THE CASK WHISPERER
Blog by Nigel Walsh
There is Still Beer in Bushwick?
This week’s adventure starts a long way from home and once again involves the old jalopy.
Having miraculously recovered and risen from its deathbed, we decided to chance it and stuck with our car for a long-planned family-related trip to the western Baltimore suburbs with a detour via BWI Airport and Jailbreak Brewing (cask free but very nice anyway) in Laurel MD.
It was a short trip in terms of time if not distance, heading down on Friday morning, staying over on Friday night and driving back on Saturday afternoon.
We would again be swinging south to BWI on our way back, and I had been hoping that maybe we would have time to check out one of the two cask-friendly destinations in the vicinity of the airport; Heavy Seas Beer at Halethorpe or Chesepiooc Real Ale Brewery at Crofton.
But it was not to be, we were both too exhausted, and faced with the prospect of some NJ Turnpike night-driving, we were ready to get back as soon as we could, once we had made our delivery at BWI.
So, it was looking like a cask-less weekend for me (not that there is anything wrong with that), made worse thanks to an Instagram that I spotted on our way down on Friday, announcing that KCBC had just tapped a rare cask back home in their taproom in Bushwick.
But come Sunday morning, a cool clear dry Sunday morning, just perfect for a long-overdue exploratory walk, I took another look at the Instagram post…
…Pie of Sauron a 12% barrel-aged English barleywine.
Hey, there is a pretty good chance that there would still be some left in that big tin can!
So, with that hope (I am never one to call and verify beforehand) I persuaded my darling long-suffering darling wife to tag along on the ferry to Brooklyn Navy Yard and take a stroll through Williamsburg to Bushwick for an overdue visit to the KCBC brewery taproom.
I love KCBC.
They kept me stocked with fine ales when we were all trapped at home during the dark COVID-days of 2020/21. Thanks to their hopmobile my beer fridge was magically replenished every two to three weeks, with cans of IPAs, lagers and sours, and the occasional barrel-aged bottle for the aging-cabinet; I usually crack one of those on special occasions, and still have a couple left… hmmm, only a couple? Time to start stocking up again.
We repurposed the crazy can labels (they can be peeled very carefully, and they still retain their integrity) to patch-up holes in bathroom cabinets, storage boxes, and anything else that needed a cheerful wallpapering.
It may just be my own humble opinion, but I think that KCBC make the most interesting IPAs out of all of the NYC breweries, either by themselves or in cooperation with other local and remote brewing partners.
If I am looking to pick up a four-pack for home consumption or to take to a dinner/party, I always start with a KCBC IPA, whatever is currently available; I know it will be good and will be well accepted.
I love that they never gave up on piney West Coast IPAs when everybody else just seemed to relegate them for the last few years; they even had two different West Coasters on in their taproom this past Sunday… and as a heads-up, they may still do, if you are into that kind of thing.
I think I love their East Coast hazy IPAs even more, and even though the NEIPA style has probably been a little over-exposed these last five years, and we may all be suffering from a little palate tiredness, I still get great joy from a fruity funky refreshing hazy.
I am particularly fond of their Viking series of hazy IPAs; all collaborations, all three-hop combinations, all 7.2%, all juicy fruity, and all totally ridiculous with their incredible can art and premise. I have sampled Hula, Disco, Tango, Can-Can and Roller Boogie all in the comfort of my own home, and I am always on the lookout for them when I am required to visit Whole Foods.
I am very grateful that they introduced me to the Idaho 7 hop with their standard-bearer Superhero Sidekicks, it is a great hop when used in combination with its more extreme brethren, and nicely fills in the middle-notes when combined with dank/fruity and piney/grapefruit hops, in both East Coast and West Coast styles of IPA.
I could go on and on and on in my superhero disguise as the IPA Whisperer, but there is more to KCBC than just the dank ones.
Their sours are awesome with not even a hint of sweetness, and no lactic aftertaste to mask the flavor of the fruit, which always seem to be blended with the same thoughtfulness that goes into their hop blends.
And to counterbalance the more extreme flavors of the sours and IPAs, their lagers are straight down the middle classics; clean, crisp, malty where the recipe calls for it, and very sessionable.
Every time that I visit the taproom, which isn’t often enough, I usually end up having a couple of flights to sample the extensive range of beer styles that they happen to have on the day.
This past Sunday was an exception though, I limited myself to just a single flight to finish the session, having started with two full pours of the mighty Pie of Sauron from the cask… yes, it was still on, still in fine condition, and still dangerously drinkable… up to a limit… of two pours.
Deep bronze with a small scummy head that dissipated very quickly; well maybe flat is the correct term. Intense malty boozy nose, sweet malty boozy taste, and a definite hint of barrel aging but no smokiness or oakiness; I thought that maybe it was a sweeter bourbon barrel but was informed that it was rum and brandy, which makes a lot of sense given the instant feeling of mellowness that came over me, together with the accompanying silly grin.
KCBC do not make many cask ales but when they do, they do them very well.
This is the second cask that I have actually tracked down to the taproom, the other also a barleywine (The Fellowship of the Bling) but they have participated several times in the NYC cask events held annually at Strong Rope; this year they brought along their ESB Middling Earth (sensing a Tolkien theme for the English ales).
Finding one in the wild is always a great pleasure.
Especially in the wilds of Bushwick, New York City’s historic home of beer.
Scorecard w/e 10/24/23
In the past week, The Cask Whisperer has enjoyed the following casks:
- Old Glenham Weavers Pale Ale @ Jones Wood Foundry
- KCBC Pie of Sauron @ KCBC
Upcoming Cask Festivals
11/4/2023: 19th Annual Blue Point Cask Ales Festival
11/18/2023: Analog-a-Go-Go at Dogfish Head