The best of America's craft brewers tend to make their mark with big, creative flavors. And Captain Lawrence, the rising star from Westchester, N.Y., that entered the Philadelphia market a couple of years ago is no exception, with brews that range from vividly hoppy beers (Effortless IPA) to bretty sours aged in wine barrels (Rosso e Marrone, now at Monk's) or apple brandy barrels (Golden Delicious, at Cinder), and powerful imperial stouts like Frost Monster (at Alla Spina). But often a lighter, more delicate style will tell you more about the quality of the brewing. There's transparence to a good lager or pilsner, for example, with few distractions to mask any flaws. The Captain's Clearwater Kölsch is a hybrid style that lands between the worlds of fruity ales and crisp lagers. It's fermented cold like a lager but made with ale yeast and a vibrant bouquet of American hops. The result is a beer that's still on the elegant, lighter side - "uncomplicated," one beer pro recently told me. But it's also startlingly fresh and alive, with a cloudy golden hue that's citrusy and piney from Cascade hops, but smartly toned down just enough with floral Crystal hops to keep it in drinkable check. At just around 5 percent alcohol, you'll likely have more than one.
- Craig LaBan