THE CASK WHISPERER
Blog by Nigel Walsh
‘Tis the season, and it has been for several weeks now.
It seems that you cannot turn your back these days without spotting and/or missing another Octoberfest event.
But what is a dedicated cask drinker to do when confronted by an Octoberfest event that cannot be avoided?
As far as the Cask Whisperer is concerned, there are essentially four choices:
- Skip it – another one will be along tomorrow.
- Corrupt it – go find an event location that is going to have a cask anyway; festbier or not.
- Savor it – go find an event that has festbier(s) on gravity keg. Hey, it does happen.
- Embrace it – go for the festbiers regardless of dispense and drinking vessel.
I took two of those options this past weekend and may have inadvertently skipped a few events too.
I have not managed to escape to Nod Hill this season, and they have been featuring gravity kegs throughout their weeks-long Octoberfest parties in their Biergarten. I did manage to get there last year and got to sample a couple of the gravity kegs, a couple of cask pours in the taproom, and several mixed culture bottle-pours as well… it’s a cool place.
I had a busy beer week this last week, with a return visit to Fifth Hammer for the live music, a pie and several pints in JWF, two Octoberfests, and a hike out to Gowanus to help Wild East celebrate their birthday… well, my wife was out of town, and it was just too quiet in the house.
But back to those Octoberfests…
I attended the event in the Grand Delancey on Saturday and chose option #2 above.
They really went out of the way to provide plenty of lagers to choose from, with 20+ taps dedicated to festbiers, martzens and other classic German lager styles; lagers from both Germany itself and locally from the US, featuring such stalwarts as Human Robot (PA), Fox Farm (CT), The Seed (NJ), Wheatland Spring (VA) and Schilling (NH).
But what did I do?
After navigating to the bar and threading the needle between the Reserved signs and the Meetup signs, I grabbed the only “available” seat and then promptly ordered a pint of the Coniston Bluebird bitter. Well, I do have certain standards to uphold, and it is from the old country (not Germany).
I did the same last year when I went to the Delancey Octoberfest, but that time the cask was at least a festbier from Singlecut.
I did get into the festy spirit for my subsequent rounds, with a full-pour of a Grodziskie from Fox farm; a lovely beer and one of my favorite (non-cask) styles, done really well.
And before trekking out to Wild East (it was miserable, pub-crawling weather … loved it) I sampled one each from the breweries listed above; all excellent, especially after I let them warm awhile.
The menu looked awesome, but I did not eat, I had places to go.
Sunday’s event was in total contrast to the sophisticated (well, until folks started ordering Das Boot) nature of the Delancey, it being Torchfest at Torch & Crown in Union Square Park.
This was option #4 all the way!
It was a chaotic, rollicking gathering, held outside on a beautiful sunny dry cool Fall Day, with music and contests and sausages and stuff.
Again, I did not eat, I just forgot to do so, caught up in the joyful silliness.
I did have a beer or two, or maybe four.
The brews were all from Torch & Crown themselves, with their High Brau (festbier) and Low Brau (helles) fulfilling the Octoberfest duties, and several other styles for the non-observant.
I stayed with the High Brau, having four pints all served in plastic “glasses” (High Brau meets low brow?) and all very tasty regardless; malty, full-bodied, with a dry crisp finish.
I was there for about three hours and had a real ball, despite the lack of cask options.
But that is not the point, is it?
Scorecard w/e 10/10/23
In the past week, The Cask Whisperer has enjoyed the following casks:
- Fifth Hammer Robert Neverbob @ Fifth Hammer
- Dutchess GB (Ghost) @ Jones Wood Foundry
- Wild East Moderance @ Wild East Brewing
- Coniston Bluebird @ The Grand Delancey
And reminisced about the following casks:
- Singlecut Inexplicably Used Umlaut @ The Grand Delancey
- Nod Hill Extra Special Pils @ Nod Hill Brewery
In the past week, the Cask Whisperer has also enjoyed the following bottle-conditioned beers:
- Fifth Hammer Kriek @ Fifth Hammer
- Fifth Hammer Oboe Soli @ Fifth Hammer
- Wild East Contour Variable 1 @ Wild East Brewing
Upcoming Cask Festivals
11/4/2023: 19th Annual Blue Point Cask Ales Festival