THE CASK WHISPERER
Blog by Nigel Walsh
The Brewery Crawl that Wasn’t
It was always likely to be a cask-free Saturday this past week.
But I did have big plans to go and visit some breweries in Queens and get some serious walking done.
Well, at least I did once I found out that the lousy weather wasn’t going to happen on Saturday and would be putting in a later appearance instead.
The original intent was to check out the location of the new Finback brewery, which is slated to appear somewhere around Queens Plaza in the near future.
With the unseasonable nice weather, I also figured out that I could make a (really long) crawl out of it and go visit Singlecut and LIC Brewing while I was in the extensive Astoria/LIC area; I had visited both several times in the distant past and they were both due for a checkup.
Besides, Singlecut has been sending out casks recently, and I wanted to see if they were considering a reinstallation of their beer engine.
By starting in deepest Astoria at Singlecut, my walk would take me back south towards Queens Plaza and the promise of a Fifth Hammer cask just a little further along.
So, the plan was in place; walk to the 90th Street ferry, one stop to Astoria, long hike out to Singlecut, even longer hike back to Queens Plaza, and a final struggle on to the LIC ferry terminal with a refresher in Fifth Hammer on the way.
Avid readers of my mutterings will know that with the Cask Whisperer the best-laid plans are going to get amended on the fly, sometimes just circumstance and sometimes my own randomness.
Such was the case this weekend; the ferry ride was uneventful and after disembarking, I was well on my way striding (trudging?) up Astoria Boulevard when I decided to get the map out, and I got distracted when I spotted the Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden just four blocks from my particular location.
Ooooo, shiny things …
It had been so long since I last visited, and it wasn’t really off of my intended route, so it would just be a quick drop in and a swift half, for old times’ sake.
I would have gotten away with it too if I had remembered to have breakfast before I set out.
As it was, I arrived hungry and thirsty, and you could probably see where this was going.
I was summoned to cross the street by the big inflatable Santa out on the sidewalk guarding the Christmas Tree sellers’ merchandise, and I checked out the beer garden first; completely empty but starting to look a little festive and there did appear to be some life at the bar area… well, it was early still.
It was quite mild and sheltered out in the garden, but my preference is always somewhere a little darker and cozier, so I headed to the bar which does not appear to have changed in the twelve years since I last stepped inside.
There was already a party of eight parked at the long table and a couple of stragglers close to the entrance on the corner of the bar.
There also appeared to be a children’s party going on in both the upstairs and downstairs function rooms, with the kids approaching the bar several times during my session and walking off with glasses and pitchers of Shirley Temples.
As always, it was just very pleasant and welcoming; just like my Czech grandmother’s place, or it would have been if my grandmother wasn’t English.
Beer choices were mostly of the European lager variety, but I knew that before even stepping in, so I started with a Czechvar. Clean, bright and foamy.
Only then did I notice that the strange looking contraption on the bar right in front of me was dispensing Pilsner Urquell through a sidepull, so of course I had to switch up for that with my next pint.
Dang, not working but they did have the Urquell on regular draft and the bartender did his best to pour me a good foamy one, and he did an excellent job too; not a Mliko but actually coming out midway between a Hladinka and a Snyt (oy, is my wife going to have trouble proofreading this post).
Very tasty it was too.
I remember from past visits to the Bohemian Hall, I don’t know what it is, but the Urquells always seemed to taste fresher here.
It was so good that I abandoned all crawling plans and settled in for a session, well four pints… and some sausages… and some rye bread… and a Slivovitz to finish.
And it was a good session; there was an ebb and flow to the custom in the bar area, with the boundaries between punters and partiers occasionally diminishing.
At a couple of times during the afternoon separate crowds of younger drinkers swarmed the bar to order beer to take into the garden; they all arrived together as if they were dropped off by bus, but there were several with dangling bike helmets, who were probably following the bus, or not.
And then I was done and wandered out to head for the subway back home.
But once again I made the mistake of looking at the map on my phone and convinced myself that I wasn’t really that far from Singlecut, maybe 20-30 minutes’ walk, so onwards it was, into uncharted territory.
I will save that (mis-)adventure for later…
Does two stops constitute a crawl?
Scorecard w/e 12/19/23
In the past week, The Cask Whisperer has enjoyed the following casks:
- Strong Rope Growing Round @ Jones Wood Foundry
- Old Glenham Winders ESB @ Jones Wood Foundry
Upcoming Cask Festivals
3/30/2024: Cask.On at Cask & Vine, Derry NH
4/10/2024 – 4/13/2024 (5 sessions): 25th Annual New England Real Ale Exhibition (NERAX)