Like most brewers, Scott Vaccaro entered the world of brewing by testing it out on a stovetop at home. Only, unlike most brewers, Scott started at the age of 17. When visiting a friend’s house in high school, Scott saw his friend’s dad making beer in the kitchen and his interest was piqued. With his parents’ blessing, he started learning how to brew and began a lifelong infatuation with fermentation.
“The thing that immediately caught my attention about brewing beer was the experimental nature of brewing and the unlimited creative outlet it gives you,” Scott explains. “I grew up in a house with a lot of cooking going on, so it was a natural extension of that love.”
What started as a hobby has since grown and evolved into the flagship of craft breweries in Westchester County. Scott essentially pioneered craft brewing in the Hudson Valley—when he founded Captain Lawrence Brewing Company in 2006, it was the only brewery in Westchester and just one of 23 breweries in all of New York State. Today, while craft breweries abound (there are more than 400 in New York State alone), Captain Lawrence boasts the title of largest among the 63 breweries now located in the Hudson Valley.
Scott’s journey from the stovetop to a full-scale brewery included a year of college studying accounting before enrolling in the Fermentation Science program at University of California, Davis, followed by several years with Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. There, Scott was able to apply the theory he learned in school and his own brewing endeavors on a much larger scale.
After returning to New York State for a job with another brewery, Scott suddenly found himself on the path to entrepreneurship when that brewery closed and he became unemployed. “I really didn’t think that my own brewery was an option when I first started out,” he explained. “But I did know that I wanted to brew. How I was going to get to that point was going to be a journey that I was willing to and happy to embark upon.” Since then, Scott has grown Captain Lawrence Brewing Company from a 20-barrel brew house to a 35,000 square foot, award-winning destination in Elmsford, NY.
“I was born and raised in Westchester County. This is the place I call home, and the place where I have the most support,” says Scott. “Being in the suburbs of New York City has a lot of advantages. People are exposed to the best of the best in the city, so I knew they would embrace a local craft beer if it delivered on the promise of being delicious.”
Scott’s eye for the future has helped Captain Lawrence continue growing and made it a must-watch brewery for the craft beer community. From its Fermento Funk Facility — where they produce and package barrel-aged beers — to innovative collaborations (like their Fudgie the Beer special release made with Carvel), Scott keeps a pulse on the industry to capitalize on opportunities early while not latching on to passing fads. As such, Captain Lawrence remains a major influence for craft brewers in the region and beyond.
“I think that creativity and the desire to constantly innovate comes from within,” says Scott. “I’m able to find inspiration in the craft beer community, the culinary community, and in a thirst for new and interesting flavors.”
As the brewery has grown and evolved, Scott has turned to SBA loan programs to finance and invest in the future of Captain Lawrence. He was first introduced Pursuit in 2010 while seeking financing to move into a larger facility. “I like to think that was the moment we ‘grew up’ as a business and a brewery,” says Scott, who ultimately financed the move with an SBA 504 loan for $1.17 million. Captain Lawrence again turned to SBA financing to upgrade its canning equipment in 2018. “We’ve gone from the small and cobbled together brewery that I built with my family into a ‘real’ brewery that was capable of efficiency and serious volume.”
Scott’s future plans for Captain Lawrence are ambitious, and importantly, aim to give back to those that provide support day in and day out. “We want to ensure our employees are able to grow and be successful,” he says. To bolster continued growth, Captain Lawrence will add additional markets and expand its distribution footprint in the year ahead, as well as new and exciting beers and a retail/restaurant space in their Elmsford, NY headquarters.