Blog by Nigel Walsh


Handpump Hunting in Manhattan



Blog by Nigel Walsh


Handpump Hunting in Manhattan

I will be hopping out of the wayback machine this week; taking a break from the serialized Victorian melodrama that is the Cask Whisperer origin story Charles Dickens Good Pub Guide, and instead, I will be going out for a beer or two.

With the NYC temperatures dropping to a balmy 84oF on Saturday, it seemed to me to be a perfect excuse to putter around Manhattan in search of the “lost” handpumps.

With that noble purpose, I struck out at the crack of noon to get the East River ferry downtown to Stuytown, to start my cask crawl in the East Village/Alphabets.

I had four destinations in mind, two of which I knew would have cask ale available, but the other two required much crossing of fingers.

Drop Off Service

The first stop was Drop Off Service on Avenue A, just south of 14th Street.

I knew that they had previously served the occasional cask ale from a handpump installed at the end of the bar but had no idea if it was still operational.

Not only was the handpump still there, but it was serving Wild East Radiance, and a fine half it was too, medium gold with a nice scummy head.

The pub itself is a classic East Village beer bar, very unpretentious; a local hangout I would guess, but friendly to the wandering stranger.

I had just the one beer (hey, this is a crawl) and asked the bartender about the cask as I was leaving. His response was very promising, he basically said that as long as the local breweries were producing casks, he would sell them. Chalk this one up in the active cask pub column!

The Grand Delancey

A short stroll south into the Lower East Side, in the Market Line food hall beneath the relocated Essex Market you will find The Grand Delancey, a personal favorite of mine and one of the two best beer bars in the city (alongside Torst) in my humble opinion.

I have visited on many occasions but not in a few months, and I always find it very difficult to swing by for a swift half without staying awhile and exploring the extensive beer menu; it was no different this time.

I started with the cask of course, a summer variant of Tiny Montgomery from Threes Brewing, and as usual with the Delancey, it was in perfect condition; medium bronze, tight creamy/foamy head, very mild up front with a little bitter bite at the finish.

And then I should have just paid up and set out for my next stop, which was a good forty blocks northwards, but I didn’t. Instead, I noticed that they happened to have four double IPAs (from Lawsons, Foam, Root+Branch and Fox Farm) all around 8% with differing combinations of aromatic hops, seven different hops in all.

So, I had to get small pours of each to do a side-by-side sampling; all excellent, with Fox Farm Daylily my favorite. And then I had to eat, and then I had to have a dessert beer, the Spumoni Chonk from Drekker…don’t judge me.

I finally escaped, much refreshed, and began the long hike back up to midtown.

Cask Bar & Kitchen

With a name beginning with Cask, you would think that the Cask Bar & Kitchen would have a beer engine, and fortunately they still do, but you wouldn’t know if you only followed them on Instagram or Twatter.

Cask Bar is located in the Kips Bay hinterland between Gramercy and Murray Hill on East 33rd Street just west of Third Avenue.

It is a smart bar and restaurant, catering mainly to the young professionals that make up a large part of the neighborhood, but were welcoming to this old fogey when I parked myself at the bar. I had ventured inside several times in the past whenever I was in the area, but this was my first visit in about four years.

I was very happy to see that they still had the handpump, and when I asked what was on, I was promptly informed that it was an IPA, they didn’t know which IPA, but it was an IPA… I took my chances with it… it was superb.

Conducting my own investigation, I discovered that it was Dutchess Avalon.

Conducting my own taste test, I discovered that it was an English style IPA and was a little on the sweet and robust side, very tasty but dangerous at this stage of the crawl.

Again, I asked about the cask and was told that there is always one available and that they change frequently. I was also told that there are folks who come in and ask for them specifically. Phew!

So, we have one more location in the active cask bar column!

On to the last one for the day…

The Shakespeare

The Shakespeare is located under the Williams Hotel on 39th Street between Park and Madison Avenues.

Stepping into the Shakespeare I was immediately drawn into conversation with the two customers at the bar and the bartender, and it was a wide-ranging, rambling conversation about politics, beer, cricket, Upstate NY, and Queens: not at all surprising given the pub’s common roots with Jones Wood Foundry.

Two of the three handpumps were pouring, with Strong Rope Good Job Burton IPA on one, and Old Glenham Winders ESB on the other; I went for the ESB.

Poured into a full 20oz mug, it was a deep bronze color with a medium frothy head and a wonderful earthy beery nose. Strong and quite bitter with a balanced maltiness going on in the background.

A good beer to finish with, and I did finish with it.

Although I had half considered walking back uptown via JWF, the lure of Grand Central and the subway proved too great, so I wimped out.

Not a bad session overall though; four cask pubs visited, two of which were returned to the active cask pub fold, and a 10.5 mile walk between them…

…so, it all balances out, doesn’t it?

Scorecard w/e 08/08/23

In the past week, The Cask Whisperer has enjoyed the following casks:

  • Strong Rope Good Job @ Jones Wood Foundry
  • Strong Rope Tippler @ Jones Wood Foundry
  • Threes Tiny Montgomery Summer @ Jones Wood Foundry
  • Wild East Radiance @ Drop Off Service
  • Threes Tiny Montgomery Summer @ The Grand Delancey
  • Dutchess Avalon @ Cask Bar & Kitchen
  • Old Glenham Winders @ The Shakespeare

Upcoming Cask Festivals

09/09/2023: 8th Annual Noah Webster Real Ale Harvest Fest

* I have my ticket for the 2:00pm session.


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