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Nor' Easter | Captain Lawrence Brewing Co.

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Nor' EasterNor' Easter

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

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: 312
Photo of bbeane
3.65/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A- Poured into an oversized snifter... Starts with a finger thick light brown head with ok retention and leaves some spotted lacing. Beer is dark in color turning shade of red when held up to the light

S- Mostly the fruity sweetness of the elderberries coming through followed by an oaky aroma

T- Has a sour flavor that is evident from start to finish, combined with a dry oaky taste, and maybe a tinge of coffee flavor. I honestly don't get much bourbon flavor, though there is a hint of boozy heat in the finish

M- Pretty thin, lightly carbonated

O- All in all, not that impressed. Sounded like a great idea on the label but didn't really think the flavors meshed well... Just my .02


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Photo of Durge
4.07/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A pitch black colored brew with a healthy tan froth on top and plenty of lacing. The aroma is full of tart berries and mild bourbon with a touch of medicinal malt. Very nice. The flavor brings an elderberry wine with bitter rhubarb and a mild charcoal oak edge. Very tasty and warming. It’s medium bodied with a somewhat thin feel. Carbonation is subtle but adequate. Very good stuff.

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Photo of DrewZ926
4.2/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- Deep brown shading on black with an inch of hazelnut head

S- Really deep woody smells, a whiff of bourbon, slight tartness, and some banana and clove

T- Cooling bourbon undertones, sweet roasted caramel malt, millk chocolate, a hint of some tart lemon and elderberry, finishes with vanilla and oak.

M- Warming and coating, all I could ask for out of a BSDA. A drop thinner than expected however.

O- Exceeded my expectations, the bourbon barrels did this one well. Great for a cold winter. Very complex body and evolving, lasting flavor

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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 CruisaC
4.32/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Batch #5. Poured from 750ml bottle into my DFH glass

Pours a dark, nearly opaque brown with an inch of mocha head.

Smells tart, in a good way, and a surprising first wave given the color. A little bit of bourbon works its way in as well

Tastes of the same. I'm primarily getting a bit of tart berry rounded out by the bourbon. To me it's similar of Dominique in that way but a little less bourbon forward.

A bit creamy initially but finishes dry and tart

Overall tasty, not sure I think BSDA first when I taste this. Not much sweetness or raisins. Very good both times I've had this, both on tap and out of the bottle.

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Photo of dragonWhale
3.73/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I have decided to go on a small adventure with the Captain. These are my manuscripts from the journey..

I opened the bottle nervously, wondering what the bourbon and elderberry combination would bring. She poured with a gorgeous head, a little off-white. She was dark-complexioned, her skin giving off the aromas of plums and raisins, elderberry, and a little sweet caramel. And my, oh my, had she been drinking. The bourbon was all over her, and quickly inflamed my nostrils. I was intoxicated by her.
She tasted of booze, dripping through her every pore. A little bit of dark fruit and caramel in the background, but the whiskey dominated. Damn..Delicious but could use more time. Not hot or solvent-like, just straight up bourbon. High carbonation prickles my mouth, allowing the bourbon flavor to penetrate deeply. All in all, good stuff.

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Photo of superspak
4/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750 ml bottle into goblet, batch 5. Pours hazy extremely dark brown color with a dense 1 finger light tan head with good retention that reduces to a small ring of lacing. A bit of lacing clings to the glass as well. Aromas of big bourbon, caramel, dark fruits, and molasses; with a bit of booze as well. Some nice strong aromas here, decent balance as well. Taste of big dark fruits(elderberries?) with some caramel and light bourbon on the front; leading to some licorice, molasses, spice, and a bit of slight tartness in the back. Some lingering sweet notes on the finish for a short bit. No bitterness noticed, as expected. Nicely full and smooth body with medium carbonation. Alcohol is extremely well hidden, not noticing any at all in the taste, but there is a decent warming after the finish. Great drinkability for 12%, but still a sipper. Overall, quite a nice Belgian dark ale. Delicious and smooth drinking.

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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 scotvega18
4.22/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

BATCH 5 750ml Bottle poured into a 12oz snifter

A - Virtually black, perhaps some light can manage through, so a dark brown at its lightest. The head fades into a thin lace of off white head.

S - Lots of dark fruits. sourness hits at the end, but a lot of berry sweetness and sourness present. I cannot smell the belgian yeast normally present in a dark ale like this. perhaps some bourbon notes deep in this medley of dark fruits.

T - the bourbon and dark fruits combine in a most unusual combo. The sour finish is reminiscent of Russian river's Supplication or Consecration, rich with red wine characteristics. It finishes a very dry, similar to a red wine.

M - The carbonation helps to cleanse the palate and any alcohol accomplishes a similar goal.

Notes - My first Captain Lawrence review, but oddly, there was so much different about this that made it unique. A Belgian Dubble, mixed with dark fruit and sour qualities, and a hefty warming quality.

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Photo of mikesgroove
4.12/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

medium brown color with a smallish tan head about a half inch high by using a very vigorous pour. The ale was not nearly opaque as you could definitely make out hints of light on the sides and bottom of the glas

full of spice and a touch of sour fruit as well.lots of dark fruits of varying degree going in here for sure, very interesting.
spiciness that was coming through from the very first taste. A big healthy dose of cinnamon, nutmeg, and earthy malts right on the front end, hints of apples and raisins and plums rippling through all at once, while at the same time really puckering the lips. As if that was not enough, on top of the oak flavors started to percolate through and really start to show them off. Really getting complex not with hints of vanilla and even caramel as it warmed starting to mingle, but the finish went right back to that deep sour note. Very nice indeed.

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Photo of thagr81us
4.2/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Big thanks goes out to funkydelic for sharing this one during our weekly tastings! Batch 4! Served from bottle into a Mikkeller flute. Poured a deep dark brown with a one finger light tan head that subsided to a minimal amount quickly. Maintained decent lacing throughout the glass. The aroma was comprised of sweet malt, dark fruit, wood, and sour. The flavor was of sweet malt, fruit, dark fruit, wood, slight sour, and sweet alcohol. It had a medium feel on the palatew with medium carbonation. Overall this was a really nice brew. The sour aspect going on in this one made it QUITE enjoyable. The sour really helped mask the alcohol in this one as I would have NEVER guessed it to be a 12%er. Really glad I got the opportunity to try this one without a doubt!

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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 msubulldog25
4.22/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A gold-capped 750ml/25.4 oz bottle ~ Batch #4 ~ poured to an imperial pint. Thanks to hoppymcgee for sending this special beer last summer/fall.

'Ale brewed with elderberries & aged in bourbon barrels', so says the label.

A: Dark brown, a coffee/cocoa that barely shows its ruby-redness even when held to light. Decent carbonation, but nothing exceptional. A rather thin cocoa-tan head, uner a finger and falling fast to a creamy halo, with speckled and spiky lace.

S: Tartness really sparkles in the nose, plenty of elderberry (wouldn't have known that berry type in particular) and milder 'Belgian' yeast/spicing. Notes of toasted wood and sweeter vanilla represent the bourbon barrel-aging well.

T: Only after consuming half the bottle did I note this was categorized as 'Belgian Strong Dark'. Really? Because there's barely a trace of anything 'Belgian' in the flavor, once the acidic berries and tannic/woody/sweet barrel char do their thing. It's the type of beer that seems to defy categorization: woody, fudgy, spicy, tangy, brusque, sublime. Enjoyable from first to last sip.

M: Capt. Lawrence seems to have a knck for mouthfeel and this one borders on perfection. Creamy and tangy all at once, dense and juicy. For such a 'big beer', it's remarkably smooth, with a well-restrained alcohol level. The chocolate-y tartness is rather phenomenal.

O: Drinkable, but slowly. O-h-h-h, s-o-o-o-o v-e-r-r-r-y s-lo-o-o-o-w-ly. Really like the berry tartness and the cocoa-forward 'Belgian' backbone. Very much a winter warmer, although it works well enough on a damp/cool mid-April evening all the same. Recommended.

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Photo of brentk56
3.82/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Batch 4

Appearance: Pours a fudge brown color with ruby highlights; the head was rather modest but it did leave plenty of lace

Smell: Great complexity to the aroma, with the elderberries and Bourbon presenting themselves, up front, with dark fruit, licorice and leather underneath

Taste: Dark fruit, up front, with fig flavors that quickly move in the tart direction provided by the elderberries, with some licorice underneath; after the swallow, there is a hint of Bourbon that gets added to the mix, but the vinous tartness overwhelms the finish

Mouthfeel: Medium body with moderate carbonation

Overall: While I appreciate the complexity, the tartness was overwhelming and didn't enable the other elements of the the flavor profile to shine through

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Photo of AlCaponeJunior
4/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dark and hazy, good head and pretty good lacing.

Fruity and woody aromas dominate, with mid and dark fruits as the primary culprits. Some alcoholic raisin accents.

I've never had a straight up elderberry, but this beer is plenty berry to be sure. Also the woody, barrel aged flavors come through strongly. It's a flavorful and tasty treat.

Not as powerful as you'd think given the ABV. Easy to drink, too easy almost. Smooth, woody aftertaste with a bit of sour and a bit of bitter.

Overall pretty tasty indeed. A very nice offering! For my first experience with this brewery, I'm pretty happy!

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Photo of vfgccp
4.12/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

- Special thanks to Mark for sharing a perfectly cellared May '06 bottle -

A - Cola with a toasted khaki head.

S - Bourbon booze, vanilla, toasted coconut.

T - Toasted coconut straight from the nose (a really nice flavor), soft booze, vanilla. Some earthy notes. Hints of dried fruits. Some clove / cinnamon and spice. Touch of coffee.

M - Soft and smooth.

D - Booze is a bit harsh.

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Photo of metter98
3.88/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: The beer is jet black in color and has a thin layer of bubbles floating around the edge of the glass.
S: There are light aromas of dark fruits in the nose.
T: The taste has flavors of dark fruits--elderberries stand out in particular--and has a slight amount of initial sweetness. Otherwise, the elderberries lend some tartness.
M: It feels medium- to full-bodied on the palate and has a moderate amount of carbonation.
D: The alcohol is relatively well masked so this beer isn't that difficult to drink.

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Photo of pmlondrigan
4.05/5  rDev -1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Re-reviewing, new batch and new serving type: Deeply ruddy brown with only the faintest ruby edges shining through when held to light. The elderberry aroma is more subdued in this batch than in the last one, and more in balance with the beer. Some chocolate aroma and barrel waft through. Over-all the aroma is a tad lack luster and faint. The flavor up front is a nice combo of a winey tartness from the elderberry and sweet vanilla of bourbon; roasty malt and chocolate follow up with a medium finish. With such a high abv it is well concealed making this a nice sip-able beer. A true winter warmer.

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Photo of bpalfrey10
4.05/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Jet black with a thin, brownish head that receded quickly
S: I get roasted malts, oak, and alcohol. Maybe licorice?
T: Alcohol wallup up front, not kidding about that 12% abv, after that a pronounced caramel sweetness/malty-ness.
M: pleasantly low carbonation and not as viscous as one might expect
D: Would be tough to have more than a couple of these, but that's to be expected.

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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 david18
3.77/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I got a 750 ML bottle of this at the Amsterdam Ale House and shared it with a couple of friends. The one I had was aged on oak, i believe and called a Winter Ale on the menu. In any case, it was typical of both the strong dark belgian as well as winter styles of beer.

Poured a dark brown with a darkish head. Nice aroma with hints of oak, dark fruit and spice. Flavor was typical of the style, which I don't love, but the presence of oak was very interesting. This is definitely worth trying and I was glad I had found a couple of people to share it with me.

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Photo of Arenbeer
4.2/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bought straight from the brewery. A batch 5 750ml bottle into a captain lawrence goblet. Fridge temp

A- pours a dark dark brown thats pretty much black with a thin 1 finger khaki head that dosent stick around to long. Lacing doesnt stick around but leaves some nice alcohol feet on the side of the glass.

S- Really sweet belgian yeast up front and tons of oak and vanilla notes. Slight bourbon and alcohol as it warms. Not really getting the elder berry or at least i cant pick it out.

T- First sip was pure belgian champagne like yeast and sweet fruits. Second sip brought out a really nice oak and wood flavor that blends so nicely with the rest of the beer. Slight alcohol and bourbon but is masked and blends so well you wouldnt think it was there. Great for a %12 beer. Has a slight roasted finish in there as well and maybe some slight coffee or dark chocolate notes.

M- medium bodied with a good amount of carbonation being fresh but nothing crazy. Has a nice wet finish wiith a slight funk to it from the yeast. Real palatable.


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Photo of twiggamortis420
4.47/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Big thanks out to bmwfan1987 and jkane101 for this beauty. 750 mL of batch 4 pours a dark brown color with a bubbly tan head. Decent lacing and retention is average at best.

Nose is unique, to say the least: berry-liciousness mixes well with dark toffee and caramel malts. Alcohol is well hidden.

Tart berries meet vanilla bourbon - very nice and well suited to my palate. Berry flavors combine strawberries, blackberries and currants. I can see this beer not being for everyone, but hot damn, I am digging the shit out of it. Finishes strong with some nice woody flavors. I can see this ageing well, pretty complex little brew here.

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Photo of joshuacavett
4.85/5  rDev +18.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Thanks to lazerlobe for trading this to me in 2010. The elderberries came out initially as spoiled and almost infected; however, as this beer warmed up the berries were much more tame and delicious/intoxicating smelling. The carbonation was very good throughout the entire tasting of the beer. I was really expecting a much thicker caramel chocolatey of a beer for the winter warmer, but this consistency of this beer was great. Capt. Lawrence precision for making beer really showed through on this Nor' Easter. We split this bottle between four people into oversized wine glasses. Additionally we served it at a temperature of 55° and I thoroughly enjoyed this beer. Everyone at the table agreed with the wierd smell initially but all enjoyed it after about 10 minutes. I cannot wait to order another one and try the next years batch.

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Photo of stakem
4.27/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Review from notes taken 12/11/10. Thanks to Jason (ClockworkOrange) for opening and sharing this.

Batch #1 poured into a snifter appears dark brown in color with a thin tan head. Some spotty lace clings to the glass. Lighter brown coloration shines through the edges of the glass revealing a bit of clarity to this brew.

The aroma is dark malt with subtle vanilla smoothness and alcohol warmth fills the nose. There is some brown sugar suggestions along with a bit of cocoa. This is not an overly complex aroma just well rounded and very enjoyable.

The taste of this brew includes a tangy amount of alcohol leaning towards whiskey notes and a warming sense. Vanilla smoothness is again present accenting the dark malt flavor. This brew finishes lightly spicy and a bit fruity. A residual flavor of chocolate hangs in the mouth with minorly bitter hops and bold alcohol flavoring.

Medium to light feel with a light level of carbonation. Very drinkable with light spiciness and a warming alcohol touch. This is the exact kind of brew I need to put me in the mood for the holidays. Thanks again Jason!

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Nor' Easter from Captain Lawrence Brewing Co.
4.09 out of 5 based on 312 ratings.
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