THE CASK WHISPERER
Blog by Nigel Walsh
This week, I will be advocating the joys of drinking way too many beers in a single session, to the point of intoxication and impaired judgement, and…
… er no, that doesn’t sound too good.
This week, I will be summarizing the 2023-24 English Premiership season so far, with a particular focus on the disappointing results of everybody’s favorite East London soccer club…
… er no, not that either, they have been doing surprisingly well so far this season.
This week, I will be recounting a long-overdue return to Fifth Hammer Brewing Company in Long Island City, Queens.
Where did the summer go?
Where did my weekends go?
I have tried every weekend for the past five years to get out and explore the town, which usually involves me picking a general destination or particular neighborhood in NYC, figuring how to get there and get home again via public transportation and/or walking, and finding a few pubs or breweries in the area or on the way, preferably with a cask or two.
I don’t know what went wrong this summer; my weekends just managed to get eaten up without any opportunity for a beer expedition.
Between extreme heat, Covid, family obligations, car problems and finally torrential rain, weekend after weekend went by with me barely stepping foot outside my apartment.
But finally, this past Sunday with the flood waters receding in parts of the city at least, I decided to put that to rights, and set out for the ferry.
Would it be Brooklyn or Queens or both, it was a toss-up until I checked the ferry schedules and saw that the Brooklyn Navy Yard pier was closed, as was the Greenpoint ferry stop.
So, Queens it was; it had been a long time since I did the 5-brewery (LIC Beer Project, Rockaway, Fifth Hammer, Big Alice and Focal Point) crawl of Long Island City, and that would certainly make up for the recent dry (on the inside) weekends.
As usual when visiting these parts, I started off in Fifth Hammer looking for a cask, and they didn’t disappoint.
As usual when visiting Fifth Hammer at the start of a crawl, I didn’t manage to get out of there again until it was time to get the ferry back home… I never learn.
The problematic joyful attributes of Fifth Hammer are many, and not limited to:
- They have a cask! A big beautiful shiny handpump installed prominently at the near end of the bar, where it can be spotted from the street through the wide-open front of the establishment.
- They brew many styles (lagers, bitters, sours, IPAs, stouts and more) and serve them in many formats (cask, keg, can and bottle) and all are delicious.
- They are dog-friendly, with friendly dogs, many of which are regulars.
- They are family-friendly, kid-friendly, with (mostly) happy quiet kids.
- They are human-friendly; all humans are welcome.
- They are just generally good people.
- They are close to the ferry, barely three blocks walk; sorry Rockaway, I promise to nip in first, the next time I visit the area.
- They have a cask!
Oh, do they have a cask!
It is almost always on and always fresh.
It is usually a British style of beer (a bitter, best bitter, ESB or pale ale) but you sometimes see a Kellerbier or some other type of pale lager, but it is always a style that works on cask; something lower in alcohol, subtle but complex in taste, and always inherently sluggable.
In short, a true session beer, and one that leaves lovely lacings down the side of the glass after consuming.
This time it was a new one on me, a 4.2% Extra Special Bitter (ESB) named Robert Neverbob, and a pretty pint it was too.
Pale bronze with a tight creamy (sparkled) head, starting off mild and balanced but becoming increasingly, pleasingly bitter by mid-pint, and finishing with a lingering bitterness.
There were hints of a Burton Ale to it, or maybe I just imagined the slightly sulfurous taste (not nose, just taste), but overall, I would consider this to be very much a southern style bitter; I should go back and try it without the sparkler next time.
It was a beer so good that I immediately abandoned any thoughts of continuing my crawl and settled in for a session… again.
So, I had three pints and by the end of the second pint my palate was just getting acclimatized to the bitterness, which then faded back into the balance.
I considered a fourth pint, but as it had been so long since I had last visited Fifth Hammer, I had several new beers to at least sample (that is the completist in me again), so I got my crawl after all, it just happened to be in just one bar.
So, left to right…
- There Will Be Bones – a West Coast IPA collaboration with KCBC; deliciously different than your standard West Coast palate wrecker, centered around Cashmere hops with some juicy aromatics in the background.
- Lime Dance – a pale lager with lime; perfect palate cleanser.
- Fire & Rainbows – a super juicy super fruity imperial IPA; a real fruit salad of hops and intensely delicious.
- Shark Repellant – a Kolsch style ale; mild and easy-drinking with a lovely bready taste and aftertaste.
I may have missed a couple of new beers, but it was time to close this session and head back home.
I am hoping to return this week; something else that I missed this summer was the Wednesday evening live jazz at the brewery, so I plan on getting back on the ferry after work this Wednesday to try the remaining new beers and another couple of pints of the fine cask, and maybe nip into Rockaway on the way.
But with work on Thursday, I have no plans on getting hammered, just Hammered.
Scorecard w/e 10/03/23
In the past week, The Cask Whisperer has enjoyed the following casks:
- Robert Neverbob @ Fifth Hammer
- Old Glenham Loom @ Jones Wood Foundry
Upcoming Cask Festivals
11/4/2023: 19th Annual Blue Point Cask Ales Festival