By Kevin Burns, Beer Columnist

Captain_lawrence_rosso Captain Lawrence Brewing Company might just be the best brewry in the state, with the best brewer at the helm. Even though owner/brewmaster Scott Vaccaro only founded Captain Lawrence in 2006, he has already racked up an impressive collection of awards.

He released this Rosso e Marrone to the world on February 14, 2009 and it has already become one of the country's most decorated beers, winning a 2009 Great American Beer Festival Gold Medal as well as being named Wine Enthusiast's Best Beer of 2009. 

I took a trip down to Pleasantville last week to speak with Scott as well as pick up some of his harder-to-find beers. The 2009 Rosso batch has long been sold out, so you could imagine my delight when he dug out a bottle of Rosso for me to take home.    

Vaccaro's description of Rosso from a press release earlier this year was "Over two years in oak wine barrels and then an additional 6 months in the bottle before it finally decided it was time. This is a sour ale, very different from most beers. The flavors are wine like and a bit funky. The two years in the oak barrels have imparted a nice dry oak character. We added both zinfandel and Merlot grapes to the beer a year into its aging which imparted a very nice wine-like character."

Rosso poured an apple cider color with almost no head. The aroma is light malts with a strong sourness and lots of oak notes.

The body has some light malt, a big sour punch in the middle and wine tannins towards the finish.  The palate is robust and full-bodied.  The finish has a big, long lingering sourness.

Overall, this is flat out a wonderful beer. It is complex, and enjoyable from the aroma all the way until the finish.  The balance is what makes this beer and the brown ale base compliments the huge sour finish wonderfully. 

It is one thing for a brewer to make a beer that all craft beer fans want, but a completely different thing to make a brew that has wine fanatics chasing it down as well (a new batch will be brewed again for 2010).

As far as the food pairing goes, I am offering a challenge to New York Cork Report nation. 

Based on Scott's description and my tasting notes, I am asking the readers what they would pair with Rosso.  Leave your ideas in the comment section.    

Producer: Captain Lawrence Brewing Company
ABV: 10%
Price: $10.00 (375 mL Bottle)
Rating: 45 (4.5 out of 5, Delicious-to-Outstanding)