is decent, but its overall effect is not even one of disharmonious good notes played on top of each other, but rather several pretty colors mixed together turning to gray. The flavor doesn't really come together... the beer is sort of an amalgamation of quiet suggestions and over the top yells. Odd.

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Photo of DavoleBomb
3.45/5  rDev -15.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured into a snifter. Batch #4.

4.5 A: Pretty damn close to black in color. Two fingers of super creamy tan head. Pretty good retention considering the ABV and lots of lacing. Very nice here.

4.5 S: Great balance among the components. Bourbon is right in my ideal strength level and complements the beer rather than dominating it. Bourbon lends a boozy, leather, vanilla, and oak component. The strange fruity smell must be the elderberries. Sweet caramel, toffee, plum, and dark cherry.

3.0 T: The taste is a big step down from the appearance and smell. It's really lacking depth at the malt level and the body is too light. Elderberry tartness is strong as is the bourbon components. The caramel and toffee are just about removed. This tastes like a watered down bourbon with elderberries added. Alcohol is extremely well hidden especially given the light body. Disappointing here.

3.0 M: Lightish body. Too damn light and really brought down the taste. Good moderate carbonation and somewhat creamy.

3.0 D: Great aroma, but the taste and mouthfeel simply aren't up to par.

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Photo of Ego
3.45/5  rDev -15.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

one finger of sizzling head, pretty soapy and active, this certainly is dark, maybe not black but a really deep brown, the head settles down rather quickly and behaves like a kid on sedatives here on out, spotty lacing seems unimpressive but the legs this display hint at the alcohol simmering somewhere in this concoction, upon careful inspection the carbonation is pretty active even though the head itself is rather meek.

my first whiff was a strange mix of syrup and molasses.. I suppose that is the bourbon barrels making themselves known, sweetened raisins lie underneath (elderberries?). interesting but nothing earth shattering...

taste etc..
assertive booze upfront.. but not that totally whiskey smack I usually get from bourbon aged stuff, the wood is more pronounced which takes the edge off a touch (in a good way), carbonation distracts from the mouthfeel, it is way too prickly for a sipper (imo), the berry flavor is there in the finish for sure, just an addendum to the flavors... nice touch. this certainly is not as smooth as it could be... something about the flavors has not "gelled" yet. there is some nice stuff going on but it all seems separate at this point. the best aspect of this one is the unique flavor of the bourbon barrels they used, it is far different than almost any bourbon aged brew I have had.

after reading the bottle the flavor makes sense.. I just don't think it works 100%. A very interesting brew none the less. This might smooth out with some more time in the cellar.

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Photo of akorsak
3.53/5  rDev -13.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to mikey711 for this growler.

A: The ale is a very deep dark black color, impenetrable. At the right angle, light reveals a red hue that may be the true color of the ale. An off-white head, maybe a finger or so on the first pour, leaves a few random patches of lace.

S: The nose has a soft bourbon aroma. Vanilla and coconut stand out. The barrel presence isn't overwhelming, just there. The addition of elderberry lends a sour fruit scent that tries to crowd out the bourbon. For my money, I'd rather have the bourbon.

T: Apart from the barrel and the fruit, I struggle to define the ale. Bourbon, as in the nose, is reserved. Vanilla and brown sugar are light, fleeting. Elderberry is much more prominent, leaving a sweet 'n' sour syrupy finish. Some time and patience are needed, but eventually the dark body of the ale emerges. Roasted malts and fruity yeast flavors prove that there is more than just the elderberry and bourbon (bot mostly elderberry).

M: The mouthfeel is dominated by the fruit addition, lending a syrupy sour flavor. That flavor owns the mouthfeel, dominating the bourbon and the dark malts. I'm torn on the beer.

D: I had several glasses throughout the day but I'm not sold in the beer. The elderberry crowds most everything out, making it difficult to get a true read.

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Photo of mmmbeer
3.55/5  rDev -13.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

750 mL bottle, conditioned in a bottle shaped like a Belgian cork-style, but with a crown cap. Batch #3, with no freshness date, and sampled a year ago - damn I'm far behind on my reviews. Brewed to 25 Plato with pale, chocolate, Munich and Special B malts, hopped to 32 IBUs with Simcoe and East Kent, fermented with Belgian yeast, refermented with elderberries, then aged in bourbon barrels. Whew! It pours dark brown to black, with a half-inch of frothy foam that leaves little lacing. Looks flat by the end, but a long session and lots of swirling is the culprit there. The aroma starts quite vinous, with notes of elderberries and an oak finish. Hops eventually push through, along with bourbon and vanilla notes. Tastes very big, with a pleasing berry note, dark caramel malts, and a hint of roast. The hops impart a mild bitterness and the alcohol warms the belly. There are suggestions of banana, and toward the end the berries fade while the oaky vanilla emerges. The body is medium, with a big initial carbonic bite, but it smooths out and allows the oak, alcohol and yeast to ride into the finish. This is an interesting beer, and one that I wasn't too sure of how the concept would play out, but the bourbon does better than I was expecting. However, it is not as flavorful or complex as I was hoping and it could use a bit more sweetness. But I do feel that this brew would age very well, and in the end it is tasty enough and worth a try.

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Photo of cosmicevan
3.58/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A-popped open a batch 4 and poured into an oversized snifter. poured a shiny deep purple with a thin head that was quickly eaten up by the alcohol.

S-smells like spiked grape juice. berries and malt. sweetness and cooling in the background. very wine-like.

T-in a word "Merlot"

M/D-Finally, I've found the cross-over craft brew for the wine lover. This beer is mean. It's strong. Smells, feels, and tastes like a nicely balanced merlot with none of the dryness. Aged in Bourbon Barrels? Maybe that was a typo on the label, but the elderberries take over and this beer doesn't resemble any other bourbon barrel aged beer I've ever had.

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Photo of Overlord
3.58/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark, blackish brown with some ruddy highlights. Surprisingly robust creamy tan head.

Smells like brown sugar, some vanilla, a bit of indescribable fruit (is that elderberry?) and a sort of ... earthy woodsiness. Interesting.

Taste is surprisingly sweet and brown sugar/belgian malt/candi forward, though there's that weird pungent fruit-y spiciness floating in the background. What is that? Weird.

Nice creamy mouthfeel.

Interesting. Unique.

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Photo of mulder1010
3.6/5  rDev -12%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to Forgetfu for the bottle

Poured into a Lost Abbey Tulip

A-- Poured a clear, nearly opaque dark brown. One finger to half finger of light brown head. Good head retention and good lacing associated with this as drinking. Lots of spotty lacing.

S-- Did not expect tartness to this at all. Quite odd. Little bit of a sour/ tart smell to this. A bit like a sweet tart. Elderberry evident off the bat and in the back of the nose get touches of bourbon. Grape and bubble gum in the nose as well.

T-- More sour and tartness. Grape, bubblegum, oak, bits of bourbon in the back but very soft. Thought a La Chouffe but a sour version of it. Interesting.

M-- Light and bubbly, has a very clean, crisp and dry finish to this. Medium feel and medium carbonation. Pretty easy to drink really. Once got over the tart smell and taste a pretty easy beer to drink. Alcohol well hidden.

O-- Not what I expected but good. Well hidden 12% beer. Rich and full but light. Am guessing the triple fermentation to that. Touches of grape and bourbon make this quite interesting to me.

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Photo of kbutler1
3.61/5  rDev -11.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Bottle. Pours a very dark brown color with a 1 finger head that settles down to form a nice collared medium bubbled light tan head. Swirling causes the head to form a nice tan coaster. The aroma is somewhat odd with chocolate notes mixed with a sweet/tart berry note. Hmm, the taste is rather different with an almost sweet tart taste to it, must be the elderberries. So far I don't get too much bourbon barrel in either the nose or the taste. Medium mouthfeel. Nice left on the glass as I drink this down. A very interesting beer even as it warms. Tartness somewhat bites at the tongue followed by some grape like sweetness and some dark chocolate notes. Finishes with a slight alocohol warming sensation. Different, I wish it had more chocolate flavors and less elderberry tartness.

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Photo of mothman
3.62/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Batch 4

Poured into Founders snifter

Pours a light layer of tan head. Some thin splattered lace. Color is a copper brown, but settles near black.

Aroma: Notes of cocoa powder and dark chocolate with waves of bourbon up front. It also has notes of the elderberries, vanilla, and some roasted malts. It is fairly sweet.

Taste: The elderberries stick out a lot and it tastes a bit sour, almost like sour cherries. I get a lot of roasted malts, light bourbon and some chocolate. The sourness takes away a lot from this beer. It is creamy and has some vanilla sweetness. It does show some bourbon notes.

Mouthfeel: Tart, creamy, smooth. Medium to full bodied with a medium amount of carbonation. Ends roasted, but clean.

Overall, it is an alright beer, but I was expecting more chocolate flavors and less elderberries. The elderberries really took this beer over it seems. Somewhat drinkable.

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Photo of PittBeerGirl
3.63/5  rDev -11.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Batch 001= received in a trade awhile ago.

A-Body is an opaque dark brown hue. Pours with a 1/2 finger creamy off-white head-has good rentention the whole way through but little lacing left behind in the glass.

S-Elderberry, raisin, over-ripe plum, cinnamon sugar, nose is very dark- a hint of bourbon as well.

T- Cinnamon sugar is the most dominant upfront-a slight dried (dark) fruitiness comes through as well. Flavor is sweet and overripened-very similar to an RIS that focuses on dark fruit. Hints of anise and licorice are also noticable in the flavor. A slight alcohol heat lingers on the palate.

M- Medium-tingly carbonation with a quite thick heavy weight body.

D- This is much like an IRS that overemphasizes the dark fruity flavors. Overripened fruit everywhere- its thick, heavy, and wintery as well. What I do enjoy about it is the extra flavor of cinnamon sugar. Decent overall-but probably my least favorite of the captain lawrence lineup so far.

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Photo of jrallen34
3.63/5  rDev -11.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I drank this into a tasting glass at EBF.

The beer is dark brown almost black with nice carbonation.

The aroma is light, lots of spice, and a little oak, prunes, and funk.

The taset is ok, a little sweet to start for me then a lot of spice on the bank end. Not one of my favorite combinations. I think its too sweet overall.

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Photo of Sparkees3
3.64/5  rDev -11%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This is a beautiful beer (batch 4): Poors a dark,cola brown with a thick tan head ending with decent lacing. Smell is almost overwhelmingly elderberry (closer to red wine). Taste begins as dominated by cherry, bourbon tones. However allowed to breathe vanilla and malty goodness become more prevalent. Mouthfeel is well carbinated and smooth, the warmth of the high ABV is well hidden as well.

To me the elderberry is still a little overwhelming. If this beautiful poor were a tad more balanced I would certainly seek it out again. If cherry/sour taste floats your boat then I would highly recommend this NY state beer.

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Photo of Dubber55
3.65/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Batch #4

Pours a murky brown with ruby highlights. One finger of tan/mocha head. Soapy bubbles. Some spotty lacing.

The aromas consist mostly of tart green apples, cherries, and elderberries. A bit of Belgian yeast as well.

Up front I am getting a lot of tart fruits. Cherry, elderberry, blackberry. Some green apple as well and belgian yeast. Has a vinous quality to it. This beer is also quite tannic, most likely from the barrel influence. The finish is dry- I taste bourbon, oak, and vanilla. For some reason, all of these flavors just don't seem to meld together.

The mouthfeel is light to medium. Seems a bit watery and thin at times. Low carbonation.

I really don't detect much alcohol. There is a bit of heat from the bourbon but that does not really hinder the drinkability. The dry and tannic character of this beer does begin to wear on me a bit.

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Photo of MrDanno96
3.65/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Sadly I don't get Captain Lawrence up in Rochester. I picked this up recently down on Long Island. I'm happy to finally get to try some of these brews.

A: Pours really dark - like a stout. Much darker than most other Belgian darks I've had. A small off-white head sticks around for a while and leaves a decent amount of foamy lacing.

S: The bourbon and oak dominate the smell, complemented somewhat by some vanilla and sweet berries. Intriguing.

T: I've only had bourbon barrel aged stouts before this one, so the taste was a new experience. Warm bourbon, oak, and vanilla are all apparent, just like the nose. Hints of the dark fruits typical of a Belgian Strong Dark Ale are also apparent, namely raisins, plums, and a little dark cherry. The elderberry also comes through a little, but struggles to establish itself among the myriad of other flavors. A bit of sting from the alcohol as well. An extremely complex flavor that deserves to be evaluated slowly. However, IMO bourbon barrel aging doesn't pair quite as well with the Strong Dark Ale as it does with a stout.

M: Pretty full bodied to the point of almost being chewy. Alcohol bite is a little sharp in the finish.

D: Definitely a sipper. If you try to drink this even somewhat quickly you probably won't like it very much. As it is, I'm not a huge fan of the bourbon barrel aging of a Belgian Dark. It's by no means bad, however - I enjoyed the experience. This would probably benefit from a few years of aging too. It would be interesting to see how this tastes with less bourbon character (perhaps none at all even).

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Nor' Easter from Captain Lawrence Brewing Co.
91 out of 100 based on 212 ratings.
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