THE CASK WHISPERER
Blog by Nigel Walsh
The Brewery Crawl that Was
Okay, let’s try again, shall we?
We shall attempt a second time to visit some breweries in Queens and get some serious walking done.
With the inclement weather due this weekend, I figured that I better get an early start on Saturday morning and also stay relatively close to home, or at least give myself multiple options for getting home when the slush arrived.
With the intent once again to get to the new Finback brewery outpost in Queens Plaza, I set off early from the 90th street ferry terminal and once again travelled just the single stop to Astoria.
Thanks to my recklessness in pushing on to Singlecut the last time I tried this crawl, I no longer had to worry about going almost three miles off course in the name of completeness.
So, a much simpler yet fuller agenda this time around; Walk through Long Island City to LIC Beer Project, short hop to Finback, cross under the 59th street bridge towards Focal Point Brewing, a brief (cough) stop in Fifth Hammer, and finishing up in Rockaway Brewing before heading to the LIC ferry terminal for the return sailing.
And it actually worked with just a single hiccup… at the very first stop…
LIC Beer Project did not appear to be open, and much pushing and tugging on the door did not change the situation, so plan B was instantly activated, and I trundled off the few short blocks to Finback LIC instead.
Nice place they have there.
It was fairly quiet with just a handful of customers, but remember it was early and it was scheduled to be pretty nasty later, so it may have just been folks sheltering in place instead of enjoying the perfect pub-crawling conditions outside.
I soon got into friendly conversation with the barkeep about all things brewing in NYC and Finback LICs planned place in it all.
Their intent with this location is to focus on farmhouse and sours and experimental hybrids, with cider and mead in the mix (possibly literally) eventually.
Along with some typical shiny brewing equipment they also have a couple of strange terracotta cauldrons for lack of a better word, with their lids tightly locked down as if the contents would try to escape otherwise. Either that or they were fermenting and storing pickled onions or eggs and didn’t want to expose the public to the process.
No casks planned but they did have, and I did indulge in a mighty fine ESB named Luna; 5.4% and beautifully balanced.
And I behaved myself, and kept to schedule – one and done.
From there I set off towards the bridge and the gaggle of breweries south of it, but as I crossed 23rd street I glanced to the north and realized that LIC Beer Project was only two blocks away in that direction, so I doubled back and found it open; the completist would have his crawl after all.
LIC Beer Project
It has been so long since I last visited LIC Beer Project and it was very quiet, but I remember that my prior visits were all in the early evening when the younger folks seem to want to congregate.
Old fogie that I am, I was very happy to get out in the early afternoon, sip my beer and have a nice chat.
And chat we did, of coolships and Cantillon, Daleks and David Tennant, and saisons, while I sampled their smooth Peace & Love American Porter, and also had a small pour of their Higher Burnin’ IPA.
Which was an awesome hazy IPA with an unconventional blend of Belma, El Dorado and Mosaic hops; think citrus peel instead of citrus.
Doubling back again to the south, I walked by a cleared site between the brewery and Queens Plaza itself, and I really hope that signals an expansion of the residential towers that make up the LIC “Faux-Indianapolis” bringing custom and infrastructure to what is still essentially a hinterland on the northside.
South on 23rd street, west on 44th Avenue for a couple of blocks and we come to Focal Point Beer, recently rebranded from ICONYC, and in a much-expanded space since my last visit a year ago.
Focal Point Beer Co.
I didn’t stay long this time as I had already gone over my self-imposed beer ration at LIC Beer Project, and I also had the hurdle of Fifth Hammer coming up next.
They didn’t need me to stay too long as they were already buzzing; most of the community tables in their large sleek modern taproom were already occupied and there was a small vibrant scene going on at the other end of the bar from where I parked myself.
I can see myself coming here with a group of friends and having a fun time, but just by myself, I was content to sit at a quiet corner of the bar, watching Doctor Who with the sound off (that man Tennant again) and drinking the John Blaze hazy IPA; another obscure but delicious hop combo – Lemon Drop, Citra and Hallertau Blanc.
Back to one and done, and soon I was walking the few short blocks to Fifth Hammer, wondering if I was going to get out of there again in a good enough state to actually visit Rockaway Brewing before the ferry home.
Fifth Hammer Brewing
There was cask.
I love that there is almost always cask, in this case it was the dark mild Richard Neverdick; 3.8% smooth, opaque black, and full-flavored.
I took my time savoring my pint (a proper pint) and seriously considered a second, but spotted that they were also doing can pours of their Break of Jawn wit, and opted for that in the hope that it would refresh my palate for one last beer in Rockaway Brewing just down the road.
And it worked!
For the first time since I don’t remember when, I escaped from Fifth Hammer and actually visited another long-overlooked establishment afterwards.
Rockaway Brewing Company
Just as I remember it from all those years ago.
The cask engine may be long gone but their Imperial ESB was still there, and I had to indulge myself.
The ESB was just as I remember it as well, malty and bitter and boozy, tasting as much like a wee heavy as an ESB; a 6.4% monster of an ESB with the malt coming through with toffee notes and the residual bitterness stopping it from being a mere malt bomb.
Brownie sat in his box on the bar right in front of me and did his best to ignore my attempts to start up a conversation, and when he started swishing his tail, I knew it was time to head home.
So, with the rain and snow and sleet starting to come down outside, I had just two short blocks to struggle to the ferry and complete what was a successful brewery crawl finally …
… next time Gowanus?
Scorecard w/e 1/9/24
In the past week, The Cask Whisperer has enjoyed the following casks:
- Richard Neverdick @ Fifth Hammer Brewing
- Dutchess Auger Porter @ Jones Wood Foundry
- Strong Rope Tavern Ale @ Jones Wood Foundry
Upcoming Cask Festivals
2/3/2024: Strong Rope Caskiversary (I am out of town and will be missing it this year)
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)
11/8/2024: Two Roads Cask Fest
11/9/2024: 20th Annual Blue Point Cask Ale Festival