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THE CASK WHISPERER

Blog by Nigel Walsh

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A Ghost Beer of Christmas Past

Late and lazy this week…

I had some leave that I had to take before the end of the year, so I have had no reason to step into my home office in almost a week.

But I would have time to get out and about and enjoy the mild weather, to catch up on chores around the house and to run errands around the city.

Well, that was the theory.

I got off to a good start too.

On Wednesday afternoon I did my mid-week run to JWF to sop up a couple of pints of Dutchess Ales Auger Porter, and a very nice cask it was too.

My missus and I ventured out to deepest Queens on Thursday to retrieve the car and visit an old family friend; two mile walk to midtown, very slow local E train to Forest Hills with resident crazy person which we bailed out of one stop early, interesting but short walk along Queens Blvd (haven’t done that in ages), and finally a Jewel Avenue bus to Flushing, where thankfully we found the car in good order and our friend in even better order.

We stopped off in Sunnyside on the way back, to pick up Crimble goodies for the grandsons in Butcher Block, fresh fruit and veggies in the Green House Farmers Market, and some holiday specialties in the Parrot Coffee Euro gourmet store.

Finally, we picked up a couple of cordials in Mister Wright to keep a family tradition kicking over; Drambuie was always my dad’s favorite, and my mum always enjoyed a wee tipple of Tia Maria at Christmastime.

So far so good, we were pretty much all set for the long weekend’s festivities.

To finish the day off, we signed up for his ’n’ her vaccinations in the evening, which were quick and uneventful, until they weren’t.

I was fine first thing Friday, but just before lunchtime I was hit by a wall, and was then pretty much good for nothing until Sunday morning.

This was my fifth lurgy shot, but the first to really knock me out… and with a vengeance.

Fortunately, I did recover, as the kids were coming over to decorate the small tree and I had food preparation to get working on; we were having the main holiday meal on Christmas Eve as it was just a better fit for all of us.

The centerpiece of the Christmas meal was a Jones Wood Holiday in a Box (well, two large bags… cheers Jason!), but as is our way, we supplemented it with enough homemade side dishes and desserts to last until the New Year… I will be getting very inventive with the leftovers over the next several days…

Enough prattling on, what about the beer I hear you asking.

I was pretty restrained during the meal and its aftermath, mostly due to me sipping the Drambuie throughout the morning and early afternoon as I was puttering around in the kitchen.

But my son-in-law brought along a couple of sours from Crooked Stave (it has been a long time) and Wayward Lane (rumor has it that they may have begun tinkering with casks) to enjoy, and I managed to find a dusty old bottle of Czar Face (a 10% barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout) from M.I.A. Brewing down in Doral, Florida.

It is that last one that got me thinking about the ghost beers of the past.

It has been sitting at the back of one of my kitchen cabinets since July this year, when I brought it back with me from a family visit to South Florida.

Prior to that, it had been sitting in the back of my sister-in-law’s liquor cabinet for over six years; I had picked it up at Total Wine in either Boca Raton six years ago or Coral Springs seven years ago.

It had originally been purchased for a holiday party in Deerfield Beach, but had been put away and just forgotten until my sister-in-law had decided to do a cleanup of her liquor cabinet this year… a true ghost.

Deep opaque black (the blackest of blacks) with an instantly dissolving tan head, a healthy bourbon/charcoal nose and tingly boozy burnt coffee taste, but in a good way. Any hint of a licorice sweetness that it may have had initially, is long gone.

No indication of any bottle conditioning but at 10% it really doesn’t need it, and at seven years in the bottle it would be of little use anyway; if I had wanted it any livelier, I would have searched for it all those years ago.

My son-in-law and I sipped our way through a couple of small pours during and after dinner, and the remaining half-bottle was re-sealed with plastic wrap and foil and moved to the fridge, to be “consumed later”.

It sat there on Christmas Day as we all did, forgotten again.

But today, Boxing Day, as I sat down at my computer for the first time in nearly a week, so that I could work on this post, I was going to pour myself one of those cordials to keep my lips wet while I was typing away.

Then, I remembered it, poured myself another 4oz pour, and gave it twenty minutes to warm up.

This time it was totally flat right from the get-go, but I am really getting to appreciate the gently-warming booziness of this delicious beer.

Certainly not a beer for rushing, but for slowly savoring.

I reckon that I have two more small pours from the bottle, one each for the next two days before I return to work on Friday.

It can wait …

… it has waited for seven long years.

Scorecard w/e 12/26/23

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

  • Dutchess Auger Porter @ Jones Wood Foundry
  • Old Glenham Winders ESB @ Jones Wood Foundry

Upcoming Cask Festivals

1/21/2024: 6th Annual Cask Ales FUNdraiser at The Brewers Collective

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)

ASK NIGEL

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